Marching on in our second NBA Tuesday miniseries, we move on to the 1954 season for our awards analysis of the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. We hope you have fun on this second ride through NBA history as we see it, and remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, as well.
The Minneapolis Lakers won the championship again, but what does that mean for our awards below?
1954 NBA FINALS MVP: George Mikan, C, Minneapolis Lakers
Lakers center George Mikan once again was the best player in the seven-game Finals victory for Minneapolis, this time over the Syracuse Nationals. He shot pretty well from both the floor (44.1 percent) and the free-throw line (82.2 percent), while also committing a lot of fouls on defense to keep the opponents honest. In averaging 18.1 points per game, too, he was the higher scorer on the floor.
No one else on the Lakers scored more than 11 points per game, and Mikan’s floor shooting was tied for the best on the team, percentage wise. Small forward Jim Pollard, our Finals MVP pick for 1953, was the go-to man in Game 7, but his overall series was mediocre (36.0-percent shooting).
This is Mikan’s third—and last—Finals MVP nod from us, to go along with 1950 and 1952, as Minneapolis won its fourth NBA title in the first five seasons of the modern league as we know it. Mikan would retire after this season, coming back a few years later to play a half a season much less effectively.
1954 NBA DPOY: Dolph Schayes, C, Syracuse Nationals
There are really only two candidates for this award: Mikan (6.57 DPS) and Syracuse center Dolph Schayes (6.32). No one else in the regular season accrued more than 5.0 Defensive Point Shares. Both teams made the playoffs readily, so neither man’s defense made a difference there.
And while both the Lakers and the Nationals each gave up 78.6 points per game during the season, it was Syracuse that posted the highest point differential in the league (plus-4.9 to plus-3.1 for Minneapolis). Therefore, we see Schayes’ DPS mark being more valuable than Mikan’s effort.
Schayes averaged 12.1 rebounds per game, which was exactly his career average. He also committed 3.2 fouls per game, demonstrating both control and intimidation. Also, this was also the only season of his career that he played center, as his natural/normal position was power forward. The fact he played so well out of position also gives him more defensive value in our eyes.