The previous season, the Celtics, led by Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman and Ed Macauley, had advanced to the Eastern Division Semifinals, losing to the Syracuse Nationals, two games to one. That team had been a talented bunch, but coach Red Auerbach knew they needed to switch up their roster in order to become NBA champions.
That offseason, Red pulled the trigger on a trade for the second draft pick, sending Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan to the Hawks. The Celtics then used that pick to select young Bill Russell, stud center for the University of San Francisco.
With Russell onboard, the Celtics were immediately transformed into a championship caliber team. Russell only played the second half of the season after competing in the Olympics, but he made a tremendous impact on the Celtics. With Cousy (the 1957 NBA MVP) running the show, Russell manning the inside, and Tom Heinsohn (the Rookie of the Year) and Bill Sharman providing the bulk of the points, the Celtics proved to be the best team in basketball. They finished the regular season 44-28 (first in the Eastern Division), and went on to defeat the Hawks in the NBA Finals, four games to three.