The NBA Time Machine: 1975

Published May 27, 2023

The NBA Time Machine:

All That Jazz

New Orleans

After four years of no compositional change for the NBA, they admitted an eighteenth team in the off-season – the New Orleans Jazz. The name was a clever double entendre. Not only were they located in the jazz music capitol of the world, but the core characteristic of the genre – improvisation – correlated with the sudden, unexpected birth of this franchise.

To generate interest in the club, LSU alum Pete Maravich was acquired from the Atlanta Hawks. The flashy scorer could not provide a winning season, but he quickly captured the hearts of Louisianans looking to experience professional basketball.

The Jazz were placed in the Central Division, which made it a direct counterpart to the Pacific Division – both had five teams. This increase in league size caused the playoff format to be reworked. A new “First Round” was added, consisting of a best-of-three series between the fourth and fifth seed in each conference. The winner would go on to play the first seed in the Semifinals.

Buckin’ Wild

The off-season was unpleasant for the Milwaukee Bucks. After being unable to negotiate a new contract with free agent Oscar Robertson, the future Hall of Famer chose to retire from professional basketball entirely. This stripped the Western Conference Champions of their starting point guard, a change that had destructive implications.

To make matters worse, franchise cornerstone Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seemed interested in an exit of his own. While he did not have any publicized issues with the city of Milwaukee, he claimed it could not fit his cultural needs. He informed the franchise of three teams he favored in a trade – the New York Knicks, Washington Bullets, and Los Angeles Lakers, in that order. New York was an especially unsurprising choice, given Abdul-Jabbar was a Harlem native.

Immediately after pitching his trade request, Abdul-Jabbar was struck with a corneal abrasion – or in simple terms, eye scratch – while playing against Don Nelson of the Boston Celtics. This infuriated the superstar, who punched the backboard frame and broke his hand. This caused him to miss the first month of the season, in which the Bucks went 3-13.

His return – complete with protective goggles – was not enough to bolster Milwaukee. Their remaining record of 35-31 was still lukewarm, and morale around the team was at an all-time low. This cemented their first playoff absence since 1969.

A late-season loss to Los Angeles was a notable breaking point for the roster. Abdul-Jabbar’s desire to play elsewhere was confirmed to the press shortly after, and it seemed inevitable that he had played his final season as a Buck.

Old York

Four core members of the two-time-champion New York Knicks core officially retired during this off-season – Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Jerry Lucas, and Dick Barnett. These players were all integral to the success of New York at different times in the past five years. The sudden collapse of their roster resulted in a poor forty-win campaign, the franchise’s worst since the late-60’s.

Standout Players

Bob McAdoo

The 1975 M.V.P. winner led all players in scoring for the second straight season, also locking Buffalo into a top three record league-wide. His dominance on both ends rendered the Braves as a serious entity to consider come playoff time.

Elvin Hayes

Hayes proved a lot of people wrong this year. He was the most productive individual on a sixty-win Washington squad, finishing in the top-ten for all five major stat categories besides assists. He had cemented his place as the best defensive player in the world.

Rick Barry

The Warriors’ forty-eight wins was their highest since Barry returned to the organization. He finished second in scoring while averaging career highs in assists and steals – 6.2 and 2.9, respectively. His efforts lifted Golden State to the best record in the Western Conference.

Dave Cowens

While Cowens missed his first seventeen matches, it only made his impact more obvious. Boston’s record was painfully average in that timeframe, and they went 51-14 with him in attendance. The former M.V.P. also saw career highs in assists and steals.

Tiny Archibald

After being unhealthy for a large portion of the ’73-’74 season, Archibald was back and motivated. He once again asserted himself as the best offensive engine in the NBA – a breakthrough that earned the Kings their first winning record since 1966.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

This was a rough run for Abdul-Jabbar, who missed the first sixteen games of the season with a self-inflicted hand injury. Milwaukee got off to a putrid start and never quite gained momentum, causing him to miss the playoffs for the first time in his career – however, he was still effectively the best player in the NBA.

Around the League

Team Standings

An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.

