Paul Silas

Born: July 12, 1941
Position: Power Forward
Professional Career:
St. Louis Hawks (NBA): 1964-’68
Atlanta Hawks (NBA): 1968-’69
Phoenix Suns (NBA): 1969-’72
Boston Celtics (NBA): 1972-’76
Denver Nuggets (NBA): 1976-’77
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA): 1977-’80


Paul Silas (spokeo)
(spokeo)

The Lowdown: Paul Silas was never much of a scorer, but his NBA career lasted 16 years thanks to his grinding defensive play and tireless effort on the boards. Silas was also heralded for the accountability he demanded from all teammates. He could begrudgingly forgive mistakes, but never a lack of effort. With this ensemble of talent, hustle, and personality, Silas carved out a place on two All-Star Teams and three NBA champions during his lengthy career.
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Elgin Baylor

Born: September 16, 1934
Position: Small Forward
Professional Career:
Minneapolis Lakers (NBA): 1958 – 1960
Los Angeles Lakers (NBA): 1960 – 1971


Elgin Baylor

The Lowdown: An exciting, acrobatic small forward, Elgin Baylor scored in ways few people had ever seen before. His array of gliding, hanging one-handers and contorting layups captivated opponents and fans for 13 NBA seasons. His prolific scoring average of 27.4 points per game – the fourth-highest career average in NBA history – speaks to his excellent offensive production. A fine passer and rebounder for his position as well, Baylor was selected to 10 All-NBA 1st Teams in a span of 11 years.

Despite his supreme gifts and determination, Baylor never played for an NBA champion. His Laker teams lost eight times in the NBA Finals – including four Game 7 heartbreaks. Nonetheless, his abilities cannot be denied or underestimated for the serious student and appreciator of basketball. Off the court, Baylor was a gregarious personality who also ushered in desegregation of player accommodations and stood up for players’ labor rights.
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The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1967-68 Season

Lenny Wilkens (top L), Earl Monroe (bot. L), Zelmo Beaty (center), Bill Bridges (top R), and Bob Boozer (bot. L)
Lenny Wilkens (top L), Earl Monroe (bot. L), Zelmo Beaty (center), Bill Bridges (top R), and Bob Boozer (bot. 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.

The Hawks celebrated their final season in Atlanta by stacking the All-NBA 3rd Team deck with three of their players: Zelmo Beaty, Bill Bridges, and Lenny Wilkens. Beaty was the relatively short, but powerfully muscular center who patrolled the middle. His 21 points and 12 rebounds a game were an appreciated return to form after he missed half of the 1967 season with injury. Bill Bridges meanwhile was an unparalleled defensive force at power forward helping Zelmo keep the paint firmly under the Hawks’ control. And Wilkens found himself in the odd position of finishing second in voting for MVP this season, but was not selected to the All-NBA 1st or 2nd Team.

With their powers combined, the Hawks set a new franchise record of 56 wins. The total was good enough for first place in the Western Division and only the 76ers in the East finished with more wins in the entire NBA. Unfortunately for St. Louis, the Hawks were upset by the San Francisco Warriors in the playoffs.

Elsewhere, the Chicago Bulls’ sophomore season was dominated by veteran forward Bob Boozer who had a career year. Averaging 21.5 PPG and 10 RPG, Boozer’s eighth NBA season was his finest as he appeared in his first and only All-Star Game. The Bulls only won 29 games, but Boozer’s steady offensive touch kept things from being worse.

Lastly, the magnificent rookie Earl Monroe was sensational in Baltimore. Averaging almost 25 PPG, Earl the Pearl generated excitement for the Bullets with his whirling dribbling moves and gossamer shooting touch. He was named Rookie of the Year as his presence helped lift Baltimore from 20 wins the previous season to 36 this year. The next year, after drafting Wes Unseld, the Bullets would further surge ahead to an impressive 57 wins.

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Bob Boozer Chicago Bulls 77 21.5 9.8 1.6 0.492 0.768 10.6 18.6
F Bill Bridges St. Louis Hawks 82 15.6 13.4 3.1 0.462 0.717 8.6 15.6
C Zelmo Beaty St. Louis Hawks 82 21.1 11.7 2.1 0.488 0.794 11.8 19.3
G Lenny Wilkens St. Louis Hawks 82 20.0 5.3 8.3 0.438 0.768 10.1 19.0
G Earl Monroe Baltimore Bullets 82 24.3 5.7 4.3 0.453 0.781 9.3 19.3

The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1966-67 Season

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 backcout 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

The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1960 through 1962

Three Water by Doug88888 (Flickr)
Three Water by Doug88888 (Flickr)

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.

As with any era, this three-year snippet was both, the end of an era and the beginning of something new. Tom Gola, Larry Costello, and Cliff Hagan -greats of the late 1950s and early 1960s – give way to Sam Jones, Hal Greer, and Bailey Howell. The latter three would make their way onto the All-NBA 2nd and 3rd Teams with regularity throughout the 1960s.

And signifying how having a 3rd Team can change perception, Walt Bellamy makes the first of four selections to the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams in 1962. Simply put, Bellamy stakes his claim as the NBA’s best center – not named Wilt or Russell – for a half-a-decade.

