George Kaftan and the BAA draft

Mikan, Pettit, Celtics dynasty, Wilt, and early expansion

George Kaftan and the BAA draft

Postby meej » Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:42 pm

Hi, I'm new to the forums and I have the kind of nagging trivia question that's been bothering me for some time. I'd be very grateful if anybody could help me out with it.

According to basketball reference, George Kaftan was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the 2nd round of the 1949 BAA draft. However, he is also listed as playing 22 games for the Celtics during the 1948-49 season. The NY Times reports that George Kaftan and Dermie O'Donnell were signed out of Holy Cross on 23 January 1949, and one of Bob Cousy's biographies mentions that due to the whole world war commotion in college sports, Kaftan's elegibility actually ran out about then. So I am guessing that both Kaftan and O'Donnell finished their college elegibility in January 1949 and were signed by the Celtics right away, probably through a loophole in the BAA draft regulations.

My question is: why did they draft George Kaftan then? I guess the BAA closed the loophole behind them, but they already had him signed. Furthermore, I can't find O'Donnell in the 1948, 1949 or 1950 drafts. If the BAA somehow demanded that the Celtics go through the draft to keep Kaftan, why not O'Donnell?
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Re: George Kaftan and the BAA draft

Postby Frank Marousek » Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:49 pm

Just a WAG, but perhaps the Celtics were able to sign both players for the remainder of the 1948-49 season only, after which they were made available to the draft? The Celtics then decided they did not want to risk losing Kaftan to another team for the following season, and therefore drafted him in the second round. And perhaps they didn't feel as strongly about O'Connell, let him go undrafted, but since no other team drafted him the Celtics were able to retain him as well?

By the way, am I correct that it's Dermott O'Connell, not O'Donnell?
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Postby meej » Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:08 pm

Whoops. O'Connell it is.

I guess both players were signed for the rest of the season only, my understanding is that multiyear contracts were as common as unicorns back then (I do not recall any player other than Mikan having such a contract at that time). However, I find it hard to believe that the BAA would put into the draft a player who had already played for one franchise.

It's not likely, but not impossible either as they had this habit of making up the rules as they went along. Thanks for the help.
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Re: George Kaftan and the BAA draft

Postby Jon Scott » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:11 am

meej wrote:Hi, I'm new to the forums and I have the kind of nagging trivia question that's been bothering me for some time. I'd be very grateful if anybody could help me out with it.

According to basketball reference, George Kaftan was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the 2nd round of the 1949 BAA draft. However, he is also listed as playing 22 games for the Celtics during the 1948-49 season. The NY Times reports that George Kaftan and Dermie O'Donnell were signed out of Holy Cross on 23 January 1949, and one of Bob Cousy's biographies mentions that due to the whole world war commotion in college sports, Kaftan's elegibility actually ran out about then. So I am guessing that both Kaftan and O'Donnell finished their college elegibility in January 1949 and were signed by the Celtics right away, probably through a loophole in the BAA draft regulations.

My question is: why did they draft George Kaftan then? I guess the BAA closed the loophole behind them, but they already had him signed. Furthermore, I can't find O'Donnell in the 1948, 1949 or 1950 drafts. If the BAA somehow demanded that the Celtics go through the draft to keep Kaftan, why not O'Donnell?


Doing a quick search in NewspaperArchive.com (http://www.newspaperarchive.com/ ), from an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, March 22, 1949 titled "Pro Loops Draft College Players", it mentions the BAA draft choices.

After listing who each team drafted, at the end of the article it states: "Providence, New York and Boston already had title to [Howard] Shannon, [Harry] Gallatin and [George] Kaftan, and they have been playing. The three teams passed one place in the draft in the agreement with other teams they could be used this season."

