In the midpoint of the 1990s on NBA Tuesday, we see a continuation of a shift in the game from the Air Jordan Era to the Big Man Era, as both reflected in individual performance and the league playoffs. Behind Hakeem Olajuwon, the Houston Rockets won a second straight NBA championship—with both Finals series seeing the Dream face off against another dominant center of the decade.
Fascinating times, so read on and enjoy to if big men swept the awards!
1995 NBA MVP: David Robinson (original, confirmed)
This seems to happen on NBA Tuesday much more than it does on MLB Monday, NFL Thursday, or even NHL Saturday: an easy confirmation of the voted MVP. The San Antonio Spurs topped the NBA with 62 victories in the regular season, and their star center—David Robinson—was the best player in the league according to both Win Shares (17.46) and Player Efficiency Rating (29.13). Case closed.
After we took Olajuwon’s MVP away last year to give to Robinson, this time the Admiral earned it from the voters, too: 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 2.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game with a .530 shooting percentage from the floor over 38 minutes per game. Robinson didn’t lead the league in any significant category except free throws made (656), but he was a dominant player, nonetheless.
For the record, Orlando Magic center Shaquille O’Neal was second in both sabermetric measurements (14.03 WS and 28.59 PER). O’Neal and Olajuwon faced each other in the NBA Finals, incidentally.
1995 NBA ROTY: Grant Hill & Jason Kidd (original—tie), Eddie Jones (revised)
Three first-year players topped the 5.0 WAR threshold: Sacramento Kings power forward Brian Grant (5.3), Detroit Pistons small forward Grant Hill (5.4), and Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Eddie Jones (5.0). Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd somehow got half the vote despite his 3.7 WS mark, which trailed a lot of other rookie players in the league—including Boston Celtics center Eric Montross (4.1), Phoenix Suns shooting guard Wesley Person (3.8), and Denver Nuggets small forward Jalen Rose (3.8).
The Kings missed the postseason by 2 wins in the Western Conference—finishing three games ahead of the Mavericks—while the Pistons won just 28 games in the Eastern Conference to miss the playoffs by 7 wins. The Lakers? They won 48 games to claim the fifth seed in the West. That might seem to give Jones an edge here, and it definitely puts Kidd behind Grant in the pecking order—while all but eliminating Hill from the debate.
In fact, the Lakers improved 15 games from the previous year, and while all of that is not due to Jones, it still says a lot about rookie impact (and a coaching change?). For the record, Sacramento improved 11 games, while Detroit improved 8 games. The Mavericks improved 23 games, but Kidd’s game was obviously not the primary reason why with his relatively low WS mark among the rookie class.
We can’t give the ROTY Award to the seventh-best rookie, so this award strangely winds up in Jones’ lap. Now, consider Los Angeles traded Jones away to make room for Kobe Bryant to start a few years later—and then realize Jones’ career Effective FG percentage (.505) in contrast the mark the overrated Bryant put up (.482). Maybe the Lakers made a mistake, as this demonstrates the myths that quantity creates over actually quality.