Our second NBA Tuesday miniseries rolls again on the Daily McPlay, analyzing the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards for both professional leagues in 1970. The original Boston Celtics dynasty is finally over, so we have some different teams winning it all as we move into a new decade. That should make this whole exercise a lot more fun going forward!
Remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, if you want; it always helps.
1970 NBA FINALS MVP: Willis Reed, C, New York (original); Walt Frazier, PG, New York (revised)
The New York Knicks won the NBA Finals with a Game 7 win on their home court over the Los Angeles Lakers, in the famous “Willis Reed Game” … thus, N.Y. center Willis Reed won the Finals MVP vote. This was a close series with the Knicks outscoring the Lakers by less than 1 point per game in the series. But Reed missed Game 6, and he played 27 low-quality minutes in Game 7: only 4 points and 3 rebounds.
But the vote win was symbolic, as the real reason New York won the Finals was point guard Walt Frazier: He played all 7 games, averaging more than 43 minutes per game (tops on the roster), and Frazier’s 36 points in Game 7 led all scorers in that category. For the series overall, he put up 17.6 ppg, 10.4 apg, and 7.7 rpg. Bottom line is that Reed theatrics or not, Frazier was the true MVP of this series.
Truthfully, while we’re at it, Lakers C Wilt Chamberlain went 1-for-11 from the free-throw line, and you can imagine how much that helped the Knicks win this game. By the way, Chamberlain went 10-for-16 from the field, so Reed didn’t play “good defense, either. Cutting through the hype, there are two better reasons than Reed when it comes to analyzing why New York claimed the NBA crown for the first time.
1970 ABA FINALS MVP: Roger Brown, SF, Indiana (original, confirmed)
L.A. took it on the chin here twice, as the ABA’s Stars lost the Finals in 6 games to the Indiana Pacers. There was no “Finals MVP”—just a “Playoffs MVP” honor that went to Pacers small forward Roger Brown. We suspect few have heard of him, ever, but he put up 32.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, and 5.5 apg for Indiana, including a whopping 137 points combined in the final three games of the championship.
We confirm this award without much discussion: Brown’s points and assists averages led his team, and no one can critique a double-digit rebounding figure to go along with those other statistics. He is in the Hall of Fame, despite scoring just 17.4 ppg over his 8-year ABA career, and this season represented the pinnacle of Brown’s relatively unknown career.
1970 NBA DPOY: Wes Unseld, C, Baltimore
Three of the top defensive players in the league were New York teammates: Reed (7.45 DWS), Frazier (6.39), and power forward Dave DeBusschere (5.80). So they cancel each other out, leaving this discussion as a debate between San Diego Rockets C Elvin Hayes (6.17) and Baltimore Bullets C Wes Unseld (6.00). With Baltimore making the playoffs and San Diego way under .500, it’s an easy choice.
The Bullets’ second-year star posted 16.7 rpg and 3.0 fpg as his team won 50 games to finish third in the Eastern Division, posting 2 more wins than the Western Division champions from Los Angeles. While Baltimore had an 18-game cushion for the playoffs, that’s not really the point: Unseld’s defense had the most value, overall.
1970 ABA DPOY: Spencer Haywood, C, Denver
Only three players stood out on defense in the upstart league: Denver Rockets C Spencer Haywood (7.48 DWS), New Orleans Buccaneers C Gerald Govan (6.41), and Bucs PF Red Robbins (5.79). Almost by default, Haywood wins this award from us as the two New Orleans teammates cancel each other out. The Rockets did win the Western Division with 51 victories, by the way.
Haywood was a rookie who topped the league in rebounds (19.5 per game), including 13.1 rpg on the defensive end. He also added 2.6 fpg to the equation as well. He was just 20 years old.
Check in every Tuesday for our NBA awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!