The NBA has arrived!
The BAA, after having raided the NBL for several teams the previous year, completes a full-scale merger with their rival. The resulting hybrid league has now ballooned to 15 teams. This would be the most franchises fielded by the NBA until the early 1970s. Locations like Fort Wayne (IN), Sheboygan (WI), Anderson (IN), and Waterloo (IA) would enter their last days as major professional sports towns, while Chicago, Denver, St. Louis and Baltimore were unknowingly entering periods of flux concerning their status as pro basketball cities. The Stags, (old) Nuggets, Bombers and (old) Bullets, respectively, wouldn’t last too much longer and all disbanded by the mid-1950s.
But the merger of the leagues meant the full merger of most of the United States’ best basketball talent and this is the toughest field, yet, for MVP candidates. Old standbys like Joe Fulks have begun to fade while men like Al Cervi, Bob Davies, Ed Macauley, Frankie Beard and Jim Pollard were fine candidates. Narrowing the loaded field down to five is damn hard. So hard, there’s already going to be a cop out co-selection…
#5 Harry Gallatin / Carl Braun – New York Knicks
Gallatin: 11.8 PPG, 0.8 APG, .396 FG%, .757 FT%
Braun: 15.4 PPG, 3.7 APG, .364% FG, .762 FT%
I couldn’t decide which of these Knickerbockers should be #5 on this list, so I went ahead and put both of them. These gents were the dynamic duo that propelled the Knicks to a 40-28 record and a second place finish in the Eastern Division.
Although both were just 22, Braun was already in his 3rd season while Gallatin was in his 2nd. The two young stars of the Knicks were quickly improving as well. They’d form the core of a Knicks team that would appear in the Eastern Division Finals this season and three straight NBA Finals in the succeeding seasons thereafter.
#4 – Max Zaslofsky – Chicago Stags
All-NBA 1st Team
16.4 PPG, 2.3 APG, .351 FG%, .843% FT
Perennial MVP candidate and 1948 winner of the award, Max Zaslofsky is back again! Although his per game scoring average dropped from 20.6 in 1949 to 16.4 this season, Zaslofsky still managed to finish 4th in the NBA in total points scored.
Also, his FT% has risen to a high-water mark of .843. That was good enough to lead the entire league. Zaslofsky’s place in the rankings, though is indicative of his overall slight decline, the stagnation of the Stags (which was still a really good team) and the continuing rise of Andy Phillip on the team.
Taking all of that into account, Max is still one of the NBA’s best, but it’s clear his impact on the Stags has diminished, therefore so has his place in these rankings. #4 ain’t bad though.
#3 Dolph Schayes – Syracuse Nationals
All-NBA 2nd Team
16.8 PPG, 4.0 APG, .385 FG%, .774% FT
All of 21 years old, forward-center Dolph Schayes got off to a tremendous start in the new league.
His 16.8 points per game placed him 5th overall. The 4.0 assists per game were also good for 5th place in all of the NBA. He certainly wasn’t the only good player on a Syracuse powerhouse that tied for the league’s best record with 51 wins, but he was the most impactful leading the team in free throw percentage and points per game, finishing second in assists per game while also leading all rotation players in FG%. A true workhorse and iron man, Schayes wouldn’t miss significant action this season, or any season in fact until he was 33 years old.
#2 Alex Groza – Indianapolis Olympians
All-NBA 1st Team
23.4 PPG, 2.5 APG, .478 FG%, .729 FT%
This is the reason why this Lost MVPs series needs to be done. A man like Alex Groza nearly usurped the MVP award from George Mikan this season and that’s a mighty testament to this center’s abilities.
He shattered the BAA/NBA’s single-season record for FG% this year while still pouring in 23.4 points a night. One of the tiny handful of players to cross the 20 ppg threshold at this point in basketball history. He was the centerpiece of an Indianapolis Olympians squad that was indeed filled with Olympians. The core of the roster was composed of the 1948 US Men’s basketball squad, which was itself mostly composed of Wildcats from the University of Kentucky.
The Olympians finished 39-25, good enough for the Western Division regular season crown. But for all his greatness, Groza is second place to George Mikan. But next season may certainly see a shift…
#1 George Mikan – Minneapolis Lakers
1st Team All-NBA
27.4 PPG, 2.9 APG, .407 FG%, .779 FT%
Oh who am I kidding. George Mikan has got this MVP award wrapped up for as long as he keeps posting gaudy numbers like these. Again he led the league in PPG and led the Lakers to a tie for the most wins that season (51).
The numbers truly tell the story of his impact. There’s not much more to add. The man’s sweeping hook shot was unstoppable and the only thing that will end King George’s reign of MVPs is Father Time. And here’s a hint, Father Time isn’t in a rush to dethrone Mikan.