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Postby MCT » Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:09 am

A couple of points to bear in mind:

--As we’ve discussed previously on this forum, the NBA’s draft record-keeping prior to the early ‘70s was often spotty, and it gets spottier the further back you go. I would not trust info on early drafts in modern reference sources to be 100% complete and accurate, especially as you get down into the lower rounds. My initial reaction is that it’s very possible that O’Connell was drafted, but for some reason this was never recorded in any source that has carried down to the present day.

--I don’t think a lot is known about early BAA/NBA draft procedure. Early on, for example, it seems that there may not have been a “four-year rule” yet. I’ve never seen any documentation of exactly when the territorial and junior eligible rules were instituted (or whether they were there right from the beginning).

With that as background, here are a couple of wire service articles on the 1949 BAA draft, courtesy of collegebasketballarchive.com (some overlap with what Jon already posted -- I started to work on this before I saw his post). The first is a UPI story as published in the March 22, 1949 edition of the Racine (Wis.) Journal-Times.

BBBA Holds Player Draft; Stags Draw Beard, Kerris

NEW YORK.—(U.P.I.)—The annual grab-bag for court talent was underway today following the selection of draft choices by teams of the Basketball Association of America. In their annual draft meeting yesterday, the 12 teams of the pro loop picked a total of 75 collegiate players. However, league officials announced only the top two choices of each team, the others to be disclosed by the individual clubs at their discretion. All five members of the United Press All-American team were picked as top choices. Tony Lavelli of Yale was named by Boston, Wallace Jones of Kentucky by Washington, Alex Groza of Kentucky by Indianapolis, Ed Macauley of St. Louis by the St. Louis Bombers, and Ralph Beard of Kentucky by Chicago.


List Top Picks.


Here were the top choices of each team:

Providence—Howard Shannon of Kansas State and Paul Courty of Oklahoma.

Indianapolis—Groza and Leo Barnhorst of Notre Dame.

Fort Wayne—Bob Harris of Oklahoma A. & M. and John Oldham of Western Kentucky.

Boston—Lavelli and George Kaftan of Holy Cross.

Philadelphia—Vern Gardner of Utah and Jim Nolan of Georgia Tech.

Washington—Jones and Jim Owens of Baylor.

Chicago—Beard and Jack Kerris of Loyola Chicago.

Baltimore—Ron Livingston of Wyoming and Roger Wyley of Oregon State.


Orr St. Louis Choice.


St. Louis—Macauley and John Orr of Beloit.

New York—Dick McGuire of St. John's and Harry Gallatin of East Missouri Teachers.

Minneapolis—Vera Mikkelson of Hamline and Bob Harrison of Michigan.

Rochester—Frank Saul of Seton Hall and Jack Coleman of Louisville.

Shannon, Gallatin and Kaftan already appeared with their respective teams this season, having become eligible before the season's end. In each case the pro team involved waived one draft choice in order to secure their services.

From the last paragraph of the UPI story, it sounds like at this time the BAA was in the habit of allowing teams to sign college players who hadn’t been through the draft yet, if they had become “eligible” (however that was defined) since the previous year’s draft. The signing would apparently be made in lieu of a future draft pick. It isn’t clear to me how it was determined which draft pick the team had to give up.

Comparing the information in the UPI article to b-r.com’s draft list is interesting. For the most part, they match, with b-r.com listing the players in the same order as the UPI article (first player listed is shown as the 1st round pick, second player is shown as the 2nd round pick). Among the players listed in the article, the only differences I see are as follows:

--b-r.com does not show a 2nd round picks for Baltimore, Minneapolis or Providence, though the players listed second under those teams in the article appear in b-r.com’s “unknown round” section.

--b-r.com shows the players taken with Chicago’s first two picks in reverse order from the article.

--The article shows New York’s second pick as Harry Gallatin of East Missouri State; b-r.com shows it as Harry Donovan of Muhlenberg.

--b.r.com shows two 1st round picks (Minneapolis and St. Louis) as territorial selections. The article makes no mention of territorial picks.

