As we move into the second half of the 1980s on NBA Tuesday, it seems like time is flying for this weekly column. Before you know it, we will be all caught up to the present day! Okay, so that won’t happen until sometime next summer, but it still feels that way as we look at today’s award winners.
Bring on the MVP and the ROTY for 1986 …
1986 NBA MVP: Larry Bird (original, confirmed)
For the second straight season, it’s a clear-cut confirmation of the MVP vote: Boston Celtics small forward Larry Bird led the NBA in both Win Shares (15.81) and Player Efficiency Rating (25.61), while his team won a league-best 67 games in the regular season.
This was the last time in Bird’s illustrious career that he would play all 82 games, and in doing so, he also posted marks of 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game while leading the NBA in free-throw percentage (89.6).
Remember, back in 1984, we took away Bird’s MVP Award as voted upon. However, at the peak of his powers—in his late 20s—no one was better than the Celtics star.
1986 NBA ROTY: Patrick Ewing (original), Charles Oakley (revised)
Look at this All-Rookie Team from the 1986 season, and tell us what you think: Chicago Bulls power forward Charles Oakley (3.3 WS, 16.5 PER), Detroit Pistons shooting guard Joe Dumars (3.2, 12.9), New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing (3.1, 17.4), Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone (1.9, 13.7), and Seattle SuperSonics small forward Xavier McDaniel (5.1, 16.3).
None of them were “amazing” rookies, but the collective careers of this five is impressive and representative of the new era of NBA quality play that continues to this day in many regards. McDaniel is the best of the bunch on paper, but Seattle missed the postseason by four wins (31-51), the same record posted the year prior.
Ewing might be the next-best player in the pack, the Knicks won just 23 games—actually one game worse than the season before. The Bulls claimed the last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, despite getting just 7 starts from Michael Jordan (injured). That gives a lot of value to Oakley’s season, which was definitively better than either Dumars’ or Malone’s campaigns.
On top of that, vote winner Ewing played in just 50 games. You can’t give an award to a player who barely played more than half the season, regardless of quality/impact/value. Well, at least, we will not do it. So, that’s our decision for this year’s rookie award, and it gives the Bulls two straight ROTY winners—a sign of things to come for the Chicago franchise, obviously.