ST. LOUIS HAWKS
COACH: PAUL SEYMOUR
LIFETIME NBA RECORD: WON 155, LOST 124
No team has ever won a divisional title in the NBA as easily as the Hawks have won their last two—by 16 games in 1959-60 and by 15 games in 1958-59. And what is to stop them from winning their fifth consecutive title this year? Nothing. Bob Pettit still retains the light and accurate touch with his push shot, still tears rebounds from the backboards with the league's best. Clyde Lovellette is big (6 feet 9) and blocky (235 pounds), and Cliff Hagan has improved in every department in each of his five years in the league. Recently acquired Woody Sauldsberry should get over his sulks, away from Philly, and be a big help. This front line guarantees the Hawks 70 points a game. Slater Martin retired after last season, and the back-court will need a hustler in his place. John McCarthy, Al Ferrari, Sihugo Green and Ernie Beck are the capable candidates. Up front Larry Foust and Dave Piontek are fine spot players. Rookies Len Wilkens, who played for Providence College last year, and Fred La Cour, from San Francisco, will probably stick with the club and could improve it. As usual, the Hawks have a new coach. This time it's Paul Seymour, one of the very best in the business, who has every quality of skill and temperament the job demands. The Hawks may run a bit more this season, and they'll probably run right away with their division.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
COACH: FRED SCHAUS
LIFETIME NBA RECORD: WON 0, LOST 0
The Lakers will be a new team this season, playing in a new town and in the second largest arena (capacity 14,871) in the NBA. It is also possible that the Lakers will be the most improved team in the league. In 1959-60, playing as the Minneapolis Lakers, they lost 20 of their first 28 games and never fully recovered. They finished third, 21 games behind the Hawks but only five behind second-place Detroit. This year the Lakers have a new coach: Fred Schaus, formerly of West Virginia, where he developed All-Americas Rod Hundley and Jerry West, both now with Los Angeles. Elgin Baylor, Rudy La Russo, Tom Hawkins and rookie Howie Jolliff are good cornermen, and Baylor, of course, can play anywhere. But Ray Felix and Jim Krebs are barely adequate in the pivot. Felix, 6 feet 11, averaged only 7.3 points per game last year, and Krebs is not a strong rebounder. Hundley, Frank Selvy and Bob Leonard are sound backcourt men, and West should be one of the best in the league—even in his first year. He and Hundley obviously are well schooled in Schaus's fast-break patterns, but the team needs better rebounding if it is going to use this weapon effectively. The Lakers' travel schedule—toughest in the NBA—may well affect their play as the season progresses. They will travel more than 68,000 miles before playoff time next March.
COACH: DICK McGUIRE
LIFETIME NBA RECORD: WON 17, LOST 24
The Pistons have been second in the Western Division for two of the past three seasons, but either the Lakers or the Royals should beat them out of that spot this year. New Coach Dick McGuire says the Pistons "are going to run harder than we ever have before. We'll gamble on defense by crashing both backboards and jam up the middle." But defense was never a strong point with this team anyway. Center Walter Dukes has yet to learn how to avoid incurring fatal foul penalties. He was thrown out 20 times in 66 games last year. Bailey Howell should be even better after a fine first season, and Gene Shue, who averaged 22.8 last year, and Chuck Noble give the Pistons good scoring punch in the backcourt. Elsewhere, however, Coach McGuire has troubles. Shellie McMillon and Archie Dees still have to prove they are first-rank corner men, and rookies Ron Johnson and Jackie Moreland will be no help for a long time. There is hope for Johnson, but rival players are going to discover quickly that Moreland has only one effective move on offense and is weak indeed on defense. The backcourt support is nearly all inexperienced in NBA-style ball also. Willie Jones, from Northwestern, and Frank Case, from Dayton, are rookies, and Don Ohl has been playing in the industrial league. The basic problems are all a long way from solution.
COACH: CHARLES WOLF
LIFETIME NBA RECORD: WON 0, LOST 0
The only important question here is: how much difference will Oscar Robertson make? Despite Robertson's remarkable collegiate record, there are still many pros who doubt he will be outstanding as a performer in the NBA. These skeptics are in for some surprises. Robertson will at last have teammates who approach him in ability. He will not be obliged to attempt every team function full time: rebounding, play-making, scoring and so on. He will surprise most with his playmaking ability, especially if he continues to start in the backcourt. There, at 6 feet 5, he is going to overpower many smaller rivals and outmaneuver the bigger ones. Hopefully, too, being a pro will have a restraining and maturing influence on his court behavior. Elsewhere, except for Bob Boozer, this is the same team that won only 19 games last year, and Boozer will not be much help until he learns to use his size effectively instead of crouching around the floor like baseball's Eddie Stanky at the plate. Phil Jordon and Wayne Embry are erratic and slow pivot men. Jack Twyman carries the front court, needs more support than Hub Reed can offer. Phil Rollins and the reserve guards are at least adequate. For New Coach Charlie Wolf, who has much to learn about rival personnel, the key is Robertson. Oscar is capable of keeping the Royals in the fight for second place.