Published February 10, 2023
The NBA Time Machine:
Here Comes the 76ers!
Last regular season, the Philadelphia 76ers were an incredibly run-of-the-mill team. They had an even 40-40 record and finished right in the middle of both offensive and defensive rating, even after acquiring Wilt Chamberlain. However, their gentleman’s sweep in the first round of the playoffs and ability to push the Boston Celtics to seven games materialized them as perhaps a better team than everyone thought.
Philly looked better to start the year, but still not overwhelmingly dominant – it wasn’t until a shocking hot streak after the All-Star Game that they began to push for the NBA‘s best record. They went on a 30-10 run to close the year, including eleven consecutive victories in the month of March.
Having such a composed finish won them the Eastern Division first seed and instant homecourt, privileges traditionally associated with the Celtics.
Score On, Score On
Wilt Chamberlain became the league’s all-time leading scorer this year, eclipsing the 20,000 mark and taking over the now-retired Bob Pettit’s place. The center did this in spite of averaging a career low in points and high in assists – his offensive value was not only irreplaceable, but malleable.
Now surrounded by an improved Philly team, Chamberlain continued to dominate. He won his seventh straight scoring title, led in rebounding again after losing the crown for a couple years, and averaged career highs in assists and efficiency. The 76ers finished with the number one seed in the East, usurping the Celtics for the first time in a decade – this won Chamberlain his second M.V.P.
With Elgin Baylor producing the worst year of his career yet, West had to continue growing. He delivered career highs in points and assists, also appearing in all but one game. This was his first season being voted as the runner-up for M.V.P.
Robertson’s days of nearly averaging a triple double were over – teammate Jerry Lucas ate up the boards, dropping his average to 7.7. That meant nothing to the legendary guard, who still managed to impact winning at a high level – the Royals snagged their fifth straight forty-win campaign.
The eventual Rookie of the Year embodied potential from the get go. Barry’s offensive game was mesmerizing, and also clearly beneficial – the Warriors improved by eighteen games and were only a single match short of a playoff berth. The loss of Wilt still lingered in The Bay, but fans had someone new to bet on.
For the first time since 1958, Russell wasn’t much of an M.V.P. candidate. He hit career lows in scoring and efficiency, and gave up the rebounding title to rival Wilt Chamberlain after two straight years of winning it. Despite this, the Celtics remained a threat – they finished with the second best record in the NBA and still posted the best defense.
Cincinnati continued to depend on Lucas more, with him averaging his highest numbers in minutes and field goal attempts to date. This demand tanked his efficiency a bit, but he was still unequivocally the best forward in the NBA. He joined Chamberlain, Barry, Walt Bellamy, and Zelmo Beaty as a special group to finish top ten in both points and rebounds per game.
Around the League
An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.