Eastern Conference
Atlantic DivisionWLCentral DivisionWL
Boston Celtics*6022Washington Bullets*6022
Buffalo Braves*4933Houston Rockets*4141
New York Knicks*4042Cleveland Cavaliers4042
Philadelphia 76ers3448Atlanta Hawks3151
New Orleans Jazz2359
Western Conference
Midwest DivisionWLPacific DivisionWL
Chicago Bulls*4735Golden State Warriors*4834
Kansas City-Omaha Kings*4438Seattle SuperSonics*4339
Detroit Pistons*4042Portland Trail Blazers3844
Milwaukee Bucks3844Phoenix Suns3250
Los Angeles Lakers3052

Fun Facts

  • The Western Conference hit a distinct low point in quality.
    • The best team – the Golden State Warriors – would not have finished in the top three for Eastern Conference records.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time since 1958. This was only their second exclusion in franchise history.
    • This was also their first instance of doing so since their move to Los Angeles, California.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks’ thirty-eight wins was their lowest total in half a decade.
  • Forty wins was the New York Knicks’ lowest total since 1967.
    • It was also their first losing record since that season.
  • For the first time since the new divisional format was introduced, the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks were not atop their respective conferences.
  • The newly-renamed Washington Bullets were the latest franchise to see sixty games won in a season.
    • This was familiar territory for the Boston Celtics, who also partook in a similar-caliber run.
  • The Kansas City-Omaha Kings underwent a shocking transformation – they embraced a defensive philosophy, perhaps influenced by coach Phil Johnson and the development of prolific shot-blocker Sam Lacey.

Notable Movement


The player stats listed are based on their last tenure, whether it be with their former team or the previous season.
Name(s) under the “Top Draft Picks” section with a plus (+) opted to play in another league instead of the NBA this season.

p – points
r – rebounds
a – assists
s – steals
b – blocks

Top Draft Picks

Portland Trail Blazers
Philadelphia 76ers

Seattle SuperSonics
Phoenix Suns
Houston Rockets
Kansas City-Omaha Kings
Atlanta Hawks

Cleveland Cavaliers

Buffalo Braves
Atlanta Hawks
Bill Walton
Marvin Barnes+
Tom Burleson
John Shumate
Bobby Jones
Scott Wedman
Tom Henderson

Campy Russell

Tom McMillen+
Mike Sojourner


November 8, 1974Jim PriceLos Angeles LakersTradedMilwaukee Bucks(21.2p/7a/2.3s)
May 23, 1975Charlie ScottPhoenix SunsTradedBoston Celtics(24.3p/4r/4.5a)

Other Personnel

May 15, 1974Coach Jack McCloskeyPortland Trail BlazersFiredRecord: 27-55
May 24, 1974Player-Coach Lenny WilkensPortland Trail BlazersHiredRecord: n/a
November 17, 1974Coach Scotty RobertsonNew Orleans JazzFiredRecord: 1-14
November 18, 1974Coach Butch Van Breda KolffNew Orleans JazzHiredRecord: 22-44


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Dave DeBusschereDetroit Pistons
New York Knicks
2x Champion
1x All-NBA
7x All-Star
6x All-Defensive
1963 All-Rookie Team
Jerry LucasCincinnati Royals
San Francisco Warriors
New York Knicks
1x Champion
5x All-NBA
7x All-Star
1x All-Star Game MVP
1964 Rookie of the Year
1964 All-Rookie Team
Willis ReedNew York Knicks2x Champion
2x Finals MVP
1x MVP
5x All-NBA
7x All-Star
1x All-Star Game MVP
1x All-Defensive
1965 Rookie of the Year
1965 All-Rookie Team
Oscar RobertsonCincinnati Royals
Milwaukee Bucks
1x Champion
1x MVP
11x All-NBA
12x All-Star
3x All-Star Game MVP
1961 Rookie of the Year
6x Assists Leader
Jerry WestLos Angeles Lakers1x Champion
1x Finals MVP
12x All-NBA
14x All-Star
1x All-Star Game MVP
5x All-Defensive
1x Scoring Leader
1x Assists Leader

League Leaders


PPG – points per game
RPG – rebounds per game
APG – assists per game
SPG – steals per game
BPG – blocks per game
FG% – field goal percentage (percentage of shots that hit)
FT% – free throw percentage (percentage of foul shots that hit)

PPGBob McAdoo (34.5)
Rick Barry (30.6)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (30)
Tiny Archibald (26.5)
Charlie Scott (24.3)
RPGWes Unseld (14.8)
Dave Cowens (14.7)
Sam Lacey (14.2)
Bob McAdoo (14.1)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (14)
APGKevin Porter (8)
Dave Bing (7.7)
Tiny Archibald (6.8)
Randy Smith (6.5)
Pete Maravich (6.2)
SPGRick Barry (2.9)
Walt Frazier (2.4)
Larry Steele (2.4)
Slick Watts (2.3)
Fred Brown (2.3)
BPGKareem Abdul-Jabbar (3.3)
Elmore Smith (2.9)
Nate Thurmond (2.4)
Elvin Hayes (2.3)
Bob Lanier (2.3)
FG%Don Nelson (53%)
Butch Beard (52%)
Rudy Tomjanovich (52%)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (51%)
Bob McAdoo (51%)
FT%Rick Barry (90%)
Calvin Murphy (88%)
Bill Bradley (87%)
Tiny Archibald (87%)
Jim Price (87%)


First Round

East / Houston Rockets beat New York Knicks, 2-1
In the recently implemented first round, a rare face appeared – the Houston Rockets. The team had not seen a playoff berth since 1969, and the size expansion of the playoffs gave them an ample opportunity to compete.

