Published May 31, 2023
The NBA Time Machine:
The Big 30
South Cali Skyhooks
After the disastrous finish to the 1974-75 season, the Milwaukee Bucks had to handle Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s pending trade request immediately. They attempted to do everything in power to keep the star. It was even suggested that he live in New York full-time, with flight accommodations to Milwaukee as a compromise.
Ultimately, cultural comfortability was still his priority. The Bucks eventually honed in on the Los Angeles Lakers as a trade destination – they had the best combination of draft assets and young talent, which motivated a full rebuild around a youthful core.
In mid-June, Abdul-Jabbar – alongside teammate Walt Wesley – was traded to Los Angeles for Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith, and Brian Winters. The first two were recently drafted, and Smith was a former blocks leader. It was highly doubted that any of these players could compare to the man they were traded for, but Milwaukee handled matters decently for being in such a disadvantageous situation.
Winters went on to represent the Bucks at the All-Star Game, and the team still managed to make the playoffs – something Abdul-Jabbar’s Lakers could not do. Despite this, he was still voted as the league’s M.V.P. for the fourth time, making him the first in history to receive such an honor with no post-season presence.
On the league’s thirtieth anniversary, Larry O’Brien was appointed as its third commissioner. Succeeding the widely celebrated Walter Kennedy, he was viewed as a possible savior to the league’s stability – while it had seen tremendous growth in terms of size and popularity, its social reputation was shaky at best. Not only did it have a negative connotation due to the emerging drug and fighting culture around its players, but the rival ABA was peaking in popularity and talent. O’Brien was expected to rectify those problems.
His first decision in office was preventing the New York Knicks from signing ABA phenomenon George McGinnis. The reason why was because of contract issues between them and the Philadelphia 76ers, who drafted McGinnis in 1973 – Philadelphia agreed to send his rights to New York if he signed with them before a specified deadline, which did not happen. As a result, O’Brien removed the Knicks’ first-round pick and ordered them to reimburse the 76ers, clearly disappointed in their illegal means of transaction.
Out Of Omaha
The Kansas City-Omaha Kings officially claimed Kansas City as their sole home, removing the “Omaha” surname from their title. However, they continued to play a handful of games in Omaha as well as St. Louis, who had not claimed an NBA team since the St. Louis Hawks in 1968.
The league briefly attempted to revise the former playoff eligibility format, which had seen major criticism in the past. This time around, teams with a positive record were automatically favored – every one of them saw the post-season.
The two exceptions lied in the Midwest Division, which was so collectively weak that the top two seeds from it – the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons – were invited to the playoffs anyway.
Free For Two
For the first time since 1957, two different players – Rick Barry and Calvin Murphy – finished with a percentage of 90% or higher in free throw shooting. This was solid proof of the increase in shooting form quality over time – the set shot had seen its peak then, and overhand techniques were at their best now.
After joining the Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar saw career highs in rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He managed to improve the team by ten wins, an impact that made him the M.V.P. favorite despite missing the playoffs.
Barry brought the Warriors their first league-wide one-seed in twenty years. The reigning Finals M.V.P. had a massive down year statistically, but that could not take away from his leadership in the fifty-nine-win Golden State run.
For the third consecutive time, McAdoo led the NBA in scoring and finished top two in M.V.P. voting. He also averaged a career high four assists per game, a development that made his already potent offensive game even more complete.
After leaving the rival ABA to join the team that drafted him in 1973, McGinnis revived the 76ers’ culture – they improved by twelve wins this season. He finished top six in both points and rebounds, and also fell slightly short of the steals record.
The Seattle point guard took an enormous leap this season, leading the league in both assists and steals. His playmaking was a big part of the SuperSonics managing back-to-back winning seasons – the franchise had never done that before.
Yet another fifty-win compilation from the Celtics was led by Cowens, who remained as steady as ever in influencing their successes. Voters placed him third in M.V.P. voting.
Around the League
An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.