Upon Further Review: The Best Players in NBA History, #17

In what will become a daily entry over the course of the next month, Waiver Wire writers Greg Kaplan and Vinny Ginardi will release a list of the the 25 players who they believe to be the best in NBA history. Players were judged on their careers as a whole rather than short stretches of dominance (for example, Bill Walton didn’t make the list due to injuries cutting his career short).

Number: 25 | 24 | 23 | 22 | 21 | 20 | 19 | 18 

Number 17: John Havlicek

Vinny Ginardi: John Havlicek was one of the early all-around players in NBA history. For his career, Hondo averaged 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. In his two-year peak, Havlicek averaged an impressive 26.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game.

In his career, Havlicek made 11 All-NBA teams (four first team) and eight all-defensive teams (five first team). Oh, and he was a member on eight teams that won the NBA Finals and won the Finals MVP in 1974 when he played all but two minutes in the series.

So why does he seem to always be forgotten or underrated by most casual NBA fans? Perhaps it is because so much time has passed or that he played for a team that has had several all-time greats, but Havlicek doesn’t seem to get the respect he deserves. He’s one of the few players who was elite on both ends of the floor and he did for long a period of time.

Greg Kaplan: I know this term can be overused, but John Havlicek truly was one of those players that would’ve excelled in any era he played in. Hondo was one of the best jump shooters while he was in the NBA, and did so when there was no 3-pt line. Had there been, there’s little argument abut who would’ve been one of the league’s first deadliest snipers from distance. It would’ve been Havlicek.

Hondo was one of the league’s original iron men as well. Twice in his career, he averaged north of 45 minutes a night, and they were in back-to-back seasons, arguably his two best seasons, from 1970-72. 

When the Celtics got to the playoffs, they took to riding Hondo to epic proportions. During the 1968-69 playoffs, Havlicek averaged 25.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 18 games, all while playing an average of 47.2 minutes a night. In other words, on average, the Celtics gave Hondo 12 seconds of rest each game. The next time Boston reached the playoffs, in just 11 games, Hondo averaged 27.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists and a pedestrian 47 minutes per game. See? He was getting a full minute of rest now!

It is safe to say that we will never see another player physically play as much as John Havlicek did in his prime. And it wasn’t like he was just a guy that happened to be on the court for the extended periods that he would be. He was the focal point of many successful Boston Celtics teams. We’d be remiss if we didn’t pay homage to the special talents and abilities of the one and only Hondo.

And yet, you do wonder just how many more points Havlicek would’ve been able to score had he played in the 3-point era…