The NBA Time Machine: 1949

Published September 8, 2022

The NBA Time Machine:

Third and Final Year

New Faces

The league underwent some nice growth this season, with four teams from the rival National Basketball League (NBL) joining the mix – this included the Fort Wayne Pistons, Indianapolis Jets, Minneapolis Lakers, and Rochester Royals. This now meant nearly half of the BAA consisted of franchises from rival leagues, and the surge in talent was significant.

The amount of games was reversed to sixty again, and the playoffs now followed a new format. In the first two years, teams were seeded in the playoffs based on how well they did in their division – for example, the first seed in the West would play against the first seed in the East.

This new system confined teams to strictly playing their divisional rivals, meaning the best team in the West would play the worst qualifying team in the West – in this case, the first seed and fourth seed in that division would face off. The only way separate divisions could clash in the postseason was through reaching the finals, and this methodology has not changed since.

Speaking of divisions, there were some rearrangements; the Baltimore Bullets and Washington Capitols were moved to the Eastern Division, and the four expansion teams immediately joined the West.

Standout Players

George Mikan

The Lakers’ first superstar continued his pattern of dominance in his new league, immediately leading all players in scoring and being the best defensive presence around. Mikan dismantled the stigma around centers, proving they could be unbeatable with the right physical tools.

Bob Davies

Davies revolutionized the point guard position, introducing incredibly advanced dribble techniques for the time (i.e., behind-the-back). He was also an elite playmaker, powering one of the BAA’s top offenses.

Joe Fulks

While it’s safe to say Mikan overtook Fulks as the league’s best player, the Warriors star remained the next-best scorer around. With the loss of Chick Halbert and regression of Howie Dallmar, the Warriors became dependent on Fulks’ offense – they had a 9-21 record in games where he scored below his seasonal average.

Arnie Risen

Risen was part of a makeshift “big three” in Rochester, alongside Bob Davies and Bobby Wanzer. He was the primary scorer of the best regular-season team and also absurdly efficient for the time, scoring ten-percent above the league average.

Around the League

Team Standings

An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.

Eastern DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
Washington Capitols*3822Rochester Royals*4515
New York Knicks*3228Minneapolis Lakers*4416
Baltimore Bullets*2931Chicago Stags*3822
Philadelphia Warriors*2832St. Louis Bombers*2931
Boston Celtics2535Fort Wayne Pistons2238
Providence Steamrollers1248Indianapolis Jets1842

Fun Facts

  • The Rochester Royals and Minneapolis Lakers proved that they were the best teams in professional basketball through winning forty-three or more games in both the NBL and BAA…back-to-back.
    • They were also the only two teams to finish top three in both offense and defense.
  • Conversely, the Fort Wayne Pistons and Indianapolis Jets didn’t translate so well. The latter was already bad in the NBL, but the former was a good team turned sour.
  • Despite acquiring All-BAA center Ed Sadowski, the Philadelphia Warriors fell under .500 for the first time in league history.

Notable Movement


The player stats listed are based on their last tenure, whether it be with their former team or the previous season.
Name(s) under the “Top Draft Picks” section with a plus (+) opted to play in another league instead of the NBA this season.

Name(s) under the “Top Draft Picks” section with an asterisk (*) were selected with a territorial draft pick.
p – points
a – assists

Top Draft Picks

Providence Steamrollers
Indianapolis Jets
Boston Celtics
New York Knicks
Chicago Stags
Baltimore Bullets
St. Louis Bombers
Fort Wayne Pistons
Minneapolis Lakers
Rochester Royals
Andy Tonkovich
George Kok
George Hauptfuhrer
Dolph Schayes +
Ed Mikan
Walt Budko
Robert Gale
Ward Williams
Chuck Hanger +
Bobby Wanzer


May 1, 1948Ed SadowskiBoston CelticsTradedPhiladelphia Warriors(19.4p/1.6a)
May 1, 1948Chick HalbertPhiladelphia WarriorsTradedBoston Celtics(10.5p/0.8a)
February 11, 1949Connie SimmonsBaltimore BulletsTradedNew York Knicks
Set to play for NYK next season


January 2, 1949Coach Red AuerbachWashington CapitolsResigned

League Leaders


PTS – total points
AST – total assists
FG% – field goal percentage (percentage of shots that hit)
FT% – free throw percentage (percentage of foul shots that hit)

PTSGeorge Mikan (1698)
Joe Fulks (1560)
Max Zaslofsky (1197)
Arnie Risen (995)
Ed Sadowski (920)
ASTBob Davies (321)
Andy Phillip (319)
John Logan (276)
Ernie Calverley (251)
George Senesky (233)
FG%Arnie Risen (42%)
George Mikan (41%)
Ed Sadowski (40%)
Jim Pollard (39%)
Red Rocha (38%)
FT%Bob Feerick (85%)
Max Zaslofsky (84%)
Bobby Wanzer (82%)
Herm Schaefer (81%)
Howie Shannon (80%)


Division Semifinals

East / New York Knicks beat Baltimore Bullets, 2-1
The Knicks continued to deal with the “no road games won” curse, but for once they had the higher seed than the opponent. This meant they hosted two of the three home games – a recipe for success.

