Published December 3, 2022
The NBA Time Machine:
Saving the Lakers
The Minneapolis Lakers were in shambles following the 1957-58 season. They were the worst team in the NBA by far, lacked stability financially, and felt a strong dent in their fanbase’s engagement following the end of the early-50’s dynasty.
Not much optimism floated around the organization, but there was one last resort option to save the NBA‘s most storied team – a Seattle University prospect named Elgin Baylor.
Baylor was begged by the Lakers to skip his senior year and join the pros, to which he obliged. He didn’t quite make the team a contender, but his top-tier athleticism and flashiness made him one of the best – and most exciting – players in the league. He was an immediate contender for the Most Valuable Player award despite only amassing thirty-three wins, and naming him the annual Rookie of the Year was a no-brainer.
Down Goes the Royals
After losing franchise player Maurice Stokes to a career-ending injury, the Cincinnati Royals were directionless. They had an exciting young guard in Jack Twyman, who took an enormous leap in his friend’s absence – his scoring averages went up from 17.2 to 25.8, and he embraced the green light from coaching staff as he led the league in field goal attempts.
Cincinnati also traded former All-Star Clyde Lovellette to the St. Louis Hawks, proving a commitment to rebuilding. Giving Twyman more development opportunities was a firm enough goal, and they happily received a slew of players in Lovellette’s trade. Amongst them was the rookie center Wayne Embry, who while raw, showed flashes of potential.
Pettit’s prime continued with yet another phenomenal regular season, ending in him winning the M.V.P. award. He led the league in scoring for the first time since 1956 and played the most minutes as well.
Russell anchored the league-best defense for the third consecutive year, also leading Boston to fifty wins for the first time in franchise history. His averages in all major statistics continued to rise as he inched closer to his peak, playing a whopping forty-two minutes per game.
The Seattle rookie transformed Lakers culture into something exciting, dragging them out of the gutter with his immediate superstar play. He had scoring outbursts as high as fifty-five points, earning a reputation as one of the league’s premier offensive talents.
Sears had quietly transformed into an All-Star over his four-year career, continuing the trend in ’59. He helped New York lock into a surprisingly high seed, earning them a playoff berth behind his absurdly efficient scoring and skilled rebounding.
Hagan was practically the league’s best small forward at this point, meaning St. Louis had the best players at both forward positions. He officially joined the 20/10 club and continued to score on amazing splits, becoming a staple player for the Hawks.
Arizin had a down year in ’58, but he bounced back with one of the better peformances in the NBA this season. Unfortunately, injuries limited co-star Neil Johnston – the Warriors could not push their way into the post-season again, wasting the first of their franchise favorite’s twilight years.
Around the League
An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.