Yes, we know it’s Thursday, but sometimes, rain delays happen (even for indoor sports). To remind you all, for our second NBA Tuesday miniseries, we examine the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards that didn’t exist at the time, as you know.
Remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, while you’re here. This is one stretch of professional basketball history which is a bit tedious, thanks to the Boston Celtics. Not much we can do about that, so apologies in advance … enjoy, even if you’re not a Masshole!
1964 NBA FINALS MVP: Sam Jones, SG, Boston Celtics
Boston won the Finals in five games over the San Francisco Warriors, and even though S.F. center Wilt Chamberlain was the best player in the series (29.2 ppg, 27.6 rpg, and 2.4 apg), we can’t give him the MVP Award when his team went down somewhat meekly. Of course, it was “The Stilt vs. Everyone Else” in this matchup, too, so there is that to consider.
Still, we have to give this to a Celtic: Shooting guard Sam Jones was the unsung hero of this series in our minds, leading the Boston roster in scoring, while playing just 32 minutes a game—compared to the 42.8 minutes that center Bill Russell played on average, while getting to pad the stat sheet. Overall, the Celtics had six guys average double-digit scoring in these Finals, and Jones was the best of them.
In addition to his 21.2 ppg, the 30-year old also grabbed 4.4 rpg and dished out 2.8 apg. Yet Jones also was the only Boston player to shoot over 50 percent from the floor (55.6, to be exact), and he also committed just 10 fouls—the lowest number of any Celtics regular in an 8-man rotation. That kind of all-around excellence demands this recognition.
1964 NBA DPOY: Bill Russell, C, Boston Celtics
Russell had the finest defensive season of his illustrious career, posting 15.96 defensive Win Shares to lead the league by a considerable margin over Chamberlain (10.58 DWS). This was the second-best mark of Wilt’s career, by the way. But the Celtics were so good, they’d have won the Eastern Division even if Russell never played a minute. The same cannot be said for the Warriors out West.
And that’s the dilemma, but in the end, the gap is too high between these two all-time greats, so we give the nod to Russell again: This is his sixth nod overall for DPOY and his fourth in a row, as he topped the NBA with 24.7 rpg, and Russell also committed just 2.4 fouls per game. With his ability to clean the glass for his teammates, he remains one of the most dominant defensive players in the game … ever.