After an explosive second quarter, the Rockets secured a Game 1 win at home. Twenty-six points from Walt Frazier – and a near triple-double from Harthorne Wingo off the bench – brought the Knicks to a narrow victory, but their lack of depth was unsustainable. Houston dismantled their competition in a thirty-two-point blowout, including a nearly perfect game from Rudy Tomjanovich.
West / Seattle SuperSonics beat Detroit Pistons, 2-1
After splitting wins at home, the stage between these unfamiliar foes was set for a tiebreaker in Seattle. The stars of the series – Spencer Haywood, Dave Bing, and Bob Lanier – had exuded nothing but inconsistency, and the Semifinals participant would be defined by whoever stepped up.

Interestingly enough, Detroit’s Lanier had one of his best playoff performances only to witness a loss. The SuperSonics’s well-balanced team ousted his Pistons, with six players scoring in double digits and Tom Burleson bringing down sixteen rebounds. This earned Seattle a series win in their debut post-season appearance, a big accomplishment for the small market.


East / Boston Celtics beat Houston Rockets, 4-1
The sixty-win Boston Celtics were fresh off of a league-wide best record and championship run, rendering them as definitive title favorites. The youthful Rockets surely had energy and hunger on their side, but the lack of experience was viewed as exploitable prior to the series.

Great performances from the Celtics “big three” of Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, and Jo Jo White lifted them to a 2-0 lead. Vigor and energy then brought the Rockets a solid home victory, which was immediately soiled by a Cowens 31/24/6/2/2 stat-line a few nights after. Boston handled business back at the Garden during Game 5, which confirmed their fourth consecutive Conference Finals appearance.
East / Washington Bullets beat Buffalo Braves, 4-3
Predictions were tough for this matchup. The Bullets were quite obviously the deeper and more experienced group, but the Braves had the newly-appointed M.V.P. in Bob McAdoo – Washington could only go as far as their defense took them.

The series was tied 2-2 by the next week, and McAdoo was absolutely unstoppable. He averaged a baffling thirty-eight points per game in those four contests, including a fifty-point bomb to tie the series. His rebounding and defense had also been game-changing, and it was not absurd to claim he was carrying Buffalo on his back.

Elvin Hayes’ forty-six points led the Bullets to a 3-2 lead, an effort countered by McAdoo’s series-tying thirty-seven in Game 6. The decisive final match was the “Phil Chenier Game”, where the young guard delivered thirty-nine points on excellent efficiency in a blowout win. The reward? Washington’s first Conference Finals since 1971.
West / Chicago Bulls beat Kansas City-Omaha Kings, 4-2
The Kings’ first post-season placement since their rebrand was against the fiery Chicago Bulls, who were notorious for their composure and elite defense. Games were unsurprisingly low-scoring, and generally in Chicago’s favor. They consistently had Bob Love to lean on for offensive production, and Tiny Archibald was incredibly inconsistent.

The series entered Game 5 tied, and what ensued was a stellar showing from the Bulls. They won by twenty-seven points and Love dropped thirty of his own – remove him from the equation, and they would have still seen a narrow victory. This sort of statistic emphasizes the depth of Chicago’s roster. With momentum their way, the mid-west titans never looked back – a cushioned win in the sixth game was all they needed.
West / Golden State Warriors beat Seattle SuperSonics, 4-2
Even when considering Golden State’s homecourt advantage, this series was about as even as it could get in the first round. The two clubs finished the regular season only five wins apart, and the Warriors won that series 4-3 – a miniscule difference. Victories were split in Oakland, with Seattle taking the second game by a mere one point.

The SuperSonics were clinching a couple successful outcomes, but it was not sustainable. Spencer Haywood had been awful, especially efficiency-wise – without big performances from him in the remaining games, the team’s downfall was inevitable. Considering his response to that criticism was back-to-back deliveries of eleven and eight points, the Warriors tore Seattle apart. Rick Barry ensured matters were handled with thirty-one points in Game 6, and George Johnson delivered a pretty 18/15/5 off of the bench.

Conference Finals

East / Washington Bullets beat Boston Celtics, 4-2
This was the most anticipated duel of the 1975 playoffs – two sixty-win teams at odds, with one looking for their first title and another defending their own. Washington compiled a stunning fourth quarter comeback in Game 1, which set them up nicely for the series – Boston had lost their homecourt advantage, and did themselves no favors in a blowout loss a few nights later.

