Guy Rodgers (top L), Chet Walker (bottom L), Nate Thurmond (center), John Havlicek (top R), and Lenny Wilkens (bottom R)
Guy Rodgers (top L), Chet Walker (bottom L), Nate Thurmond (center), John Havlicek (top R), and Lenny Wilkens (bottom R)

Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams.

It’s been a long time coming, but Nate Thurmond has arrived as an All-NBA performer. Previously flummoxed of such honors by Walt Bellamy, Zelmo Beaty and untimely injuries, Thurmond broke through averaging a superb 19 points and 21 rebounds for the San Francisco Warriors. He still missed a decent chunk of time this season (16 games), but he combined with Rick Barry propelling the Warriors to a 1st-place finish in the Western Division. Thurmond’s interior defense and rebounding also cemented a Warriors run to the NBA Finals – the first since the franchise had moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco in 1962. Although losing to their replacements in Philadelphia, the 76ers, in six games, it was a fine year for Nate the Great and the Warriors.

Speaking of the 76ers, their small forward Chet Walker also makes his first All-NBA appearance after a long wait. Using a bevy of outstanding one-on-one moves, Chet the Jet was the 68-win 76ers go-to scorer in the final moments of close games. For the season he averaged a healthy 19 points on 49% shooting to go along with 8 rebounds a game as well. This was Walker’s fifth season in the NBA and he’s gearing up for a long run of appearances on these All-NBA 3rd Teams.

Another great forward in his fifth NBA season was John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics. Already a two-time member of the All-NBA 2nd Team (1964, ’66), Hondo settles for a 3rd Team appearance this season as the Celtics finished with 60 wins. Despite the demotion to the All-NBA 3rd Team, this was actually Havlicek’s best pro season yet. All of his averages (PPG, RPG, APG, MPG, FG% and FT%) were new career-highs as he assumed a greater burden of Boston’s aging roster that failed to win the title for the first time since 1959.

Filling in the backcourt slots are two fine point guards: Guy Rodgers and Lenny Wilkens.

Rodgers was in his ninth NBA season, but it was the first one he spent away from the Warriors franchise. The expansion Chicago Bulls traded for the slick-passing point guard and he didn’t disappoint. He averaged a career-high and NBA-best 11.2 APG this season while also chipping in 18 points a night. Unfortunately, this proved to be the swan song for Rodgers as a premier NBA guard. Over the next three years his playing time would plummet ending with retirement in 1970.

As for Lenny Wilkens, he was firmly in the prime of his play-making days with the St. Louis Hawks. That team had a stable of big, burly frontcourt players who needed the generalship of Wilkens to orchestrate proceedings. He did a fairly good job of things as St. Louis finished second in the regular season Western Division standings. Then in the postseason, Wilkens and the Hawks gave the Warriors a heated fight in the Division Finals which lasted six games.

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F John Havlicek Boston Celtics 81 21.4 6.6 3.4 0.444 0.828 8.3 19.2
F Chet Walker Philadelphia 76ers 81 19.3 8.1 2.3 0.488 0.766 10.1 17.9
C Nate Thurmond San Francisco Warriors 65 18.7 21.3 2.6 0.437 0.629 7.2 17.4
G Guy Rodgers Chicago Bulls 81 18.0 4.3 11.2 0.391 0.806 6.2 17.9
G Lenny Wilkens St. Louis Hawks 78 17.4 5.3 5.7 0.432 0.787 7.6 15.6