In the NBA Tuesday column this week, we look at a “new” NBA, after its merger with the ABA. Will that change anything? Well, for one, there is a lot more competition for fewer awards now.
This is the start of the “modern” league in many ways—although the official modern era has to wait three more years, according to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird fans.
On with the awards show …
1977 NBA MVP: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (original, confirmed)
Here we go again, as Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once more topped the league in Win Shares (17.81) and Player Efficiency Rating (27.80), while leading his team to an NBA-best 53 victories in the regular season.
In earning his sixth MVP Award from us, the Big Fella averaged 26.2 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 3.2 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game—while topping the league in shooting percentage (57.9 percent) for the first and only time in his illustrious career.
1977 NBA ROTY: Adrian Dantley (original), John Lucas (revised)
Washington Bullets center Mitch Kupchak topped all rookies in PER (19.3), while Buffalo Braves small forward Adrian Dantley was the best first-year player in terms of WS (9.8). Kupchak was the better player, but Dantley was more valuable.
Yet the Braves won just 30 games to miss the postseason by 13 wins, while the Bullets won 48 games to qualify for the playoffs. Dantley’s value occurred in a vacuum, while Kupchak (5.8 WS) definitely contributed enough to make the difference for Bullets in terms of potentially missing the postseason.
On the other hand, Dantley played twice as many minutes per game as Kupchak did, and that has to count for something. We don’t like either candidate, in truth, due to these fatal flaws—so we’re going with the compromise here: Houston Rockets shooting guard John Lucas (4.8 WS, 15.0 PER).
He played over 30 minutes per game for a team that won 49 games and won the Central Division. Kupchak may have had more value, and Dantley was definitely a better player, but … Lucas brought both skill and value to the table for a division winner by playing a big chunk of minutes every night.
For the record, Dantley and Lucas were the only rookies to earn votes in the original award process, so this is a grounded decision we’ve made here.