Halfway through the 2000s today on NBA Tuesday finds us with unusually interesting analyses for both major awards here. The San Antonio Spurs won a third NBA title in seven seasons, but they did not have any MVP candidates. Meanwhile, there was a minor gap in the NBA timeline for greatness personified in one player. Unless our winner here takes objection to that concept?
Read on to see what we mean …
2005 NBA MVP: Steve Nash (original), Kevin Garnett (revised)
The Phoenix Suns won a league-best 62 games, and their point guard—Steve Nash—won the MVP vote, despite not finishing in the Top 10 for Win Shares or Player Efficiency Rating. This has to be one of the worst vote results ever, and it’s no offense to Nash at all. But he finished third on his own team in WS and second in PER on the Suns roster. He was not the MVP.
So, who was? The 2004 MVP, Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Garnett, once again led the NBA in both WS (16.11) and PER (28.20)—but his team slipped to just 44 wins and missed the postseason by a game. Perhaps the MVP was Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (15.60 WS, 26.07 PER) or Phoenix center Amar’e Stoudamire (14.60 WS, 26.64 PER).
The Mavs won 58 games to finish a game behind the San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest Division, while we know the Suns had the top record in the league. We can still consider Garnett, as without him, the Timberwolves would have been miles out of contention. This starts to get difficult now.
If the difference was 18 wins between the Suns and the T’wolves, then Phoenix could have still made the postseason without Stoudamire. The Mavs, however, might have missed out without Nowitzki, and we know Minnesota would have been nowhere without Garnett. For argument’s sake, let’s just remove each player and see where the chips fall: Phoenix still have 46-47 wins, while Dallas ends up with 43-44 victories.
Yet the T’wolves are a lottery team without Garnett, and the other two teams are still fringe postseason contenders. That’s a huge difference, even if the Big Ticket couldn’t carry Minnesota to the playoffs all by himself. He tried very hard and just missed. That shouldn’t be counted against him.
Garnett’s traditional numbers: 22.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game. The rebounding mark led the NBA, the second of four straight seasons KG would top the league in the category. This also was the last time in his distinguished career that the 28-year-old Garnett played in all 82 games of the regular season.
2005 NBA ROTY: Emeka Okafor (original), Dwight Howard (revised)
Our picks for an All-Rookie Team would have been Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Josh Childress (4.6 WS, 15.3 PER), Orlando Magic power forward Dwight Howard (7.3 WS, 17.2 PER), Philadelphia 76er shooting guard Andre Iguodala (6.6 WS, 13.5 PER), Charlotte Bobcats power forward Emeka Okafor (4.0 WS, 16.3 PER), and New Jersey Nets power forward Nenad Krstić (4.4 WS, 13.4 PER).
Okafor won the vote, even though the Bobcats won just 18 games. The Hawks won only 13 times, while Orlando won 36 times to miss the postseason by six games. With 43 wins, the Sixers made the playoffs, and the Nets won 42 games to sneak into the final Eastern Conference postseason berth.
Howard was the best player, clearly, and the Magic improved 15 games from the season before this one. No other player had that much of an impact, even though the Bobcats were an expansion team starting from scratch: Okafor still wasn’t anywhere near as good as Howard.