Published December 26, 2022
The NBA Time Machine:
Room For Two?
After the ’62 season, investor Franklin Mieuli purchased majority shares of the Philadelphia Warriors and made the decision to relocate to California. He wanted to put a stop to the decline in fan attendance they received in their long-term home, which seemed ludicrous given the allure of Wilt Chamberlain. They settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, subsequently becoming the San Francisco Warriors.
They were the second team to be based in the The Golden State after the Los Angeles Lakers. Because of this extreme change of placement, they were moved to the NBA‘s Western Division – this was the first time a team had changed division since the Central Division was removed in 1951.
To maintain balance, the Ohio-based Cincinnati Royals switched places with the Warriors and made the Eastern Division their home. This put them in a competitive position, now head-to-head with the rising Syracuse Nationals and dynasty Boston Celtics.
Not everyone on the team was fond of the change – Paul Arizin took it as an opportunity to retire after a fruitful ten-year career, and Tom Gola insisted on being traded to the New York Knicks. This hurt the Warriors greatly, as they had now lost two perennial All-Stars. The offense was never more dependent on their former M.V.P., and their perimeter defense saw a laughable regression. Because of this, the franchise finished with a losing record for its first time since drafting Chamberlain.
The Chicago Packers changed names to the Chicago Zephyrs and began playing in Chicago Coliseum. Due to sustained poor play during their inaugural year, they once again received good draft utilities and selected big man Bill McGill and eventual Rookie of the Year Terry Dischinger with two top ten picks.
A new award was introduced – the All-Rookie Team. This was a parallel to the All-NBA Team, but exclusively for players in their first year – unlike All-NBA, it was not based on position whatsoever. This was the first newly implemented honor since the Most Valuable Player award in 1956.
For the seventh season in a row, Russell’s Celtics were the number one ranked team in the NBA. He enjoyed his fourth M.V.P. award as a result – this made him the first player in league history to receive the honor for three consecutive years. Considering his continued leaps as a playmaker and acquiring of the All-Star Game MVP, it was safe to call this one of his best years yet.
Now free of his military obligations, Baylor enjoyed a full eighty-game season and continued to leave his mark as a basketball elite. He hit new levels of efficiency, seemingly preferring precision to volume and improving his outside scoring.
With Paul Arizin and Tom Gola gone, the Warriors looked shaky. They were more dependent on Wilt than ever, and he did his job through leading the league in scoring and rebounding once again. Despite this, the newly relocated franchise failed to exceed thirty-one wins.
The Royals’ scoring continued to thrive behind Robertson’s genius playmaking. His numbers were less flashy than his sophomore year, but he shot over 50% for the first time in his career. He was the first – and at this point, only – guard to achieve such.
Now in his thirties, the two-time M.V.P. remained a consistent force. The Hawks returned to winning basketball, even with a declining Hagan – Pettit embraced the role of a high-usage first option, which was something he hadn’t done since 1957.
West enjoyed yet another phenomenal season before going down with a hamstring injury in the last couple months. Regardless, he was undoubtedly one of the most talented guards the league had seen – him and Baylor had transformed Los Angeles into a perennial contender.
Around the League
An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.