Regular Season: 20.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 46.9% FG, 79.6% FT
Playoffs: 19.6 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 47.9% FG, 80.6% FT
Accolades (ABA): MVP (1970), ROY (1970), All-ABA 1st Team (1970), ASG (1970)
Accolades (NBA): 2 All-NBA 1st Team (1972-73), 2 All-NBA 2nd Team (1974-75), 4 ASGs (1972-75)
In the meantime, the NBA acquiesced to Haywood’s suit (which eventually went to the Supreme Court) and allowed “underclassmen with financial hardship” to enter the league. Haywood was off to the Pacific Northwest and the Seattle SuperSonics. In his abbreviated first season (33 games), Haywood managed 20ppg and 12rpg. The following four seasons, Haywood would hit his stride and produce the best seasons of his NBA career peaking in 1973 with 29ppg and 13rpg. During this run he made the all-star team each season (starting three times) and would the All-NBA 1st and 2nd teams (twice a piece).
But for all of his personal, statistical success, Haywood led the Sonics to the playoffs just once during this run. With Bill Russell at the helm (a much better player than coach), the 1975 Seattle team finished 2nd in the Pacific Division at 43-39 and beat the Detroit Pistons 2 games to 1 in the first round. Next up was the Pacific Division champs and eventual NBA Champs, the Golden State Warriors. Although the series went 6 games, it wasn’t as close as it appeared with the Warriors winning their 4 games by an average of 17 points and with one of their losses being by just a point. Tellingly, Haywood only averaged 15.7ppg and 9rpg for the playoffs. Facing Bob Lanier in the first might account for some of that, but the Warriors had no interior defender on Lanier’s level and yet Haywood shot 36% from the field for the playoffs.
The following year, 1979, the Knicks realized they were going nowhere fast and dumped Haywood on the New Orleans Jazz in a midseason trade. Haywood’s half-season in New Orleans saw him drop 24 points and 9.5 rebounds, but New Orleans being New Orleans, they missed the playoffs. Now a full-fledged vagabond, Haywood was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers to backup Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. As a 30-year old sixth man, Haywood had serviceable bench production in the regular season, but vanished, as usual, in the postseason. He played only 13 minutes a game, but thanks to the heroics of Kareem and a rookie named Magic Johnson, Haywood got himself a championship ring.
Haywood’s Hall of Fame credentials are solid yet shaky. He was an outstanding college player but only for a year. He won an MVP and ROY in the same season but it was in the ABA. The first decade of his career he averaged 20 and 10 but his teams hardly ever made the playoffs and he routinely shrank when they did. And it's truly hard to untangle Haywood's true character and desire to win at this time from the drug abuse or whether they can be at all. In the end, I say that his on-court production (along with a 1968 Olympic Gold medal) gets him to the borderline and his legal contributions to free agency and the draft gets him just across the Hall of Fame line. Just.
(PS - check out this fine article which helps untangle the enigma of Haywood)