The NBA Time Machine: 1957

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 RussellBoston 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.

Standout Players

Bob Cousy

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.

Bob Pettit

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.

Paul Arizin

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.

Dolph Schayes

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.

Neil Johnston

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

Team Standings

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

Eastern DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
Boston Celtics*4428St. Louis Hawks*3438
Syracuse Nationals*3834Minneapolis Lakers*3438
Philadelphia Warriors*3735Fort Wayne Pistons*3438
New York Knicks3636Rochester Royals3141

Fun Facts

  • The Western Division hit an all-time low, with not a single team managing a winning record.
    • Three of the four also tied for first place, forcing a couple tiebreakers to decide seeding.
  • For the first time, the Boston Celtics finished with the best record in the NBA.
    • This was also their first season above forty wins since 1954.
    • This can be attributed to a much stronger defensive frontcourt, which toned down their scoring but produced many wins through toughness.
  • Once known for being slow-paced and hard to score on, the Fort Wayne Pistons maintained the former quality while completely collapsing on the latter. This season was their first time finishing in the bottom percentile defensively.
  • The addition of four-time champ Slater Martin and the gifted Ed Macauley helped the St. Louis Hawks gain some composure as a group.
    • This resulted in a much slower-paced team with higher efficiency – not enough to manage more than one extra win compared to last season, but enough to compete for the first seed.

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

Rochester Royals
St. Louis Hawks
Minneapolis Lakers
New York Knicks
Syracuse Nationals
Boston Celtics
Fort Wayne Pistons
Philadelphia Warriors
Rochester Royals
St. Louis Hawks
Si Green
Bill Russell
Jim Paxson
Ron Shavlik
Joe Holup
Tom Heinsohn*
Ron Sobie
Hal Lear
Bob Burrow
Willie Naulls


April 30, 1956Ed MacauleyBoston CelticsTradedSt. Louis Hawks(17.5p/5.9r/3a)
April 30, 1956Bill RussellSt. Louis HawksTradedBoston Celticsn/a
October 26, 1956Slater MartinMinneapolis LakersTradedNew York Knicks(13.2p/3.6r/6.2a)
December 12, 1956Slater MartinNew York KnicksTradedSt. Louis Hawks(8.5p/3.2r/3a)
April 3, 1957Mel HutchinsFort Wayne PistonsTradedNew York Knicks(12.4p/7.9r/2.9a)
April 3, 1957Nat CliftonNew York KnicksTradedFort Wayne Pistons(10.7p/7.8r/2.3a)
April 3, 1957Harry GallatinNew York KnicksTradedFort Wayne Pistons(15p/10.1r/1.2a)

Other Personnel

January 7, 1957Coach Red HolzmanSt. Louis HawksFiredRecord: 14-19
January 8, 1957Player-coach Slater MartinSt. Louis HawksHiredRecord: 5-3
January 21, 1957Player-coach Alex HannumSt. Louis HawksHiredRecord: 15-16


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Frankie BrianAnderson Packers
Tri-Cities Blackhawks
Fort Wayne Pistons
2x All-NBA
2x All-Star
George Mikan
Minneapolis Lakers5x Champion
6x All-Team
4x All-Star
1x All-Star Game MVP
3x Scoring Leader

1x Rebounding Leader
Max ZaslofskyChicago Stags
New York Knicks
Baltimore Bullets
Milwaukee Hawks
Fort Wayne Pistons
4x All-NBA
1x All-Star
1x Scoring Leader

League Leaders

If a stat is not listed, it was not recorded at the time. As time goes on, this section will begin to include steals per game, blocks per game, etc.


PPG – points per game
RPG – rebounds per game
APG – assists per game
FG% – field goal percentage (percentage of shots that hit)
FT% – free throw percentage (percentage of foul shots that hit)

PPGPaul Arizin (25.6)
Bob Pettit (24.7)
Neil Johnston (22.8)
Dolph Schayes (22.5)
George Yardley (21.5)
RPGBill Russell (19.6)
Maurice Stokes (17.4)
Bob Pettit (14.6)
Dolph Schayes (14)
Clyde Lovellette (13.5)
APGBob Cousy (7.5)
Jack McMahon (5.1)
Maurice Stokes (4.6)
Jack George (4.6)
Slater Martin (4.1)
FG%Neil Johnston (44%)
Chuck Share (43%)
Jack Twyman (43%)
Bob Houbregs (43%)
Bill Russell (42%)
FT%Bill Sharman (90%)
Dolph Schayes (90%)
Dick Garmaker (83%)
Paul Arizin (82%)
Neil Johnston (82%)


Tiebreaker Rounds

St. Louis Hawks beat Fort Wayne Pistons, 1-0
The depth of the Hawks was on display during this game – despite Bob Pettit having a thirteen-point slump, they decimated the Pistons behind a dominant second quarter.

That explosion from St. Louis was enough to secure them the victory for good, as not even combined efforts from Larry Foust and George Yardley could put a dent in their lead.
St. Louis Hawks beat Minneapolis Lakers, 1-0
The Lakers put up a better fight against St. Louis than the Pistons did, but came up slightly short as well. All-Star Clyde Lovellette was their go-to guy as usual, delivering thirty points.

Bob Pettit had another rough scoring night, but crashed the glass with such ferocity that the Hawks slowly built a dominant rebounding advantage. That was the key to their second consecutive tiebreaker win, snagging the franchise its very first number-one seed placement.


