1972-1973 ABA Stats: 81 GP, 34.6 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.6 BPG, 51.8 FG%, 70.9 FT%
1972-1973 ABA Advanced: 56.0 TS%, 51.8 eFG%, 21.7 PER, 5.6 WS
All-Star Team? Yes
Team: 30-54, lost in first round to Carolina Cougars (4-1)
After losing to the Indiana Pacers in the 1972 ABA Finals, the Nets lost Rick Barry, their best player, to the NBA. The future Hall of Fame forward did not want to leave New York, but a US Circuit Court Judge ruled that if Barry were to play pro basketball, it would have to be with the Golden State Warriors, who Barry had abandoned for the ABA five years earlier in 1967. (Ladies and gentlemen, the ABA.)
The loss of their best player led to a 14-win decline in the wins column for the Nets from 72-73 to 73-74. Billy Paultz, the Nets’ big, plodding center with a jumper, helped to maintain some modicum of respectability in the gap year between Rick Barry and Julius Erving.
Paultz, nicknamed “The Whopper” because of course he was, led New York in rebounds, blocks, PER, and win shares, in addition to finishing second on the team in scoring in the first of his three ABA All-Star seasons.
Thanks to the ABA playoff structure in which four of the five teams in each division made the playoffs, the Nets easily beat out the Memphis Tams for the fourth and final Eastern Division playoff spot. The New York Nets subsequently lost the battle of alliteration to the Carolina Cougars in the opening round of the playoffs, losing four out of five games.
Paultz, a northern New Jersey native and St. John’s product, would go on to win a 1973-74 ABA championship with the Dr. J.-led Nets before being part of the Nets/Spurs makeover trades in the summer of 1975. Paultz deserves credit for creating a successful 15-year NBA/ABA career – in which his teams made the playoff in every single season — despite below-average athleticism encapsulated by being nicknamed for a propensity to eat burgers. Also, he was Rick Barry’s frenemy, so there’s that.
Next: Jayson Williams