The Lost MVP: 1950-51
George Mikan is still the one!
By my estimation, George Mikan ran away with the NBA’s non-existent 1950 MVP award.
Well, he does so again in 1951!
STILL OBVIOUS and STILL OVERWHELMING
For the 1950-51 season, the NBA began tracking rebounds giving us another dimension to measure Mikan and other MVP candidates by. Alongside the scoring stats already kept, Mikan continued to prove he was a devastating force.
First in PPG (again) while improving his percentages. Big George was at his apex. He finished third in FG% and just missed out on the top 10 in FT%. This wasn’t some dude who got points simply because his team force-fed him. The Minneapolis Lakers were doing their damnedest to get him the ball because he was pretty much the most effective scorer in the league. Only one other man at this point (Alex Groza) could muster a challenge to the claim.
Mikan’s PPG, FG%, and FT% were all career highs. The RPG would be just a touch off his high mark that would come in the 1953 season (14.4 RPG).
The advanced stats back up this season as the 26-year-old Mikan’s peak. He had 23.4 win shares that season in just 68 games. The NBA’s all-time high is 25.4 by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he did so in 81 games played. So, in 13 fewer games, Mikan provided just two fewer win shares than Kareem’s all-time record.
Yep, Mikan was at the peak of his powers.
As for team performance, the NBA reduced from 17 teams to 11 for the 1951 season, so the win-loss records weren’t as awesome as the previous season given the overall tightening in competition. Nonetheless, Minneapolis came out with a 44-24 record, the best in the league.
Shockingly, they did not win the title this season, the only time between 1948 and 1954 they didn’t. We’ll get to what the hell happened to Minneapolis during that postseason during the Lost Finals MVP series.
Postseason ain’t the regular season, though. This is an open-and-shut case for Mikan to get another lost regular season MVP bringing his total to two.
My 1950-51 “Lost” NBA MVP Ballot
Still the Obvious and Clear Runner-Up
Alex Groza — center for the Indianapolis Olympians
Sorry, Groza. Another year, another #2 finish. For the 1951 season, Groza’s PPG fell from 23.4 to 21.7. His FG% also took a slight dip as he slipped oh slightly from .478 to .470.
Well, the PPG was still second in the NBA behind Mikan. The FG% was still the best in the league. Only Ed Macauley with a.466 FG% was close to Groza. Both those centers were way ahead of the pack. Mikan was the third-place finisher with his .428 FG%.
Groza was basically the MVP-in-waiting for the NBA, yet this is the last we’ll see of him. Poor guy got banned for life by the NBA following the 1951 playoffs (where he averaged 32 PPG and 14 RPG against Mikan’s Lakers) for some gambling scandal he was involved with in college.
One of the biggest losses in NBA history.
Ed Macauley — center for the Boston Celtics
Hey now, maybe Groza wasn’t the obvious heir apparent to Mikan after all? In his second season, Ed Macauley burst out as a sleek offensive machine. He joined Mikan and Groza as the only players in NBA history reach 20 PPG. What little game film I’ve caught of Easy Ed shows a fluid scorer. He was also 6’8” and maybe 200 pounds when soaking wet.
This led to his biggest drawback. He was indeed a string bean largely unable to fight off larger, more determined centers for boards. A center like Mikan and even the smaller Groza could bully him.
However, Macauley’s quickness lent itself to Boston’s fastbreaking attack under new coach Red Auerbach and rookie guard Bob Cousy. If Mikan could bully, Macauley could race up the court to beat his opponents.
Despite having a negative point-differential (-0.3), Boston made out with a 39-30 record and Macauley was the biggest reason why. At least for now.
Dolph Schayes — forward for the Syracuse Nationals
Say hello to the NBA’s first rebounding champion! Schayes snared a heroic 16.4 RPG the first year the league kept track of the stat. However, the Dolphster regressed in nearly every facet from his 1950 season.
His FG% dropped from .385 to .357.
His APG dropped from 4.0 to 3.8.
His FT% dropped from .774 to .752.
His scoring stayed essentially the same (16.8 up to 17.0). At least his fouls per game went up from 3.5 to 4.1
I think Schayes’ sagging production reflected a sagging supporting cast, not any particular decline on his part. The Nationals went from the league’s best record and an NBA Finals appearance in 1950 to a 32-34 record in 1951 as the club transitioned from a roster dominated by vets of 1940s basketball to a roster built on younger studs like Schayes.
In the process of this transition, Schayes was still an MVP contender, but less so than the previous season.
Arnie Risen — center for the Rochester Royals
As usual, the Royals were a terror. They wielded the NBA’s second-best record (41-27) behind the Lakers. However, this season it’s Arnie Risen and not Bob Davies who gets the MVP ballot spot.
Another string bean center like Macauley, Risen had a little more heft to him averaging 12.0 RPG this season. He also surged up to 16.3 PPG after just 10.1 PPG the previous season. Despite leading the Royals in points and rebounds, Risen was left off the All-Star and All-NBA teams this season.
Far be it from me to assail dead men, but Risen easily should have gotten Larry Foust’s spot at the All-Star Game and most definitely should have had Joe Fulks’ spot on the All-NBA 2nd Team. (Although the All-NBA Teams were positionless at this point, the 1st Team was already filled with three centers in Macauley, Groza, and Mikan).
Paul Arizin—Philadelphia Warriors
Andy Phillip—Philadelphia Warriors
Harry Gallatin—New York Knicks