Centering in on our second NBA Tuesday miniseries today, we aim for the 1956 season for our awards analysis of the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. We hope you have fun on this second journey through NBA history as we see it, and remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, as well.
Remember, it took until 1969 for the NBA to award a Finals MVP trophy—and until 1983 for the league to identify a DPOY. Shocking! Thank goodness we are here to fill in the historical gaps, right? It’s what we do …
1956 NBA FINALS MVP: Paul Arizin, SF, Philadelphia Warriors
The Philadelphia Warriors topped the Ft. Wayne Pistons in the Finals, 4-1, to win their first official NBA championship. The Warriors had won the old BAA title in 1947, but we only start our historical analyses with the 1950 season as explained here. Philly had a loaded roster, too, with two players averaging double doubles in the Finals (shooting guard Tom Gola and center Neil Johnston), and a third player topped the team in scoring by just about twice the points per game (small forward Paul Arizin).
So, who gets the Finals MVP nod? Let’s look at the numbers, side by side:
- Arizin: 27.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, .426 FG percentage, .875 FT percentage
- Gola: 13.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 6.0 apg, .385 FG percentage, .760 FT percentage
- Johnston: 13.6 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.8 apg, .338 FG percentage, .611 FT percentage
It’s pretty clear cut here that Arizin was the best and most efficient player on the Warriors during the Finals. Therefore, he gets our hardware for the postseason. Remember, he was our pick for league MVP in 1952, as well, so this is his coronation, of sorts.
1956 NBA DPOY: Dolph Schayes, PF, Syracuse Nationals
The top contenders for this award were Rochester Royals rookie center Maurice Stokes (5.86 Defensive Win Shares), Syracuse Nationals power forward Dolph Schayes (4.86), and St. Louis Hawks center Bob Pettit (4.82). Schayes, of course, has won this award the last two seasons (1954, 1955). Will he make it a three-peat?!
The Royals were the only team in the 8-club NBA to miss the postseason, so it’s hard to find value in Stokes’ effort, even if it was the best on paper. The Nationals and the Hawks both finished under .500 despite making the postseason. The Hawks had a two-win cushion over the Royals for their spot in the Western Division, while the Nationals tied for the final postseason slot in the Eastern Division.
That makes Schayes’ defensive efforts “more valuable” than Petit’s work, although it is sort of a tiebreaker. Their DWS marks were nearly identical, too, but Schayes did have the very slight edge there, as well. Overall, his numbers (12.4 rpg, 3.5 fpg) continued to show consistent defensive prowess in his all-around game. He gets his DPOY three-peat.