Lastly, Rudy LaRusso’s selection for the 1961-62 season’s 3rd Team is the most tenuous. Cliff Hagan had a top notch season for the St. Louis Hawks – 22.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.8 APG – but the team finished a miserable 29-51 for the season. Meanwhile, LaRusso managed 17.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 2.2 APG adding in some of the best defense from a forward that season, too, for a Lakers team that finished first in the Western Division.

And not just first, but they were 11 games ahead of the 2nd-place  Cincinnati Royals. And they pulled that off with Elgin Baylor missing half the season in the military. LaRusso played a major part in that and so seals the difference between Hagan and himself for this particular season.

1959-60 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Cliff Hagan St. Louis Hawks 75 24.8 10.7 4.0 0.464 0.803 11.8 22.0
F George Yardley Syracuse Nationals 73 20.2 7.9 1.7 0.453 0.816 9.0 18.2
C Clyde Lovellette St. Louis Hawks 68 20.8 10.6 1.9 0.468 0.821 9.0 23.3
G Tom Gola Philadelphia Warriors 75 15.0 10.4 5.5 0.433 0.794 9.9 15.4
G Larry Costello Syracuse Nationals 71 14.0 5.5 6.3 0.453 0.862 8.0 15.6

1960-61

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Bailey Howell Detroit Pistons 77 23.6 14.4 2.5 0.469 0.753 11.7 21.2
F Cliff Hagan St. Louis Hawks 77 22.1 9.3 4.9 0.444 0.820 10.8 20.1
C Clyde Lovellette St. Louis Hawks 67 22.0 10.1 2.6 0.453 0.830 8.5 20.5
G Tom Gola Philadelphia Warriors 74 14.2 9.4 3.9 0.447 0.747 6.8 13.3
G Richie Guerin New York Knicks 79 21.8 7.9 6.4 0.396 0.792 5.4 17.8

1961-62 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Bailey Howell Detroit Pistons 79 19.9 12.6 2.4 0.464 0.768 10.7 19.0
F Rudy LaRusso Los Angeles Lakers 80 17.2 10.4 2.2 0.466 0.763 8.8 16.6
C Walt Bellamy Chicago Packers 79 31.6 19.0 2.7 0.519 0.644 16.3 26.3
G Hal Greer Syracuse Nationals 71 22.8 7.4 4.4 0.447 0.819 8.5 17.5
G Sam Jones Boston Celtics 78 18.4 5.9 3.0 0.464 0.818 9.6 17.9

The Lowdown: Slick Leonard

Slick Leonard

William Robert Leonard is a man of a million aliases. Some call him “Robert”. Others “Bob”. But the coolest of us call him “Slick”. As a legendary ABA coach, Slick proved to be tough, if not slippery, for opponents to handle. He took the Pacers to three titles in the upstart, renegade league. However, his time as a professional basketball player isn’t all that memorable.

Except when he tagged along with the Chicago Packers in the 1961-62 season. The Chicago Packers in 1961 were the 1st NBA expansion team in a decade. And my goodness did they show it on the court. Aside from Slick Leonard and rookie Walt Bellamy this team was absolutely atrocious. Beyond them, 8 other players appeared in 41+ games with the Packers that season. All but 3 would be out of the league the very next season. And only two survived the following year.

So with those facts in mind, it’s little wonder Leonard enjoyed a career season with the expansion Packers. Up to this point, Leonard had been a serviceable guard with the Lakers franchise. His claim to fame there had been a surprisingly great 1957 postseason where he averaged 21 points, 7.5 assists and 6 rebounds in 5 games. His other stake to stardom had been a coach-like  harping of his team’s shortcomings, in particular this rant to the Los Angeles Times:

“We’re so much better than that club (Cincinnati),” he said. “But we just don’t have the fire. We are a second place club, material wise, and we keep saying we’ll make up the games we’ve lost but there are only 31 games left.”

Not content with these salvos Leonard then bit into coach Fred Schaus for trying to make teammate “Hot Rod” Hundley, who he deemed a lackluster play maker, into a point guard:

“You can’t make a leader,” he said emphatically.

These quotes from January 1961 by an aging reserve may have played some role in Leonard’s subsequent availability in that summer’s expansion draft. Just a hunch on my part.

Now a member of the Chicago Packers, Leonard was free to not only shoot barbs but as many shots as he wanted on the court. Early in the season the Chicago Daily Tribune noted his playmaking ability and its impact, particularly on rookie sensation Walt Bellamy:

The Chicago Packers came up with a new star last night. His name is Bob Leonard, once an All-American playmaker at Indiana University.

The 29 year old backcourt man [cast aside in the player draft by the Los Angeles Lakers as being injury prone] dominated a second half rally that brought the Packers their second victory of the season. They have lost three.

Thanks to Leonard’s ball handling, Walt Bellamy… was able to score 35 points. Eleven of Bellamy’s field goals came in the second half and eight were the direct result of passes from Leonard.