The Celtics managed a victory in the third match, but they seemingly lacked control – the Bullets’ failures were derivative of poor shooting and cold stretches from their stars, two qualities Boston had exhibited the entire series. It was no surprise that Washington led 3-2 by Game 6, a do or die situation for their adversaries.

A beautiful team effort from the Bullets – in which six players posted double-digit scoring – was enough for a solid win and advance to the Finals, their first in four seasons.
West / Golden State Warriors beat Chicago Bulls, 4-3
Chicago was heavily favored in the Western Conference Finals. They had beaten the Warriors three times in the regular season and were commonly cited as the more experienced and identifiable squad. Their team largely failed to contain Rick Barry, and were dependent on big performances from their players to match his offensive output. They managed to take a 3-2 lead after holding Rick Barry to twenty points in Game 5, now blessed with two opportunities to close out.

The Bulls did an awful job capitalizing on that chance, as Rick Barry scored thirty-six points, pulled down eight rebounds, and got seven steals (!) in the sixth match. Now on the road, Chicago had some pressure to deliver a victory and see their first Finals – instead, they crumbled in the second half as Golden State stunned the basketball world with a win.


Golden State Warriors beat Washington Bullets, 4-0
This Finals lacked some of the allure surrounding previous matchups – analysts heavily favored the Washington Bullets, nearly expecting a sweep from them. They had the advantage in depth, star power, experience, and historical success – their season series against Golden State ended 3-1. Meanwhile, the Warriors were perceived as overachievers that would freeze against such a powerful defensive team.

A demoralizing loss was instantly handed to the Bullets, who got too complacent and let the Warriors mount a comeback. Sixth man and rookie Phil Smith was absolutely sensational, powering Golden State in the second half with twenty points and three blocks. After the Warriors won another match by a single point, Washington was now in trouble. They had to power through a must-win contest on the road.

Rick Barry’s thirty-eight points silenced Bullets fans everywhere, as Golden State took an unprecedented 3-0 lead. They were inches away from a series sweep and NBA championship, something they had not embraced since their move to The Bay. Game 4 was a defensive slugfest, much to the dismay of Elvin Hayes. The Bullets star only provided his club with a quiet fifteen points – a passive performance that came back to bite him. Golden State won by one point yet again.

The Warriors had now completed only the third Finals sweep in NBA history, and the second of the decade. Washington found themselves on the wrong side of the books – they had been swept in both of their Finals appearances. What made matters more embarrassing was their status as overwhelming favorites – the 1971 Bullets heavily overachieved, but this version played shamefully relative to their talent.

Ultimately, one thing was true – the Golden State Warriors were champions, and Rick Barry had now obtained an NBA championship ten years into his professional career.
The Golden State Warriors win the 1975 NBA championship!
Rick Barry was named the Finals Most Valuable Player.


Name(s) under the “All-Stars” section with an asterisk (*) were listed as the MVP of the All-Star Game that year. Those with “(IR)” next to their name were chosen to replace an injured star.

Major Awards

Rookie of the YearMVPFinals MVPCoach of the Year
Keith WilkesBob McAdooRick BarryPhil Johnson


All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
Walt Frazier
Tiny Archibald
Rick Barry

Elvin Hayes
Bob McAdoo
Jo Jo White
Phil Chenier
John Havlicek
Spencer Haywood

Dave Cowens


All-Defensive First TeamAll-Defensive Second Team
Walt Frazier
Jerry Sloan
John Havlicek
Paul Silas
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Norm Van Lier
Don Chaney
Bob Love
Elvin Hayes
Dave Cowens


Eastern All-StarsWestern All-Stars
Phil Chenier
Dave Cowens
Walt Frazier*
John Havlicek
Elvin Hayes
Bob McAdoo
Steve Mix
Earl Monroe
Paul Silas
Rudy Tomjanovich

Wes Unseld
Jo Jo White
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Tiny Archibald
Rick Barry

Dave Bing
Bob Dandridge
Gail Goodrich
Spencer Haywood

Sam Lacey
Bob Lanier

Jim Price
Charlie Scott

Sidney Wicks
East beats West, 108-102


All-Rookie Team
Tom Burleson
John Drew
Scott Wedman
Keith Wilkes
Brian Winters

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

The Baltimore Bullets (1947-1954) won the championship in 1948, but are defunct. As a result, they are not listed.

Celtics121957, 1959
1960, 1961
1962, 1963
1964, 1965
1966, 1967
1969, 1974
Lakers61949, 1950
1952, 1953
1954, 1972
Warriors31947, 1956
76ers21955, 1967
Knicks21970, 1973

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