--The teams are not listed in the same order. The first four are the same, and both have Rochester last. (“Order” would have also been irrelevant for any team making a territorial pick, at least in the first round.) The other teams are different.

Note that the BAA doesn’t appear to have released a complete draft list. The draft order isn’t even clear. One might presume that the teams are listed in order of selection, first round pick first, second round pick second, but this isn’t explicitly stated.

The BAA’s policy of releasing only the first two selections of each team, and leaving it up to the teams to decide whether they wanted to release the rest, undoubtedly explains why so little information seems to be available on which players were taken in which round (note that almost all of the players for whom b-r.com has round information actually went on to play in the NBA; almost all of the players for whom b-r.com does not have round information did not play in the NBA). Interestingly, though, the article states that 75 players were drafted, which is the same number of players that b-r.com shows. So b-r.com’s list would seem to be a complete list of the players drafted, if not always the round they were taken in.

Now here’s an AP story, from the March 22, 1949 Lowell (Mass.) Sun:

Celtics Get Negotiation Rights to Tony Lavelli

BOSTON, March 22 (AP)—The Boston Celtics of the Basketball Association of America have obtained rights to All American Tony Lavelli and eight other college court stars.

Boston Garden-Arena President Walter A. Brown announced this list of Boston draft choices at a BAA meeting in New York: Lavelli: George Kaftan of Holy Cross, who has been with the Celts since graduation from college in February; Bill Tom of Rice; Ed Little of Denver; Bill Simpson of Bates; Ralph Vandenberg of the University of Washington; Dwain Klueh of Indiana State; Emerson Speicher of Bowling Green; Bill Wright of Brigham Young; and Tubby Washburn of Colby.

The Celtics management did not go after really big boys, preferring this year to get some of the "little" ones that go about 6-4 or 6-5. The other New England collegians chosen by Boston, Simpson and Washburn, finished first and second, respectively, in the Maine scoring race this year. The New York Knickerbockers of the BAA were known to be after Simpson, a New York resident. Little, Tom and Klueh are among the best in the country. Tom is considered the top hoopster in the southwest. Little had a great season with Denver. Klueh is one of the best onehanded shots in the midwest and could figure prominently in Coach Alvin (Doggie) Julian's plans for the Celts next season.

For the Celtics’ 1949 draft, b-r.com shows:

--Lavelli and Kaftan as 1st and 2nd round picks

--Joe Mullaney, who is not mentioned in the article, as a 3rd round pick

--Klueh as an 8th round pick

--All of the remaining players mentioned in the article as “unknown round” picks. b-r.com has the player referred to as “Bill Wright” in the article as “Bill Weight”, and the player referred to in the article as “Tubby Washburn” as “Russ Washburn”.

According to the UPI article, if the Celtics signed O’Connell prior to his being eligible for a BAA Draft, they should have been required to do so in lieu of a future pick. But since O’Connell isn’t mentioned in the AP article, it looks like he wasn’t picked. The thought occurs to me that O’Connell could have been selected, but this was considered sufficiently unimportant to be omitted from the article (or the list released by the Celtics). He had long since signed with Boston, so his acquisition was old news, and unlike Kaftan he wasn’t one of the first two picks that had been publicly released by the league. And if b-r.com’s draft info is to be trusted, the article doesn’t seem to have a complete list anyway, since it doesn’t mention Mullaney. But b-r.com’s list seems to be complete, as it has 75 players, and it doesn’t mention O’Connell.

The process by which teams signed these undrafted players isn’t clear; is it possible that the Celtics weren’t assessed a separate pick for O’Connell, having already given one up for Kaftan? How much can we rely on b-r.com's info as evidence that O'Connell wasn't drafted? The information on this draft seems so sketchy that it's hard to say what really happened.
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Postby MCT » Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:43 am

MCT wrote:
BBBA Holds Player Draft; Stags Draw Beard, Kerris

...........

