On NBA Tuesday, we have reached a seminal year in the history of basketball, and it has little to do with the NBA. This was the year of the Dream Team that represented the U.S.A. in the Summer Olympics at Barcelona, and although this season concluded before that event, it showed the world why the Americans were so good at the sport, thanks to the allowing of professional athletes in the Games for the first time.
Keep this in mind as you read today’s award analyses …
1992 NBA MVP: Michael Jordan (original, confirmed)
We know this getting kind of rote, but it is reality in the sabermetric world. The Chicago Bulls topped the NBA with 67 victories in the regular season, and their star shooting guard, Michael Jordan, once again led the league in both Win Shares (17.73) and Player Efficiency Rating (27.75). There’s little else to be said as MJ wins a seventh-straight MVP Award from us. He really was that good, people.
The raw numbers are similar to what His Airness always put up: 30.1 points per game (best in the sport), 6.4 rebounds per game, 6.1 assists per game, and 2.3 steals per game. But this was his lowest WS mark since the 1987 season and his lowest PER number since his rookie season. Jordan was starting to show signs of wear and tear, in truth.
1992 NBA ROTY: Larry Johnson (original, confirmed)
We have four real candidates for ROTY: Charlotte Hornets power forward Larry Johnson (8.9 WS, 18.9 PER), Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo (4.8 WS, 16.5 PER), Golden State Warriors power forward Billy Owens (5.6 WS, 15.6 PER), and Washington Bullets power forward Larry Stewart (4.7 WS, 12.9 PER). That’s a lot of front-court dominance right there.
Johnson was the best player, clearly, of the bunch, and he won the vote. But the Hornets posted just 31 wins and missed the Eastern Conference postseason by 7 games. They improved a mere 5 games from their 1991 finish, in fact. That muddies the waters a bit.
Denver won just 24 games, so that’s a bigger knock on Mutombo in the race for this award. Golden State won 55 games, which was 11 more wins that the team earned the year before—that’s a huge plus for Owens. Finally, the Bullets won just 25 games to finish even worse in the Eastern Conference than Charlotte did.
This comes down to Johnson or Owens, and this is the way we see it: Grandmama was the best player on a bad Hornets team, while Owens was a fourth fiddle on a playoff team. That inflates Johnson’s WS mark a bit and deflates Owens’ WS mark as well.
Johnson was a better player, as the PER reflects, and it wasn’t easy to do that as the main force on a bad team all year. Meanwhile, Owens benefitted from three other stars on his team taking most of the defensive focus from the opponent. Johnson earned his stripes the hard way, while Owens had it relatively easy.
It’s not often we give the ROTY Award to a player on a bad team, but in this case, Johnson earned it the hard way. This is the sixth consecutive time now we’ve confirmed the ROTY vote, too.