The final year of the decade that made the NBA into what it is today has arrived on NBA Tuesday, and we also close out a decade that saw just two teams win 8 of the league championships during the time period. Of course, there are still some dynasties to come ahead in the 1990s and beyond, right?
Right. And now, onto the individual awards for 1989 …
1989 NBA MVP: Magic Johnson (original), Michael Jordan (revised)
The top 3 players in the league are easy to identify: Chicago Bulls shooting guard Michael Jordan (19.80 Win Shares, 31.14 Player Efficiency Rating), Philadelphia 76ers power forward Charles Barkley (16.08 WS, 26.96 PER), and Los Angeles Lakers point guard Magic Johnson (16.07 WS, 26.92 PER).
The Bulls won 47 games, finished fifth in the Central Division, and made the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the 76ers won 46 games to finish second in the Atlantic Division while claiming the seventh seed in the East. Out in the Western Conference, the Lakers won 57 games, the Pacific Division, and the top seed in the playoffs out west.
The reality is that Los Angeles would have made the postseason even without Magic. That may not seem fair, but it’s the facts. Meanwhile, the Bulls and the 76ers would not have made the playoffs without Jordan and Barkley, respectively.
And Jordan was much better than Barkley based on the sabermetrics, even if the Bulls took a step backward after winning 50 games the year before this (they would fire Head Coach Doug Collins after this season and replace him with Phil Jackson, by the way).
MJ’s numbers, for the record: 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 2.9 steals per game, while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor and playing 40.2 minutes every time out. The scoring title was Jordan’s third straight, and the minutes played also led the NBA.
This is the second time, too, that His Airness has taken away an MVP Award from Magic in our estimation, and Jordan now has won three straight MVPs from us—only Wilt Chamberlain (8 total) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (9) have done this in our series so far. Is that a hint about what is to come with MJ?! Only time will tell, as we really don’t look ahead at all (seriously … it’s one year at a time here).
1989 NBA ROTY: Mitch Richmond (original, confirmed)
Eight rookies finished with 2.0-plus WS marks, topped by Golden State Warriors shooting guard Mitch Richmond (5.6 WS, 17.2 PER), San Antonio Spurs small forward Willie Anderson (4.9, 16.6), Indiana Pacers center Rik Smits (4.3, 15.6), Los Angeles Clippers power forward Charles Smith (4.0, 15.6), and 76ers shooting guard Hersey Hawkins (4.0, 14.2). That’s a strong All-Rookie team, too.
The Clippers, Pacers, and the Spurs missed the postseason badly, so Smith, Anderson, and Smits get dropped from consideration here, and we know that Hawkins had to have benefitted from playing alongside Barkley in Philadelphia.
That lets us confirm the vote for Richmond, as the Warriors improved 23 wins (!) from the previous season to claim fourth place in the Pacific Division and a playoff spot, to boot. He averaged 22.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, and 4.2 apg to help Golden State right its ship as the decade came to an end.