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.
The story of the 1972-73 All-NBA 3rd Team is one of comebacks. Nate Thurmond (1967), Dave DeBusschere (1965), and Lenny Wilkens (1965, ’67, ’68) have been chosen before for these 3rd teams, but it’s been quite awhile for each man. It’s no fault of their own, really. Either untimely injuries or super seasons from other stars have juuuust bounced them from selection many times.
Dave DeBusschere‘s presence at power forward on this squad is largely due to his unflappable presence with the New York Knicks front court. Although DeBusschere was 32-years-old, his running mates Willis Reed (30 years of age) and Jerry Lucas (also 32) were much worse for the wear than he was. Dave logged 37 minutes per game while missing just 5 games this season. Meanwhile Lucas and Reed hovered at 28 minutes a night and missed over 10 games each this season. Appropriately, DeBusschere led the Knicks in rebounding and was also second in points behind Walt Frazier. All while playing his usual high brand of defense. He was named to the All-Defensive 1st Team for the fifth-straight season, after all. DeBusschere kept up his superb play in the playoffs helping New York to its second title in four seasons.
Speaking of defense, the venerable Nate Thurmond was the mighty rock anchoring the most successful Golden State Warriors team since they made a run to the Finals in 1967. With the return of Rick Barry from the ABA, the Warriors reeled off 47 wins and upset the 60-win Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs before bowing out to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Thurmond averaged a mirror-image double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds this year. Unfortunately for Nate, this would be his last truly great season. The 31-year-old defensive stalwart began to decline the next season and then fell off a cliff for the 1974-75 season. Nonetheless, he puts in a fine career and 1973 was a great last hurrah of stellar production from Thurmond.
Last in the trio of comeback artists is Lenny Wilkens. After three seasons in Seattle as player-coach, Wilkens was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 1973 season and relinquished the coaching duties. At 35-years-old, Wilkens put in fine work as a point guard for Cleveland averaging about 20 points and 8 assists per game. The Cavs, just in their 3rd season, were better off for Lenny’s presence reaching 32 wins after campaigns of 15-and-23 wins the previous two years. Still, the potent Wilkens, like Thurmond and DeBusschere, was nearing the end of his career. Sure enough, the next season he dipped a little like Thurmond and then fell off a cliff in 1975. By that time, Wilkens was back to being a player-coach with the Portland Trail Blazers. Soon enough he was full-time coaching and on his way to being one of the greatest coaches in basketball history.
Well, enough with the comebacks now it’s time for old faithful of the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams, Lou Hudson. For the third-straight and final season, Hudson plays well enough to garner a forward spot on this here selection ceremony. At this point, there’s nothing left to say for Hudson that hasn’t been said already – well, nothing new except he averaged a career-high 27 points per game this season. And of course he was still donning an awesome mustache.
Getting to our last player, we have the first infusion of ABA blood into the All-NBA 3rd Team body. 24-year-old Charlie Scott played two seasons in the ABA averaging 30.6 PPG during his stint with the Virginia Squires. Moving to the NBA full-time in 1972-73, Scott didn’t seem at all bothered by the switch averaging 25 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds a game for the Phoenix Suns. At 6’5″ tall, Scott could play either guard spot, but team success for the Suns was a tough get in this era whether Charlie was point or shooting guard. The old guard led by Connie Hawkins was fading fast. Great as he was this season, Scott could only muster 38 wins for the Suns. Perhaps most important, though, is that Scott proved that players who started in the ABA and transitioned to the NBA could still be stars despite the complaints and insults lobbed the ABA’s way. In a few year’s time, the red, white, and blue league will be filling these ranks with their alumni.
|F||Lou Hudson||Atlanta Hawks||75||27.1||6.2||3.4||0.477||0.825||9.3||19.0|
|F||Dave DeBusschere||New York Knicks||77||16.3||10.2||3.4||0.435||0.746||6.6||16.0|
|C||Nate Thurmond||Golden State Warriors||79||17.1||17.1||3.5||0.446||0.718||9.9||17.3|
|G||Lenny Wilkens||Cleveland Cavaliers||75||20.5||4.6||8.4||0.449||0.828||9.5||19.3|
|G||Charlie Scott||Phoenix Suns||81||25.3||4.2||6.1||0.446||0.784||6.5||19.0|