New York—Dick McGuire of St. John's and Harry Gallatin of East Missouri Teachers.

Shannon, Gallatin and Kaftan already appeared with their respective teams this season, having become eligible before the season's end. In each case the pro team involved waived one draft choice in order to secure their services.

..........

Among the players listed in the article, the only differences I see are as follows:

..........

--The article shows New York’s second pick as Harry Gallatin of East Missouri State; b-r.com shows it as Harry Donovan of Muhlenberg.

re: Gallatin and the Knicks:

--The 2009-10 Knicks Media Guide lists five players drafted by the Knicks in 1949. Rounds are not specified. McGuire and Donovan are the first two players listed, followed by Ernie Vanderweghe. Gallatin is not listed at all under 1949. He is shown as having been drafted in 1948 (he is the only player listed for 1948).

--b-r.com lists eight players drafted by the Knicks in 1949. McGuire is shown as a 1st round pick, Donovan as a 2nd round pick, and Vanderweghe as a 3rd round pick. The other players are all shown with no round specified. As in the Knicks Media Guide, Gallatin is not listed under 1949 at all, but is instead shown under 1948, where he is indicated as the Knicks' 1st round pick.

--The 1989 edition of the NBA Basketball Encyclopedia lists nine players drafted by the Knicks in 1949. Rounds are not specified. McGuire, Gallatin, Donovan and Vanderweghe are the first four listed, in that order. Aside from the inclusion of Gallatin under 1949, the list of players is the same as b-r.com. (Note: the 1948 draft is not listed; draft listings in this book start with 1949. The text states that "records prior to 1949 are unavailable".)

--Gallatin's entry in the All-Time Greats section of the 2004-05 NBA Register shows him as having been drafted in the 1st round in 1948.

MCT wrote:
..........
Boston Garden-Arena President Walter A. Brown announced this list of Boston draft choices at a BAA meeting in New York: Lavelli: George Kaftan of Holy Cross, who has been with the Celts since graduation from college in February; Bill Tom of Rice; Ed Little of Denver; Bill Simpson of Bates; Ralph Vandenberg of the University of Washington; Dwain Klueh of Indiana State; Emerson Speicher of Bowling Green; Bill Wright of Brigham Young; and Tubby Washburn of Colby.

For the Celtics’ 1949 draft, b-r.com shows:

--Lavelli and Kaftan as 1st and 2nd round picks

--Joe Mullaney, who is not mentioned in the article, as a 3rd round pick

--Klueh as an 8th round pick

--All of the remaining players mentioned in the article as “unknown round” picks. b-r.com has the player referred to as “Bill Wright” in the article as “Bill Weight”, and the player referred to in the article as “Tubby Washburn” as “Russ Washburn”.

re: The Celtics' 1949 Draft:

--The 2006-07 Celtics Media Guide lists ten players drafted by the Celtics in 1949. The list is the same as in the AP article, in the same order, except that Kaftan is omitted and Mullaney included. The players are shown as first through tenth round picks. Mullaney is shown as a 2nd round pick; Klueh is shown as a 7th round pick. The last two picks are shown as "Bill Weight" and "Russ Washburn". Klueh's first name is spelled "Duane", as it is in b-r.com (I didn't mention this above).

--The 1989 NBA Basketball Encyclopedia has the same list as the 2006-07 Celtics Media Guide (no Kaftan, but Mullaney included). Rounds are not specified, but the players' names appear in the same order, with all of the same spellings.

MCT wrote:
BBBA Holds Player Draft; Stags Draw Beard, Kerris

NEW YORK.—(U.P.I.)—The annual grab-bag for court talent was underway today following the selection of draft choices by teams of the Basketball Association of America. In their annual draft meeting yesterday, the 12 teams of the pro loop picked a total of 75 collegiate players. However, league officials announced only the top two choices of each team, the others to be disclosed by the individual clubs at their discretion.

