1953 MVP: Ed Macauley
This is an interesting year, since six players finished in the Top 7 for both Win Shares (WS) and Player Efficiency Rating (PER), meaning there was some consistency to start with in terms of establishing a pool of candidates for MVP.
The New York Knicks and the Syracuse Nationals tied for the Eastern Division lead with 47 wins, while the Minneapolis Lakers won 48 games to win the Western Division. The Boston Celtics won 46 games in the East, while the Rochester Royals won 44 games in the West. It was a robust year for competition in the regular season.
Here are our three MVP candidates, though, based on overall statistical performance:
- Philadelphia Warriors center Neil Johnston led the league in scoring (22.3 points per game) and shooting percentage, while also posting the highest WS mark (15.33), too. His PER (25.89) was second in the NBA. But his team finished dead last.
- Lakers C George Mikan led the league in rebounding (14.4 rebounds per game) and PER (28.51), while posting the second-best WS mark (14.58). His team won the Western Division and eventually the NBA title, although that is irrelevant here.
- Boston C Ed Macauley tied Johnston for league-best shooting percentage, while finishing third in WS (14.47) and fourth in PER (24.27). His team finished very close to the top of the Eastern Division.
Johnston clearly had the best season of the bunch, but his value is minimal on a last-place team. His statistics also weren’t dominate enough to override that team finish, as is needed in a case such as this to award the MVP.
Mikan, in his fifth professional season, still was a dominant force in league play, and Macauley obviously was very good, too. The Vern Mikkelsen issue comes up again, though, which hurts Mikan: The Lakers power forward finished fifth in WS (12.05) and seventh in PER (21.65), giving Mikan a lot of help in Minneapolis.
What kind of help did Macauley have in Boston? Well, he did have point guard Bob Cousy, who finished sixth in PER (21.68), led the league in assists with 7.7 per game, and posted 7.2 WAR. For context, to make the Top 10 in WAR, Cousy needed to best 8.1 WAR, and he was a full point off that mark.
Therefore, Cousy was less effective in this season than the last, which means Macauley did have more of the load to carry in Boston than Mikan did in Minneapolis for this season.
In that regard, we’re going with the Boston big man for this MVP award.