Let’s get to it.
1955 MVP: Neil Johnston
Want to know how weird this season was? The Baltimore Bullets folded after 14 games and a 3-11 record, and “the official records for the 1954-55 season do not include the Bullets’ games and team statistics, nor do they include the statistics of opposing players and teams in games played against the Bullets.”
Meanwhile, the Syracuse Nationals won the Eastern Division, and the Fort Wayne Pistons won the Western Division—both with 43-29 records. The Rochester Royals qualified for the playoffs with a 29-43 mark, as well. This year was all sorts of screwy!
Four players stand out in both Win Shares (WS) and Player Efficiency Rating (PER): Philadelphia Warriors center Neil Johnston (15.39 WS, 25.41 PER), Fort Wayne center Larry Foust (13.31, 23.01), Syracuse power forward Dolph Schayes (12.04, 22.98), and Milwaukee Hawks power forward Bob Pettit (10.72, 24.39).
The Warriors won 33 games to finish 10 games out of first place and just three games out of a postseason berth in the Eastern Division, while the Hawks finished with the worst record in the league (26-46) out in the Western Division—yet just three games also out of the playoffs.
This basically means every team in the NBA finished within three games of the postseason, ensuring all four candidates get award consideration here. And if that’s the case, then this is an easy decision to hand the MVP to a player who led the league in both scoring (22.7 points per game) and rebounding (15.1 rebounds per game): Johnston.
He also led the NBA in both WS and PER by solid margins, and his 3.0 assists per game mark was a bonus contribution, for sure. Foust did top the NBA in shooting percentage (48.7 percent), but Schayes and Pettit did not manage to lead the league in any categories.
Again, this was a unique and odd season in professional basketball, and Johnston is finally the MVP as the prime beneficiary of the weirdness.