It was a pretty typical first two games, but ended with a Game 3 overtime thriller that resulted in the Knicks’ first won playoff series. It was a battle of foul calls, with forty-eight percent of both teams’ points coming from free throws.
East / Washington Capitols beat Philadelphia Warriors, 2-0
The biggest story of this first-round sweep is the absence of Warriors star Joe Fulks.

If there was one insufferable characteristic of the BAA superstar, it was his alcoholism. Fulks missed the series due to injuring himself on the stairs while intoxicated – his hip hurt too much, and he couldn’t bear to play more than a couple minutes of Game 1.

Without their first option present, the stripped-down Warriors struggled to compete. Ed Sadowski, who was their next go-to, was a no-show all series – he never scored more than twelve points and constantly had horrible efficiency. Meanwhile, Bones McKinney finally showed up proper for Washington, helping them win a series for the first time.
West / Minneapolis Lakers beat Chicago Stags, 2-0
Despite Chicago’s as-usual amazing offense, there was absolutely no way their lackluster defense could stop Minneapolis. The two Mikans – Ed Mikan for the Stags, and George Mikan for the Lakers – matched up and immediately identified who the better of the two was.

Want the answer? Just know this – George Mikan averaged thirty-seven points per game for the series, which accounted for nearly half of his team’s.
West / Rochester Royals beat St. Louis Bombers, 2-0
This was lightwork for the Royals – their elite two-way play completely overshadowed the Bombers’ dreadful scoring. They beat St. Louis by nearly thirty points in Game 1, and took the second narrowly – if it weren’t for Bombers star Red Rocha dropping twenty-seven, it would have been ugly.

Division Finals

East / Washington Capitols beat New York Knicks, 2-1
…still no road wins, New York? Alright.

There wasn’t anything special about this series – both teams only took wins on their homecourt, and Bones McKinney continued to dominate. It’s also worth considering that Capitols star Bob Feerick had been missing for all but one game of the playoffs, which made these victories even more impressive.

Even though the Knicks failed to reach the finals this year, they had something to look forward to – young talents Carl Braun and Harry Gallatin, both only twenty-one years old, had some great playoff outings that showed flashes of potential.
West / Minneapolis Lakers beat Rochester Royals, 2-0
Surprisingly enough, the series between the league’s two top teams was a sweep. The Royals, despite winning one more game during the regular season, lacked the postseason resilience of Minneapolis.

Unsurprisingly, George Mikan continued to terrorize his competition and averaged over thirty points per game for the matchup. Rochester’s starting center Arnie Risen, while great in his own right, lacked the defensive presence to stifle his rival. He was simply too frail in comparison.

The biggest sour spot for the Royals was the underwhelming output from their backcourt. Bob Davies and Bobby Wanzer both had a terrible series – they typically rounded out the team’s top three in scoring, but neither even finished top four during the division finals.


Minneapolis Lakers beat Washington Capitols, 4-2
The Washington Capitols, now vengeful after two years of playoff disappointment, entered the Finals hungry. They weren’t undefeated like the Lakers, but could not be taken lightly either.

George Mikan didn’t care at all, though. He immediately notified his opponent that he was the best talent to grace the league – he dropped forty-two points in the opening game, which left him with all of the six highest scoring performances in the playoffs that year. This is because he could exploit one of Washington’s worst qualities – interior defense.

The Capitols did manage to snag two wins at home, but the reality was that they simply didn’t have a Mikan-level superstar. McKinney shriveled at the biggest stage once again, and Feerick was still out with a knee injury – it didn’t help that Fred Scolari was playing with a broken finger, either.

A team with that much wear and tear just wasn’t fit to dominate – the Lakers had other plans.
The Minneapolis Lakers win the 1949 BAA championship!


Note: All-Team selections were not yet selected based on position yet. This was the only major award given at the time.

All-BAA First TeamAll-BAA Second Team
George Mikan
Joe Fulks
Bob Davies
Max Zaslofsky
Jim Pollard
Arnie Risen
Bob Feerick
Bones McKinney
Kenny Sailors
John Logan

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

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