The Hall of Fame Case for Maurice Cheeks
1983 NBA Champion. 4x All-Star. 4x All-Defensive 1st Team.
Maurice Cheeks’s influence on a basketball game is somehow easy and hard to put a finger on. Those accolades above clearly allude to a premier player. Indeed, he would often deliver impressive totals of steals and assists. A notable example is from November 7, 1986. Maurice chalked up 17 points, 18 assists and 8 steals that night in a Sixers victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
But for every tallied assist, there would be a slew of other passes that did not directly lead to an assist for Mo, but was nonetheless the right pass at the right moment to fuel a successful offensive possession. Likewise for steals. For every one officially recorded, Maurice would bump, deflect and harass an opponent’s possession into failure that may simply show up as a turnover or missed field goal with no credit to Maurice.
To fully appreciate his impact requires a study of the box score and the game film.
Nonetheless, with these ephemeral gaps acknowledged, it is quite notable that Maurice Cheeks still left quite the impressive statistical resume that hints at and speaks to his larger effect on the game. Below are just some of the notable statistical accomplishments during Cheeks’s 15 seasons in the NBA
Upon retiring in 1993, Cheeks held the following NBA regular season honors:
· 1st in career steals (2310)
· 1st player with 2000+ career steals
· 8th in steals per game (2.1)
· 5th in career assists (7392)
· 6th player with 7000+ career assists
· 24th in assists per game (6.7)
· 10th in games played (1101)
· 19th in minutes played (34,845)
Also, let’s nod for a moment to Cheeks’s underrated and accurate scoring ability:
· 2nd in career field goal percentage (.523) for a player 6’4” or shorter.
· 3rd highest single-season field goal percentage (.570 in 1985) for a player 6’4” or shorter.
Upon retiring in 1993, Cheeks held the following NBA playoff honors:
· 3rd in steals (295)
· 7th in assists (922)
· 15th in minutes played (4848)
· 21st in games played (133)
Now how do all those individual stats plus his oft-unquantifiable play translate into victories? From the 1978-79 season through the 1990-91 campaign, Maurice was a full-time starting guard in the NBA. Looking at the games he played in during that dozen-year stretch reveals the following:
· 633-377 win-loss record
· That .627 win percentage averages out to 51 wins per 82-game season
· Seven consecutive seasons of 50+ wins with the 76ers
· 72-56 win-loss record in the playoffs
· Advanced to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals eight times
· Advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals five times
· Advanced to the NBA Finals three times
· Missed the playoffs only once as a starting point guard
Clearly Maurice Cheeks was a guiding force behind many winning ball clubs throughout his career. His steadying hand deserves a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
STAT NOTES: Average career stats only include players with a minimum 300 games played. All single-season marks only include players who qualified for the respective statistical lead. Statistical information supplied by basketball-reference.com