On this edition of NBA Tuesday, we promise no mentions of Michael Jordan! It was an interesting season nonetheless in 1994, as the Finals went to seven games, and defense was paramount around the league. A whopping 8 players posted Defensive Win Shares marks over 6.0, which created an interesting battle for the Defensive Player of the Year Award—as shown below in our weekly analysis. Enjoy!
Remember also to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context,
because knowledge is power.
1994 NBA FINALS MVP: Hakeem Olajuwon, C, Houston (original, confirmed)
The Houston Rockets beat the New York Knicks in 7 games, winning the last two contests at home to overcome a 3-2 deficit. Legendary Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon was voted the MVP for posting 26.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.9 bpg, 3.6 apg, and 1.6 spg over 43.1 mpg. Houston was outscored in the series, as Olajuwon more than doubled up the next-best Rockets scoring threat in the matchup.
Can anyone from the Knicks compete here for the MVP nod? Not really. New York had a three-headed scoring threat, even with C Patrick Ewing blocking a ridiculous 4.3 shots per game in the Finals while playing 44 mpg to match The Dream in the middle. Ewing was great, but he had more help than Olajuwon did, overall. So, we’re confirmed Hakeem’s award vote win here, without much more thought.
1994 NBA DPOY: Hakeem Olajuwon, C, Houston (original); Dikembe Mutombo, C, Denver Nuggets (revised)
Even before the playoffs, where the No. 8 Denver Nuggets knocked off the No. 1-seeded Seattle SuperSonics, C Dikembe Mutombo was a defensive force for the Mile High team. He finished third in the the DPOY vote after posting 6.45 DWS, but he did not lead the league there. As noted above, there were a lot of players who excelled on defense this season, as Olajuwon won the vote narrowly.
Ewing (7.98), Olajuwon (7.92), Knicks PF Charles Oakley (6.81), San Antonio Spurs C David Robinson (6.66), Mutombo, Utah Jazz PF Karl Malone (6.06), Chicago Bulls small forward Scottie Pippen (6.02), and Seattle PF Shawn Kemp (6.02) all made our cut. The two Knicks are out, though, and here are the playoff margins: Denver (9), Chicago (14), Utah (20), San Antonio (22), Houston (25), Seattle (30).
Thus, we give this award to Mutombo for the following digits: 8.4 defensive boards per game, 4.1 blocks per game, and 0.7 steals per game. The blocks mark led the league, and this would be the first of three straight seasons that Mutombo topped the NBA in that category. At age 27, he was just in his third NBA season, and his career would lead him to the Hall of Fame eventually.
Olajuwon won the vote by 1 single ballot over Robinson, with Mutombo finishing 3 points behind the Admiral. That’s a pretty, crazy-close vote, really, and any of the three stars would have been deserving. We just single out one of them for the reasons stated above.