Welcome back to NBA Tuesday on the Daily McPlay, where we’re examining the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards for both professional basketball leagues in 1974. We saw the return of an Eastern power to the championship circle in the NBA realm, at the expensive of an all-time legend on his own court. Shocker, really …
Remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, because knowledge is power.
1974 NBA FINALS MVP: John Havlicek (original); Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (revised)
The Boston Celtics won Game 7 of the NBA Finals over the Milwaukee Bucks on the road to claim their first title of the decade, and Boston small forward John Havlicek won the MVP vote—remember, we gave him our nod in 1968 before there was an official award winner, too. Hondo averaged a team-best 26.4 ppg while also grabbing 7.7 rpg and dishing 4.7 apg. Toss in 1.9 spg, and he was very good all around.
But what about Milwaukee center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? His numbers—a series-high 32.6 ppg and 12.1 rpg—were all the Bucks had, as the Big Fella basically doubled up the next-best Milwaukee scorer. Kareem also added 5.4 apg and 2.1 bpg to do it all for the Bucks. He also averaged a series-best 49.3 mpg. There’s no way Milwaukee even reaches a Game 7 without Abdul-Jabbar.
The Celtics were, as usual, a well-rounded team, while in this case the Bucks were a one-man show. That one man almost won the title by himself, and so we’re giving this MVP nod to Kareem.
1974 ABA FINALS MVP: Julius Erving (original, confirmed)
The New York Nets beat the Utah Stars in 5 games to claim their first ABA title, and Nets SF Julius Erving was voted the playoff MVP. Three different New York players averaged double doubles in this series, but Dr. J was the best of them: 28.2 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.8 spg, and 1.4 bpg. That kind of diverse attention to all facets of the game means this is a no-brain decision to confirm. Next!
1974 NBA DPOY: Bob Lanier, C, Detroit Pistons
There are four contenders for this one: Capital Bullets power forward Elvin Hayes (8.07 DWS), Abdul-Jabbar (7.89), Detroit Pistons C Bob Lanier (7.08), and Celtics C Dave Cowens (6.68). The Bullets had a 12-game playoff cushion, while the Pistons only had 8 games to spare. Meanwhile, the Bucks and Celtics had even more wins to spare than the Bullets did. So this award goes to Lanier, basically, over Hayes.
A fourth-year player, Lanier asserted his defensive presence on the Detroit roster by grabbing 13.3 rpg—including 9.9 on the defensive end—and blocking 3.0 shots per game. He also committed 3.4 fouls per outing, which means he was doing everything possible to help the Pistons own the defensive end. Ironically, he was the All-Star Game MVP in 1974, too.
1974 ABA DPOY: George McGinnis, PF, Indiana Pacers
Only three guys stood out on the defensive end in the ABA: Kentucky Colonels C Artis Gilmore (7.90 DWS), Erving (7.24), and Indiana Pacers PF George McGinnis (6.02). Gilmore has won this award two years in a row now; can he win a third? With almost every team in the league making it to the playoffs, it’s harder to discern true value here.
The Pacers were closest to missing the postseason (only 9 wins to spare), so that means McGinnis will win this award as the Nets and the Colonels rolled by 25-plus margins to their playoff berths. Is that fair? It’s our system, so … yes! His stats—15.0 rpg, including 9.7 on the defensive end, plus 4.1 fpg and 2.0 spg—mean McGinnis was doing a lot of damage on the defensive end of the court. He earned this, for sure.