John “Hondo” Havliceck is often regarded as one of the most underrated players of all time. The career long Celtic has put up amazing numbers and never seized to amaze fans with his exceptional shooting and top of the league defensive ability. He was one of the earliest examples of an all around player with nearly every basketball skill imaginable and is without a doubt one of the top all time Boston Celtics greats.
But where does he rank all time?
Let’s look at his awards and accolades:
8x NBA Champion
1x Finals MVP
13x NBA All-Star
11x All NBA Team
8x All Defensive Team
Boston Celtics All-Time leading scorer
Insanely impressive numbers, and to add to this it was in an extremely tough era as well!
So the only question that remains is, Why do analysts often overlook him when they are doing all time rankings?
As you can see, he was an exceptional defender with a total of 5 All-Defensive First Teams, and 3 All-Defensive Second Teams. In addition, he was in conversation for the best defender in the NBA during his prime, and he was most likely the best defensive small forward during this era as well.
In addition to this, being the all time leading scorer for one of the most accomplished franchises in NBA history and that these Celtics have had some of the best players of all time, such as Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Kevin Garnett and some amazing scorers such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Mchale, Sam Jones and Robert Parish is no small achievement. He was able to consistently score a ton of points every year, and he scored more than all of the future Celtics. He is also 2000 points ahead of the closest player, Paul Pierce who doesn’t play for the team anymore and is soon going to retire, so his place is solidified for a long while at the top of that list.
Havliceck’s best season ever came in 1970’1971 season in which he averaged 28.9 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 7.5 APG, all of which are career bests. He shot 45% from the floor, and 82% in free throws. Steals weren’t counted at this time, but you can assume that if he averaged 1.3 SPG in his later years, that in his defensive and offensive prime he would average more than 1.3 for sure. During this season he was in the conversation for the league MVP, but ultimately was beaten out by the all time leading scorer Kareem Abdul- Jabbar. Many believe that Havliceck would have received an MVP award if he hadn’t played in eras dominated by players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell. Considering many of his seasons were at MVP Level in comparison to MVP award recipients in previous years, it is possible that he would have received one if he had played in a different era.
He was also very good during the postseason. His career playoff average being 22 PPG, but in his prime averaging around 26 PPG. He never shied away on the boards either, and at 6 foot 5 averaging 6.9 RPG in the playoffs, an extremely high number for a man his size and the small forward/ shooting guard position itself. In the year Havliceck won the Finals MVP in the playoffs he averaged 27.1 PPG, 6.0 APG and 6.4 RPG. This was also the year they began to count steals, he averaged 1.3 SPG, a respectable amount.
You also have to factor in that John Havliceck played on a very impressive Celtics team for the majority of his career. Which partially is to blame for him being overlooked. But despite this, you can’t help but believe that if he didn’t have this team he would have done extremely well. His numbers prove that he could do well on his own, and if he hadn’t had Bill Russell and Sam Jones he most likely would have still won a championship or two and would’ve gotten more than the one Finals MVP that he got in his career.
With all these factors, good for his legacy and bad for it. I rank the Celtic sharpshooter and all time leading scorer for the Celtics, John Havliceck, as the 27th best player in NBA History.
Do you agree? Tell me if you do or do not in the comments.
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