..........

Interestingly...the article states that 75 players were drafted, which is the same number of players that b-r.com shows. So b-r.com’s list would seem to be a complete list of the players drafted, if not always the round they were taken in.

re: the number of players drafted:

The 1989 NBA Basketball Encylopedia does not show 75 players. By my count, it has 53 picks listed. Picks are listed team-by-team, with no rounds or pick order specified. For eight of the twelve teams, only two players are listed. These teams presumbly decided not to release their additional picks, or if they did, whoever compiled this list didn't have that information. The four teams with more than two picks listed are Boston (10), Indianapolis (8), New York (9) and St. Louis (10). These teams presumably decided to release the names of their additional picks.
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Postby meej » Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:48 am

Thank you very much for the information.

It's clear that Kaftan was signed "for future draft considerations", so to speak. I'm guessing the BAA loosely defined elegibility as "having completed college elegibility", and tried to help franchises acquire local talent. They needed all the help they could get, after all.

I'm a bit surprised at the lack of mention of Dermott O'Connell. He was not nearly as famous as George Kaftan, but he was a starter in the Holy Cross team than won the NCAA tournament. I am guessing either the Celtics "forgot" to list him in the draft, or they did it so late that it was not reported in the press. However, I would expect a player with his college credentials to be mentioned somewhere.
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Postby MCT » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:48 pm

meej wrote: I am guessing either the Celtics "forgot" to list him in the draft…

I think that’s the most likely explanation, although it’s hard to say for certain without knowing all the details of the BAA procedure for handling these "pre-signed" players.

meej wrote:However, I would expect a player with his college credentials to be mentioned somewhere.

It isn’t necessarily that O’Connell wouldn’t have been considered important enough for the Celtics to mention. Instead of viewing things as “we used one of our picks on O’Connell”, the Celtics may have seen it as “we had to give up one of our picks due to having signed O’Connell earlier”. From that point of view, it would make sense not to report O’Connell on a list of draft selections. O’Connell had also already been with the team for a few months, so his acquisition was old news to fans and the media. All of the above could be said about Kaftan as well, but information about the disposition of picks in the first two rounds was apparently put out by the league before it handed things off to the teams. Kaftan was a 2nd round pick (or the Celtics had to give up a 2nd round pick due to having signed Kaftan earlier, if you want to look at it that way), so he was included in the league’s announcement.

Since it doesn’t sound like a complete list of all the picks in the draft was released at the time of the draft, any list appearing in a modern reference source was probably constructed years later by piecing together information from various sources. These in turn may or may not have been complete; the primary source for the Celtics’ picks may very well have been the AP article posted earlier. As illustrated by prior posts in this thread, the lists in different modern reference sources aren’t always consistent, and some of them contain information which directly conflicts with contemporary accounts of the draft. If we can't say for certain that O'Connell was selected, I don’t think we can definitively say that he wasn’t selected, either (or, viewed another way, that the Celtics didn’t have to give up a pick for signing him), based on his absence from lists in modern reference sources. The NBA just didn't keep draft records back then like they do today.

MCT wrote:The 1989 NBA Basketball Encyclopedia does not show 75 players. By my count, it has 53 picks listed. Picks are listed team-by-team, with no rounds or pick order specified. For eight of the twelve teams, only two players are listed. These teams presumably decided not to release their additional picks, or if they did, whoever compiled this list didn't have that information. The four teams with more than two picks listed are Boston (10), Indianapolis (8), New York (9) and St. Louis (10). These teams presumably decided to release the names of their additional picks.

