The NBA Time Machine: 1952

Published September 18, 2022

The NBA Time Machine:

Nerfing Bigs

Point-Shaving Scandal

Between 1949 and 1951, it was exposed that an illegal point-shaving scandal – that being a decision by players to influence a game’s score for gambling – occurred in college basketball that involved seven teams. Among the players implicated in the crime were Indianapolis Olympians teammates Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, the former of which was on pace to become an all-time great. The two were immediately banned from the NBA.

Due to the ban, the center position lost a notable force. There were upcoming stars like Ed Macauley and Larry Foust around, but neither was as good as Groza – it’s safe to say he was the first “what-if” player.

Widened Lane

The NBA was concerned with the ease of scoring for big men, specifically George Mikan. In a foul lane that was only six feet wide, getting buckets was suspiciously easy – it’s a big part of why the superstar won three straight scoring titles and back-to-back championships.

The lane was widened to twelve feet, making it a bit harder to abuse interior offense. It clearly had an effect on guys like Mikan, whose numbers dropped decently – it didn’t stop him from being the runner-up for the scoring title, though.

Standout Players

Paul Arizin

After an excellent rookie campaign, Arizin immediately placed himself among the league’s elites. Thanks to superb athleticism and mentoring from Warriors veteran Joe Fulks, the sophomore small forward became the first of his position to lead the league in scoring.

George Mikan

While changes were made to attempt limiting Mikan, it might have helped him, if anything. While his offense noticeably regressed, his defensive presence and playmaking felt even larger. Other centers had a harder time adapting than he did, making matches against Minneapolis very frustrating.

Bob Cousy

Cousy had an overlooked first season that made it clear he was going to be a star someday. He reached that level about instantly, blossoming into one of the best offensive engines in the NBA. He worked excellently in tandem with Ed Macauley to make Boston a legitimate contender.

Bobby Wanzer

While teammate Bob Davies was still the more popular – and ultimately, better – player, Wanzer transformed into a star this season. He thrived as an unselfish, consistent shooting guard with an excellent outside presence.

Dolph Schayes

Schayes wasn’t as great individually in his third year, with his numbers declining across the board. However, he still deserved credit for spearheading a defensive behemoth in Syracuse, who had the best record in the East.

Around the League

Team Standings

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

Eastern DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
Syracuse Nationals*4026Rochester Royals*4125
Boston Celtics*3927Minneapolis Lakers*4026
New York Knicks*3729Indianapolis Olympians*3432
Philadelphia Warriors*3333Fort Wayne Pistons*2937
Baltimore Bullets2046Milwaukee Hawks1749

Fun Facts

  • The Hawks relocated from the “Tri-Cities” to Milwaukee.
  • Interestingly enough, the Indianapolis Olympians improved their record after losing stars Groza and Beard.
    • The primary force behind this was an improved defense, which puts into question how good Groza’s rim protection was.
  • The Boston Celtics continued to improve offensively, employing the same fast break techniques the Washington Capitols did many years ago. The denominator? Coach Red Auerbach.

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
r – rebounds
a – assists

Top Draft Picks

Baltimore Bullets
Tri-Cities Blackhawks
Indianapolis Olympians
Fort Wayne Pistons
Syracuse Nationals
New York Knicks
Boston Celtics
Rochester Royals
Philadelphia Warriors
Minneapolis Lakers
Gene Melchiorre
Mel Hutchins
Marcus Freiberger
Zeke Sinicola
John McConathy
Ed Smith
Ernie Barrett
Sam Ranzino
Don Sunderlage
Whitey Skoog*


April 26, 1951Frankie BrianTri-Cities BlackhawksTradedFort Wayne Pistons(16.8p/3.6r/3.9a)
July 14, 1951Red RochaBaltimore BulletsTradedSyracuse Nationals(13.1p/8r/2.3a)
July 14, 1951Fred ScolariSyracuse NationalsTradedBaltimore Bullets(11.9p/3.6r/4.1a)
February 11, 1952Dike EddlemanMilwaukee HawksTradedFort Wayne Pistons(12.8p/4.6r/2.2a)


June 30, 1951Interim Coach Wah Wah JonesIndianapolis OlympiansReplaced
June 30, 1951Coach Herm SchaeferIndianapolis OlympiansHired


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Ralph BeardIndianapolis Olympians2x All-BAA
1x All-Star
Alex GrozaIndianapolis Olympians2x All-BAA
1x All-Star
Chick HalbertChicago Stags
Philadelphia Warriors
Boston Celtics
Providence Steamrollers
Washington Capitols
Baltimore Bullets
1x All-BAA
John LoganSt. Louis Bombers
Tri-Cities Blackhawks
3x All-BAA
Kenny SailorsCleveland Rebels
Chicago Stags
Philadelphia Warriors
Providence Steamrollers
Denver Nuggets
Boston Celtics
Baltimore Bullets
1x All-BAA

League Leaders


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

PTSPaul Arizin (1674)
George Mikan (1523)
Bob Cousy (1433)
Ed Macauley (1264)
Bob Davies (1052)
TRBLarry Foust (880)
Mel Hutchins (880)
George Mikan (866)
Arnie Risen (841)
Dolph Schayes (773)
ASTAndy Phillip (539)
Bob Cousy (441)
Bob Davies (390)
Dick McGuire (388)
Fred Scolari (303)
FG%Paul Arizin (44%)
Harry Gallatin (44%)
Ed Macauley (43%)
Bobby Wanzer (42%)
Vern Mikkelsen (41%)
FT%Bobby Wanzer (90%)
Al Cervi (88%)
Bill Sharman (85%)
Frank Brian (84%)
Fred Scolari (83%)


Division Semifinals

East / New York Knicks beat Boston Celtics, 2-1
A rematch of last year’s first round had the same result, but with far more excitement. Boston made New York work for their wins this time around, now familiar with the playoff atmosphere.

