For this edition of NBA Tuesday, we have arrived at the beginning of the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the decade of the 1990s. You probably can guess what that means for at least one of our awards analyses below, but we will try to keep you in suspense for as long as we can. Promise!
1991 NBA MVP: Michael Jordan (original, confirmed)
With the Chicago Bulls winning 61 games to post the best record in the Eastern Conference, it is easy to anoint their star player—shooting guard Michael Jordan—the MVP Award (again, for the fifth-straight season) after he topped the NBA as a whole in both Win Shares (20.30) and Player Efficiency Rating (31.63) once again, and by healthy margins at that.
The WS mark was the third best of MJ’s career, while the PER effort was the second best. We’re looking at one of the best seasons of Air Jordan here, as he topped the NBA in WS by more than 3 wins—and his PER was 2.7 points better than the next guy, too.
The traditional stats are what you might expect as well: a league-best 31.5 points per game, plus 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.7 steals, and 1.0 blocks a game. Jordan shot a career-high 53.9 percent from the floor, too, as he played in all 82 games for Chicago. He also committed fewer turnovers per game than in any season in career up to this point, again suggesting this was Jordan at his best.
1991 NBA ROTY: Derrick Coleman (original, confirmed)
The four top rookies were New Jersey Nets power forward Derrick Coleman (5.8 WS, 17.6 PER), Minnesota Timberwolves center Felton Spencer (5.6 WS, 13.8 PER), Boston Celtics point guard Dee Brown (3.5 WS, 13.2 PER), and Seattle SuperSonics point guard Gary Payton (3.4 WS, 13.2 PER). The Nets won just 26 games, putting the voted winner—Coleman—up for discussion.
The Timberwolves were a recent expansion team, still getting their feet wet in the NBA, but they won 29 games. The Celtics won 56 games to take the Atlantic Division crown, while the SuperSonics won 41 games to claim the last playoff berth in the Western Conference—by 10 games, so Seattle had plenty of breathing room.
In context, New Jersey won 9 more games than it did the prior year, and Coleman was the No. 1 pick in the draft. Minnesota improved by 7 games after selecting Felton with the sixth pick. Boston improved by four gams, but this was a team with Larry Bird on it still—and six players on the Celtics roster scored in double digits during the regular season (Brown was not one of them). Seattle? Payton was the No. 2 overall pick, but the SuperSonics won 41 games the year prior as well. Seattle probably underachieved, in truth.
Thus, we can confirm Coleman’s award: He scored 18.4 ppg and grabbed 10.3 rpg while adding 2.2 apg, 1.3 bpg, and 1.0 spg. He shot just 46.7 percent from the floor, but Coleman clearly was quite valuable to a team that had been the worst in the league the year prior.
By the way, this is the fifth-straight year we have confirmed the ROTY winner.