Basketball is a historically significant game and thus it’s natural to wonder about player legacies, team legacies and the best seasons of all-time.
Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference.com broke down the top 10 MVP seasons of all-time, in case you were wondering.
Tim Duncan’s 2001-02 season slides in at No. 10 on the list, which includes Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, Oscar Robertson, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Paine on Duncan:
“Although Duncan also won the MVP in 2003, the 2002 campaign has to stand out as his absolute best. He led the NBA in field goals, free throws and total rebounds that year, scoring 25.5 PPG on 51 percent shooting while playing all 82 games and logging 40.6 minutes a night for the league’s top defense. He didn’t post any record-shattering numbers, but Duncan’s unrelenting all-around excellence made his 2002 season one of the greatest ever by an MVP.”
Perhaps even more incredible about Duncan’s season is in his nine ensuing playoff games, he posted the highest playoff PER (31.8). He corralled nearly a third of San Antonio’s defensive rebounds, blocked 7.5% of opponents attempts while he was on the floor and assisted on another fourth of the Spurs’ possessions. His offensive rating and defensive rating, which reflect his personal effectiveness per 100 possessions, were both among his career-highs and measure as historically great, too.
To summarize: Duncan’s season was the paradigm for a perfect basketball season.
Of course, the Spurs fell to the Los Angeles Lakers, headed by Bryant and O’Neal, in the Western Conference semifinals that year. But Duncan was undeniably the best player on the floor.
The following season Duncan turned in another historically good MVP campaign, while not good enough to crack the list, that vaulted the Spurs to their second NBA Championship.
(For the purposes of this exercise, Paine used Win Shares (WS), Estimated Wins Added (EWA), Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), MVP award shares and a regression formula that measures how current MVP campaigns measured historically as his baselines.)