It’s somehow creepy that we have reached the 21st century on NBA Tuesday, considering we started this series so long ago (March 24, 2020, to be exact). But here we are, and yes, we will migrate to a new awards-analysis sequence for professional basketball when this one is concluded in five months or so. We promise not to leave you hanging every Tuesday for your NBA fix!
Now, who will be our pick for MVP this time?
2000 NBA MVP: Shaquille O’Neal (original, confirmed)
This is an open-and-shut case, as Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal—our ROTY pick in 1993 and our MVP pick in 1999—was the best player in the league while playing on the team with the best record in the NBA as well. He easily out-distanced the next-best guy (our 1998 MVP pick, Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone) in both Win Shares (18,65 to 15.26) and Player Efficiency Rating (30.65 to 27.09).
Shaq’s numbers, for the traditionalists among you: 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 3.0 blocks per game on 57.4-percent shooting. The scoring average and shot percentage both topped the league, by the way. This was the second of O’Neal’s two scoring titles and the fourth of 10 times in his career that he led the NBA in shooting. Yes, we know most of Shaq’s buckets came from very close range, but they still counted for two points every time.
2000 NBA ROTY: Elton Brand & Steve Francis (original), Wally Szczerbiak (revised)
We had another tie, just like 1995, for this award vote—between Chicago Bulls power forward Elton Brand and Houston Rockets point guard Steve Francis. Of course, we are here to break up such nonsense! Four rookies topped 5.0 WS on the year: Brand (7.5 WS, 20.6 PER); Francis (6.4, 18.4); Cleveland Cavaliers PG Andre Miller (5.3, 17.9); and Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Wally Szczerbiak (6.2, 15.4).
On the surface, Brand was the best first-year player, readily, but the Bulls’ winning percentage actually dropped from the prior year. Chicago underwent wholesale roster changes, however, after Michael Jordan retired the second time, so we can’t drop all that on Brand. But still …
What about the Rockets? Houston’s winning percentage dropped over 200 points from 1999, while the Cavs improved theirs by 50 points—and the Timberwolves jumped 110 points to make the postseason while winning 50 games for the first time in franchise history.
That makes Szczerbiak the only top rookie to play for a playoff team. This is about value, and Wally World may have delivered the most value of any first-year player, despite not being the best rookie of the bunch. That’s good enough for us.