Leonard himself had 27 points that game against the Knicks. Chicago stood at that point had 2 wins and 3 losses, a very respectable record for an expansion club. But the hard times hit hard and fast. Just three weeks later, Leonard again scored 27 points but Chicago lost to the Detroit Pistons. It was their seventh straight loss and put them at 2 wins and 11 losses.

In a mid-December contest that saw Bellamy (45 points) and Wilt Chamberlain (50 points) square off within the confines of the game, Leonard and Philadelphia Warriors point guard Guy Rodgers actually squared off following the (you guessed it) Packers loss:

[Leonard and Rodgers] traded punches in center court last night at the conclusion of Philadelphia’s 112 to 110 victory…

The Packers led, 110 to 108, with less than two minutes remaining, but baskets by Tom Gola and Rodgers gave Philadelphia the victory before 3,360.

The losing nights piled up in normal venues (Boston, New York, Philadelphia) and in neutral-site, zany locales like Louisville, Green Bay, East Chicago, Moline and Evansville. At least in February, Leonard secured some measure of revenge against his erstwhile club, the Lakers. Playing with an injured shoulder ol’ Slick scored 18 second half points, including five straight down the stretch, to give the Packers a rare win. However, it’d be important to note  Los Angeles was without Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

Even the redemption was somewhat in vain this season. In fact, everything was somewhat in vain for Leonard this season. He finally was able to demonstrate his full abilities at age 29 after 5 seasons in the NBA. He averaged a career-high 16 points, 5.5 assists and 37.5% FG while connecting on 75% of his free throws. But his demonstrations came on what is truly one of the worst teams in league history. These Packers went 18-62 and surely would have been worse had it not been for Leonard and, even more so, Walt Bellamy’s incredible campaign.

The next season Leonard would only suit up for 32 games of playing action. The Chicago Zephyrs (yes, they changed their name after one season) were just about as awful as they were the previous season finishing 25-55.

However, the silver lining of this season (and the next) would be that Leonard was given his first coaching opportunity. Although, these formative coaching years were unimpressive, they were still instructive. Dismissed by the Baltimore Bullets (yes, the Chicago Zephyrs/Packers had already relocated) after the 1964 season, Leonard’s next coaching job would be with the Indiana Pacers of the ABA and he’d truly make his mark on professional basketball. But for one season, his playing career was something remarkable.

St. Louis Hawks Franchise History: 1956-57 through 1965-66

St. Louis Hawks 1960s

Championships: 1
Conference Titles: 4
Division Titles: 5

Regular Season Record: 425-355
Regular Season Win Percentage: 59.9%
Playoff Appearances: 9
Playoff Series Wins: 8
Playoff Record: 47-43

Welcome to the Glory Days of the Hawks franchise.

Behind 1959 NBA MVP Bob Pettit, the Hawks made the playoffs every year in this period except in 1962. They made the NBA Finals four times squaring off with the Boston Celtics on each occasion. In 1957 and 1961, the Hawks barely lost in dynamic 7-game slug fests. In 1958, Pettit scored 50 points (including 19 of  St. Louis’s last 21) in the decisive Game 6 to give the Hawks their only championship.

There was more to this club than the superb Pettit, however. Cliff Hagan roamed as his sidekick at forward flinging in his hook shot at will. In 1960, Pettit (26/17), Hagan (25/11) and Clyde Lovellette (21/11) became the only trio of teammates in NBA history to all average over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. At the end of this era, the buff and imposing Zelmo Beaty took over for Lovellette as the Hawks’ center. Reliable back ups in Chuck Share, Bill Bridges, and Ed Macauley provided these heavyweights with some in-game respite.

In the backcourt, Slater Martin was a defensive pest rarely seen. His reign of terror ended in 1960, but Lenny Wilkens picked up the slack as a floor general who unflappably delivered the ball to his high-scoring frontcourt.

The only thing that prevented the Hawks from enjoying even greater success in this period was owner Ben Kerner’s obsession with hiring and firing coaches. During this 10-year period, 10 different men served as head coach of the Hawks. Despite the revolving door of coaches, the St. Louis Hawks put together one of the best 10-year stretches in NBA history.

STARTING FIVE

C – Zelmo Beaty (1962-’66) – 299 Games
15.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 46.4% FG, 73.5% FT

F – Bob Pettit (1956-’65) – 648 Games
27.1 PPG, 16.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 43.9% FG, 76.5% FT

F – Cliff Hagan (1956-’66) – 745 Games
18.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.0 APG, 45.0% FG, 79.8% FT

G – Lenny Wilkens (1960-’66) – 395 Games
14.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.8 RPG, 41.4% FG, 74.5% FT

G – Slater Martin (1956-’60) – 248 Games
9.7 PPG, 4.5 APG, 3.7 RPG, 34.3% FG, 76.1% FT

BENCH

C – Clyde Lovellette (1958-’62) – 245 Games
19.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 46.1% FG, 82.5% FT

G – Richie Guerin (1963-’66) – 215 Games
14.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.3 RPG, 42.1% FG, 80.3% FT

C – Chuck Share (1956-’59) – 216 Games
8.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 40.9% FG, 68.7% FT