Every match was fast-paced and hectic, much to Boston’s relief. Bob Cousy played phenomenal the entire series, but poor outings from the other Celtics in Game 2 (minus Macauley) and Game 3 hurt their momentum. Ultimately, New York barely got by with a series win in double overtime.
East / Syracuse Nationals beat Philadelphia Warriors, 2-1
Philadelphia’s struggles here become more understandable when you consider the tumultuous season they had.

Not only were they arguably the worst defense in the league, but they also relied a tad bit too much on Paul Arizin. It truly hit its worst here, as Joe Fulks played poorly and nobody else on the Warriors wanted to step things up. A heliocentric system was simply unacceptable against a high-IQ team like Syracuse, who took care of business handily in the third match.
West / Minneapolis Lakers beat Indianapolis Olympians, 2-0
If Indianapolis couldn’t beat the Lakers a year ago with two of the 50’s best talents, there was no chance for them here with a less stacked squad.

The Olympians got proper production from their first option Joe Graboski, but that wasn’t overpowering the Lakers’ big three. Graboski, while talented defensively, could also not contain the likes of Mikan – the Minneapolis superstar closed out the series with a thirty-six point outing.
West / Rochester Royals beat Fort Wayne Pistons, 2-0
Fresh off a championship and yet another first seed, the Royals charged into the playoffs with force. Handling Fort Wayne was like practice, especially considering the Pistons’ defense had regressed since last season.

Pretty much everybody on Rochester played into their role and had a good game both times around, especially their big three. The backcourt of Bob Davies and Bobby Wanzer played notably well, scoring nearly half of the team’s points on both occasions.

Division Finals

East / New York Knicks beat Syracuse Nationals, 3-1
Syracuse looked prepared to reclaim their crown as the Eastern Division’s premier franchise, but the Knicks had other ideas.

New York was pretty much perfectly built for deep playoff runs. They lacked a centralized star like some other teams, but everybody played to their strengths and contributed evenly – coach Joe Lapchick had brought out the best in his group.

Zaslofsky and Simmons were good veteran scorers, Gallatin was a rebounding machine, and McGuire ranked amongst the league’s best passers. Meanwhile, the Nationals were a bit dependent on Schayes and Rocha for everything, which wasn’t as good a recipe for success – it’s why they could only pull out one win.
West / Minneapolis Lakers beat Rochester Royals, 3-1
The exact same matchup of last year occurred once again, albeit with a healthy George Mikan this time around. He informed Rochester of what could happen when he’s at full strength, dropping forty-seven points in the opening game, which they lost anyway.

However, Mikan was abysmal the remaining three games. He only averaged sixteen points on terrible efficiency the rest of the series, yet Minneapolis somehow completed a gentleman’s sweep. It says a lot about the quality of this Lakers supporting cast – it was the best they’ve had to date, composed of multiple All-Star caliber players.

Meanwhile, Rochester seemed to lack consistency. Stars would trade good games – Wanzer had a poor Game 2 and Davies left Game 3 early with no prior impact. The Royals were overall composed in the deciding Game 4, but lost the game on a last-minute Minneapolis bucket – their aspirations for a repeat were killed off.


Minneapolis Lakers beat New York Knicks, 4-3
Neither team in the Finals seemed too energized this time around. The championship series was lengthy and brooding, with nobody able to pull out consecutive wins.

Lakers All-Star Jim Pollard made a statement with thirty-four in the opener, although he – and George Mikan, for that matter – did not show up in Game 2. The teams would exchange close contests for the next couple, including a single-point win in overtime for the Knicks. Mikan finally found a rhythm for the next two games, although Minneapolis could not close things out on the road.

The tiebreaker featured an abysmal shooting performance from New York that ultimately blocked them from their second consecutive chance at a chip. They didn’t outscore the Lakers in any quarter, seemingly worn out as they handed the Minnesota franchise their third championship.
The Minneapolis Lakers win the 1952 NBA championship!


All-Team selections were not yet selected based on position yet.
Name(s) under the “All-NBA” section with an asterisk (*) tied in their All-NBA votes.
Name(s) under the “All-Stars” section with an asterisk (*) were listed as the MVP of the All-Star Game that year. Those with “(IR)” next to their name were chosen to replace an injured star.


All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
George Mikan
Ed Macauley
Paul Arizin
Bob Cousy
Bob Davies*
Dolph Schayes*
Larry Foust
Vern Mikkelsen
Jim Pollard
Bobby Wanzer
Andy Phillip


Eastern All-StarsWestern All-Stars
Paul Arizin*
Bob Cousy
Joe Fulks
Harry Gallatin (IR)
Ed Macauley
Dick McGuire
Andy Phillip
Red Rocha
Dolph Schayes

Fred Scolari
Max Zaslofsky
Leo Barnhorst
Frank Brian
Bob Davies
Dike Eddleman
Larry Foust
George Mikan
Vern Mikkelsen
Jim Pollard
Arnie Risen
Paul Walther
Bobby Wanzer
East beats West, 108-91

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

Lakers31949, 1950
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