Chevette to Corvette No. 34: The 1956-57 Fort Wayne Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 34-38
  • Pythagorean record: 30-42
  • Points per game: 96.4 (7th of 8)
  • Opponent points per game: 98.7 (3rd of 8)
  • Arena: War Memorial Coliseum
  • Head coaches: Charles Eckman (34-38)

Playoffs

  • Lost in Western Division Semifinals to the Minneapolis Lakers, 2-0

Leaders

  • Points per game: George Yardley (21.5)
  • Rebounds per game: George Yardley (10.5)
  • Assists per game: Chuck Noble/Gene Shue (3.3)

Top player

George Yardley

Yardley is a fixture in the top player section in the Fort Wayne years for a pretty simple reason: the Pistons didn’t have much offense. The 56-57 season was Yardley’s fourth in the league and in those four seasons, the Pistons finished seventh, eighth, fifth and eighth in points per game in an eight-team league. After his rookie season, Yardley led the team in scoring the next three years, with his best season to date in 1956-57, when he averaged 21.5 points per game and also a team-leading 10.5 rebounds per game.

Key transaction

Traded a first-round pick to New York for Dick McGuire

McGuire was acquired at the end of the 1956-57 season, so he didn’t actually play in Fort Wayne, he joined the Pistons the following season in their first year in Detroit. McGuire’s career was winding down, but he became a steadying influence at point guard and, the following season, Yardley led the league in scoring with McGuire running the offense. McGuire also would go on to have some minimal success as a coach with the Pistons. The pick they have up turned into Mike Farmer, a forward who didn’t make much impact in a few seasons in the league.

Trend watch

Declining win total and declining defense

In their final season in Fort Wayne, the Pistons also had their first losing season in five years. The Pistons in this era were never good offensively, and with just two players on the roster who shot 40 percent in 1956-57, things were no different. But where the team began to erode a bit was at the defensive end. After leading the league in points allowed, the Pistons fell to third in 1956-57. Larry Foust, who had led the team in scoring just two seasons prior, missed 11 games due to injury and the team lacked an inside presence. Although some of the roster issues were addressed in the offseason, the trend of a once-stingy defense gradually becoming a lot less stingy would be a recurring theme as the team declined in subsequent decades as well.

Previously

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