Published October 26, 2022
The NBA Time Machine:
Draft Day Deals
Celtics Strike Gold
The 1956 NBA draft was one of the most stacked at the time. There were several promising prospects all around – amongst them were the college phenomenon Si Green, the unorthodox Bill Russell, and the flashy Elgin Baylor.
Baylor had chosen to remain in school instead of joining the NBA immediately, but the Minneapolis Lakers held onto his draft rights. Si Green was chosen with the first pick by the lowly Rochester Royals to play alongside All-Star Maurice Stokes.
The most interesting order of events was the placement of Bill Russell – Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach wanted him because of his defensive prowess, despite that not being considered an important quality at the time. As a result, he traded perennial All-Star Ed Macauley to the St. Louis Hawks – who originally drafted Russell – in addition to forward Cliff Hagan, who had not yet played for Boston as he was in the military.
The Celtics’ decision to embrace Russell with open arms was impactful – racism was at its worst in southern cities like St. Louis, and he likely would have never enjoyed a productive career had he stayed there.
Also drafted by Boston was Tom Heinsohn with their territorial pick, forming a fresh frontcourt.
Teams Losing Money
Several teams in the NBA began to comtemplate relocation as their small markets were becoming unsustainable. The Fort Wayne Pistons in particular were considering a move to Detroit – owner Fred Zollner felt that the franchise’s name would fit the new city, with it being the center of the automobile industry.
Regardless, no teams had yet made significant moves – they were able to enjoy a second consecutive year of a league without structural changes.
While not his best season statistically, Cousy gained national recognition as the second recipient of the Most Valuable Player award. He led the league in assists for the fifth consecutive year, and the Celtics finished with the best record in the East for the first time in franchise history.
Pettit’s Hawks didn’t improve tremendously, but he still had a respectable campaign. He finished top three in both points and rebounds, and contributed to what had become one of the best offensive teams in the NBA.
Fresh off the best year of his career, Arizin did all but decline. His 25.6 points per game was good enough for a career high and second scoring title, and his presence on both ends of the court remained a factor.
Even though the veteran was nearing his thirties, he was somehow reaching an individual peak. Schayes achieved new career highs in field goal percentage and scoring, and the Nationals returned to boasting a positive record after an off year.
It was Johnston’s third straight season of being the best center in the league, once again managing ridiculous efficiency and bolstering the league’s best scoring squad. His lack of rim protection seemed increasingly problematic, but Philadelphia still won thirty-seven games through pure star power.
Around the League
An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.