1958 record: won 41, lost 31; first in West. Top scorer: Bob Pettit, 1,719, third in league. Top rebounder: Bob Pettit, 1,216; second in league
The Hawks ran away with their division title last year and are at least 50% stronger this year. Their surplus talent, which must be cut from the squad by the middle of December, would make up a pretty fair entry in the league. So new Coach Andy Phillip could hardly ask for happier auspices at the start of his tenure. Top of the list of added strength is, of course, Clyde Lovellette, acquired from Cincinnati in trade for five men who would have had extreme difficulty in making the Hawks' roster—a deal which stunned the whole NBA. Many a coach would have given up far more for Big Clyde, despite his record of erratic behavior. He is still one of the very best hook-shooters and rebounders of all time, and since moving to St. Louis he appears to be deadly serious about basketball. The return of Al Ferrari from service brings speed and scoring punch to a backcourt that hardly needed it. Without him, Slater Martin, Jack McMahon, Win Wilfong, Frank Selvy and Med Park would do fine, thank you. And it is the same up front. Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley are surely set in their jobs. Rookies Dave Gambee and Hub Reed are both strong and well poised for newcomers, but how often can they be expected to replace the above-mentioned three or Lovellette and Charlie Share at center? Phillip's only real problem is whom to cut. Despite this glut of talent, it is the opinion here that little (5 feet 10) Martin has been and still is the key to the Hawks' success, with his hustle, speed and defensive skill. And since, at 33, he still appears tireless and immune to serious injury, St. Louis will win again.
1958 record: won 33, lost 39; tied for second. Top scorer: Clyde Lovellette, 1,659, fourth in league. Top rebounder: Maurice Stokes, 1,142; third in league
Sickness, retirement and trades have left the Royals with only one starter among three returning veterans. Most of the missing players are, conceivably, replaceable, but the great Maurice Stokes, still tragically under the spell of sleeping sickness, was an athlete and is a person with few equals. The Royals and the sport itself, for that matter, will miss him terribly. If Cincinnati struggles through the season in last place—a reasonable expectation—it will nevertheless be worth watching on any given night simply because of Si Green, who returns from service after three years. This lithe and limber young man will surely take his place some day as one of the finest backcourtmen of all time. His duels with Cousy, McGuire, Martin and other current ball-handling wizards should be thrilling affairs. He will have help from Rookies Vern Hatton and Arlen Bockhorn and veteran Tom Marshall, with Hatton, a fine driver and set-shooter, the likeliest starter. Up front the burden of playing against rival big men will fall chiefly on Jim Palmer, who has brawn and a year of AAU ball to his credit. Dave Piontek's rebounding and Jack Twyman's shooting are also reliable assets. The tall newcomers must be considered doubtful quantities in the face of NBA-class competition until they prove otherwise. Jack Parr is frail and erratic; Wayne Embry is strong but heavy-footed; Archie Dees is said to have the attributes of a pro, but he has yet to show them when this observer was present. Coach Bobby Wanzer can count one thing sure: if the Royals finish anywhere but last, the lion's share of credit will belong to him.
1958 record: Won 33, lost 39; tied for second. Top scorer: George Yardley, 2,001; first in league. Top rebounder: Walter Dukes, 954; sixth in league
No slight is intended to the other veteran personnel, but the key to a so-so or sparkling season for Detroit is tall but only occasionally terrific Walter Dukes. The point is that everyone from the brilliant Dick McGuire in the backcourt to the high-scoring George Yardley up front can be counted on, night after night, to play ball on a level close to his known ability. Not Dukes. And the pity is that when Walt really tries he is Bill Russell's equal on the boards, certainly Russell's superior presently as a shooter and perhaps as good a big man on defense as the sport has ever seen. A consistent Dukes could go a long way toward controlling the standout rival scoring threat—an incalculable asset. Dukes is no fool; he understands his problem, which is simply a matter of concentrating on the job at hand. If he conquers it, he will be a delight to watch. Elsewhere, Coach Red Rocha is set. With McGuire, he has Gene Shue, whose steady improvement will soon put him in All-Star status, and Dick Farley and Chuck Noble in reserve. Up front with Yardley are Joe Holup and Earl Lloyd, both strong and dependable, and Phil Jordon, with whom Rocha worked all summer on pivot play. Rookies who appear most likely to stick are Barney Cable and Shellie McMillon, both good boardmen. It would be especially nice if Dukes began to show his true worth this year, since the Pistons have a new, first-rank promoter in General Manager Nick Kerbawy. With a successful playing season, Nick could make the Detroit franchise one of the most successful, financially, in the league. At any rate, the Pistons will finish second.
1958 record: won 19, lost 53; fourth in West. Top scorer: Vern Mikkelsen, 1,248; 10th in league. Top rebounder: Larry Foust, 876; seventh in league