Welcome back to NBA Tuesday on the Daily McPlay, where we’re examining the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards for the NBA in 1978. The league was on the verge of something explosive, and these years of buildup to that moment are hardly unexciting! So, enjoy the historical dynamic of professional basketball in North America …
Remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, because knowledge is power.
1978 NBA FINALS MVP: Wes Unseld, C, Washington (original); Elvin Hayes, PF, Washington (revised)
The Washington Bullets emerged victorious in Game 7 on the road to beat the Seattle SuperSonics and claim the NBA title. Center Wes Unseld was named the MVP at the time, despite scoring just 9 ppg in the series. He did grab 11.7 rpg and compile 3.9 apg, too, but Unseld also hit just 55 percent of his free throws and was basically way down the list of quality contributors for the champs.
This throws the field wide open for this award: Bullets power forward Elvin Hayes is the better candidate for the winners, as he posted a double double for the series (20.7 ppg, 11.9 rpg, and 2.0 bpg). For Seattle, C Marvin Webster was the top player, posting the following marks: 14.9 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg, and 2.1 apg.
Unseld won our DPOY nod for 1970, and Hayes won it from us in 1971; in this case, we’re giving the Finals MVP to Hayes, with all due respect to Webster—who led all players in points (27) and rebounds (19) in Game 7. Webster deserved this award more than Unseld did, but Hayes earned it more so than anyone else, period.
1978 NBA DPOY: Marvin Webster, C, Seattle
This wasn’t a season of huge defensive dominance, as New Orleans Jazz PF Truck Robinson topped the league with just 5.02 DWS. He was followed closely by Webster (4.98), Hayes (4.81), Portland Trail Blazers C Bill Walton (4.79), and Boston Celtics C Dave Cowens (4.79). There isn’t a lot separating these five guys, so it will come down to team performance and playoff seeding, as usual.
The Jazz and the Celtics missed the postseason, so we narrow the field down a bit there: Seattle made the postseason with just a 4-game cushion, while Washington had a 5-game margin. Lastly, Portland cruised into the playoffs with a 15-game cushion. By straight-forward analysis, then, on two levels, this nod goes to Webster, in his only season with the SuperSonics: 12.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg, and 3.2 fpg.