I suspect that the draft list in the 1989 NBA Basketball Encyclopedia, with 53 players on it, was sourced from the pioneering pro basketball encyclopedia that Zander Hollander compiled in the late ‘70s (though I can’t absolutely verify this because I don’t have a copy of Hollander’s encyclopedia). At that point, with the exception of four teams, Hollander was apparently able to locate info only on the first two rounds. So the list of 75 players that b-r.com has, with lower-round picks shown for many teams, must have been compiled more recently.

b-r.com’s direct source appears to be the draft lists on APBR’s web site. Does anyone know where those lists came from? (Was it Robert Bradley who put them together?) I’d be curious where the information came from, since a lot of players and details are included that don’t appear in earlier sources like the 1989 NBA Basketball Encyclopedia. I’m intrigued that round information is included for almost all of the players who went on to play in the NBA, but almost none of those who didn’t, as if this was drawn from some early ‘50s source that had this data for current NBA players.

MCT wrote:
BBBA Holds Player Draft; Stags Draw Beard, Kerris

NEW YORK.—(U.P.I.)—The annual grab-bag for court talent was underway today following the selection of draft choices by teams of the Basketball Association of America. In their annual draft meeting yesterday, the 12 teams of the pro loop picked a total of 75 collegiate players. However, league officials announced only the top two choices of each team, the others to be disclosed by the individual clubs at their discretion.
..........

Interestingly...the article states that 75 players were drafted, which is the same number of players that b-r.com shows. So b-r.com’s list would seem to be a complete list of the players drafted, if not always the round they were taken in.

The above presents a problem for our theory about O’Connell. If the b-r.com/APBR list is complete, O’Connell couldn’t have been selected, since he doesn’t appear on the b-r.com/APBR list. After looking at these other sources, however, I’m less sure about my statement that b-r.com’s list must be complete just because it includes 75 players. The list on the APBR site shows “unknown player” under several teams, suggesting that whoever compiled the list believed that it may not have been complete for those teams. In addition, the b-r.com/APBR list doesn’t include Harry Gallatin, even though contemporary media reports clearly list him as a selection. So there may have been additional picks beyond the 75 on the b-r.com/APBR list. Maybe the 75 just reflects players who were newly selected in the draft, not those who had previously been signed, like Gallatin and Kaftan? Another possibility, given the sketchiness of information on this draft, is that the b-r.com/APBR list includes some players who shouldn’t be on it, leaving room for others who should.

I’d really like to know:

--When and why sources switched from listing Gallatin under 1949 to 1948. As late as 1989, the NBA Basketball Encyclopedia was still listing him under 1949. Did someone decide that since he started his career in 1948-49, 1949 must be a typo, and moved him to 1948? Is the Knicks Media Guide or the APBR list the ultimate source of the change to 1948?

--When and why sources dropped Kaftan from the Celtics’ 1949 draft list, then put him back. This seems to have happened independently of whatever happened with Gallatin. The 1989 NBA Basketball Encyclopedia didn’t have Kaftan under 1949 (even though they still had Gallatin under ’49). Then, the APBR list does have Kaftan under 1949 (even though they move Gallatin to ’48). The Celtics Media Guide doesn’t have Kaftan listed under 1949, or any other year.

--Where the information that the Celtics drafted Joe Mullaney in 1949 came from. This was in the 1989 NBA Basketball Encyclopedia, so Hollander may be the ultimate root here. If the Celtics drafted Mullaney, a prominent player from a local school, why wouldn’t he have been mentioned in the AP article?
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Postby meej » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:58 am

MCT wrote:After looking at these other sources, however, I’m less sure about my statement that b-r.com’s list must be complete just because it includes 75 players.


It would be necessary to know the sources for each list so as to know whether one list confirms the other "indepently" or simply come from the same source.
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Postby Robert Bradley » Sat Jan 15, 2011 6:06 pm

I put together the list for the APBR web site, it included a lot of information sent to me by John Duxbury, who had done a lot of research while working for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Author of THE BASKETBALL DRAFT FACT BOOK: A HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL'S COLLEGE DRAFTS
Available at https://Rowman.com

Robert Bradley's Pro Basketball History Revisited Blog
http://apbrbasketball.blogspot.com/
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