East / Syracuse Nationals beat Philadelphia Warriors, 2-0
For the second straight year, Syracuse and Philadelphia faced each other in the playoffs. The Warriors narrowly got the Nationals’ number the year prior, beating them 3-2 to reach the NBA Finals.

However, a disastrous injury to Paul Arizin ruined any aspirations the Warriors had for a repeat. He only played half of Game 1, getting no more than nine points, and checked into Game 2 for a few minutes before withdrawing.

As great of a scorer as he was, this series was continued proof that Neil Johnston could not spearhead an offense alone. The loss of Arizin and Gola flattened Philadelphia, granting the Nationals – particularly thanks to big man Red Kerr – a satisfying sweep.
West / Minneapolis Lakers beat Fort Wayne Pistons, 2-0
The second and third-seeded Western teams duked it out for a chance at the Division Finals, and the series wounded up being very close despite the box score implying otherwise.

The Pistons only lost by an average margin of two points, but their shortcomings were avoidable and largely a result of subpar energy. They often let Minneapolis build leads that forced them to play “catch up” in the fourth quarter – the same exact thing that made them fall to St. Louis in the tiebreaker round.

Scoring was generally balanced from both squads. The Pistons had the two best offensive performers (Yardley and Foust), but an abysmal outing from their bench in Game 2 soiled their sought-after opportunity.

Division Finals

East / Boston Celtics beat Syracuse Nationals, 3-0
The Nationals and Celtics had matched in the playoffs for five consecutive years now, and all but one time were the Nationals successful. Going into this series, the now-dominant Boston team looked to flip the narrative.

They started things right with a strong win at home in Game 1, holding Dolph Schayes to three-of-thirteen shooting. Bill Russell grabbed a whopping thirty-one rebounds, a number he nearly matched in Game 2 with thirty.

Schayes improved for the remaining two games, but Syracuse as a whole was sloppy against the Celtics’ defense. They nearly avoided the sweep in Game 3, but that possibility was ultimately shut down as they lost by only a couple field goals.
West / St. Louis Hawks beat Minneapolis Lakers, 3-0
St. Louis and Minneapolis finished the season on even ground, despite the former winning their tiebreaker matchup. It seemed like anyone’s series to win, but only one of the two capitalized.

The Hawks entered firing on all cylinders, with former Laker Slater Martin torching his old team. Lakers stars Clyde Lovellette and Vern Mikkelsen scored as necessary, but the squad’s depth had thinned to a point where they couldn’t compete over long stretches.

Game 2 featured an exciting battle between Bob Pettit and Lovellette, with both reaching the thirty mark in points. The Hawks won by a mere basket as they proceeded to close out in Game 3, despite Lakers point guard Slick Leonard dropping forty-two points in an attempt to salvage their season.


Boston Celtics beat St. Louis Hawks, 4-3
Two teams that had never reached the Finals were now at the biggest stage, and there was a large sense of uncertainty present. Ultimately, the result was the greatest Finals series the NBA had seen yet.

Bob Pettit made a statement on the road in Game 1, dropping thirty-seven points to get the Hawks past a combined eighty-eight from Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, and Tom Heinsohn. Boston then responded with a blowout victory in Game 2 before barely losing the third to St. Louis once more – at this point, it seemed like the Celtics were shooting themselves in the foot during losses.

Pettit scored thirty-three in the next two games each, but the Celtics had reached a level of intensity that secured them a 3-2 lead (including nineteen assists from Cousy in Game 5!). The Hawks responded in Game 6, forcing a tiebreaker behind Pettit’s fourth game of the series exceeding thirty points.

Game 7 was a mythical double-overtime thriller that went down to the wire. The Celtics built a lead early on, but slowly stagnated as the Hawks caught up by the fourth quarter. In the final seconds of the game, Jack Coleman received an outlet pass that looked like a surefire bucket to secure the championship. Bill Russell then made the greatest defensive play of the era – a lightning-speed dash down the court to block Coleman’s shot, sending the game into overtime.

The Celtics managed to pull away between the two overtimes, especially due to Hawks superstar Bob Pettit injuring his wrist in the second. With the Celtics backcourt performing terribly, the heroes of this game were the two rookies Tom Heinsohn and Bill Russell – they had made the biggest impact on each end of the floor, respectively.
The Boston Celtics win the 1957 NBA championship!


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.

Major Awards

Rookie of the YearMVP
Tom HeinsohnBob Cousy


All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
Bob Cousy
Bill Sharman
Paul Arizin
Dolph Schayes
Bob Pettit
Slater Martin
Dick Garmaker
George Yardley
Maurice Stokes
Neil Johnston


Eastern All-StarsWestern All-Stars
Paul Arizin
Carl Braun
Nat Clifton
Bob Cousy*
Harry Gallatin
Jack George
Tom Heinsohn
Neil Johnston
Dolph Schayes
Bill Sharman
Dick Garmaker
Mel Hutchins
Clyde Lovellette
Ed Macauley
Slater Martin
Vern Mikkelsen

Bob Pettit
Richie Regan
Maurice Stokes
Jack Twyman
George Yardley
East beats West, 109-97

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

The Baltimore Bullets (1947-1954) won the championship in 1948, but are defunct. As a result, they are not listed.

Lakers51949, 1950
1952, 1953
Warriors21947, 1956

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