One year in the books for NBA Tuesday, and now we go on to Year Two. We will finish up this series feature in the next six months and then move on to another sports-history series of features for professional basketball. The possibilities are endless, of course; the limits—like most things in life—are only the boundaries of our collective imagination. That being said, let’s get going on another year in the life of the National Basketball Association!
Where will our analyses lead us today? Read on to find out …
2001 NBA MVP: Allen Iverson (original), Shaquille O’Neal (revised)
The four division winners this year were the San Antonio Spurs (58 wins), the Los Angeles Lakers (56), the Philadelphia 76ers (56), and the Milwaukee Bucks (52). Philly shooting guard Allen Iverson won the MVP vote, mostly because he topped the NBA in scoring at 31.1 points per game. But he shot just 42 percent from the floor, demonstrating that volume-over-efficiency fascination most people have with counting stats.
The Answer was just 10th in Win Shares (11.79) and 7th in Player Efficiency Rating (23.95), which is sterling season—but not even close to being MVP worthy. Meanwhile, Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal once again topped the league in both WS (14.94) and PER (30.23). Diesel led the NBA in shooting percentage (.572) while putting up 28.7 points a game. His PER led the next-best player by more than 5 points.
Simply put, this was O’Neal in his prime, and no one else in the league as good or as valuable as Shaq—no way.
2001 NBA ROTY: Mike Miller (original, confirmed)
This was a relatively weak rookie class, as only three first-year guys even reached the 3.0 WS mark: Los Angeles Clippers small forward Darius Miles (3.0 WS, 14.7 PER), Orlando Magic small forward Mike Miller (5.3 WS, 13.2 PER), and Toronto Raptors shooting guard Morris Peterson (3.6 WS, 14.1 PER). Ironically, Miller and Peterson had faced off in the 2000 NCAA Tournament Championship Game the year before joining the NBA.
This is an interesting group, where all three guys were relatively even in sabermetrics, with Miller taking the vote at the time. He was the only one to average double digits scoring every time out, which probably was the reason he got the nod. Orlando won 43 games to make the postseason, but the Magic only improved two games from the season prior.
The Raptors won 47 games, made the playoffs, and also improved a mere two games from last year. Meanwhile, the Clippers improved a whopping 16 games (!) but still missed the postseason with their 31-51 record. Obviously, Miles—with his 26.3 minutes per game—was not the only, or even the primary, reason L.A. got better.
Peterson played just 22.6 minutes per game, in a situation where clearly the Raptors were underusing him. Miller contributed 29.1 minutes each outing, which is ironic since his efficiency was the lowest of these three players. It could be argued that Orlando overused Miller, actually, since all he really did was score.
However, the Magic rookie was the best of the bunch in effective shooting percentage (.523), by far, because he hit 40.7 percent of his three-point attempts. He also started more games (62) than both Miles (21) and Peterson (49). When we consider expectations and pressure, along with the eFG mark, we will confirm Miller’s award. But we really could make an argument for any of these three guys, in truth.