Stats: 11.5 PTS, 11.2 REB, 2.5 BLK per game
Accolades: 2000-01 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 2001-02 All-Star with Sixers (and 2000-01 with Hawks before trade)
2000-01 is becoming, and will continue to be, a trend in these rankings, especially in the awards portion. While Mutombo spent the majority of the 2000-01 season with the Atlanta Hawks, he will be remembered as a Sixer that year, being the anchor on a team that succeeded due to defense deep into the postseason.
Mutombo made an impact immediately in replacing Theo Ratliff at center- while he rebounding totals decreased to a “lowly” 12.4 per game, he picked up his scoring to over 11. As I’ve mentioned before, that team desperately needed scoring from whatever non-Iverson source it could find. It also improved upon Theo Ratliff, who was no slouch himself, in the middle, winning the defensive player of the year award for his work, gaining significant attention after the trade went down.
His playoff run that year, while not as epic as Iverson’s, moved him well up these charts. Yesterday, I mentioned however Aaron McKie’s statistics jumped with extra playing time. Mutombo experienced a similar effect despite playing a significant number of regular season minutes. As a 76er, Mutombo played nearly 34 minutes per game during the regular season. That jumped during the postseason to a staggering 42.7 minutes per game. Nowadays, you’ll almost never see that from a center. Also consider some of the competition – playing heavy minutes against in-his-prime Shaq for 5 straight games is completely unheard of. Overall, he averaged nearly 14 points and 14 rebounds, at age 34. Dikembe was one-of-a-kind, both on the court with his play and off it with his philanthropy.
Mutombo’s history with the Sixers isn’t that storied – he only played 106 regular season games as a 76er, which is the least of any player on this list. While we remember him for the finger wags and his pronunciations of various teammates’ names (like Esh-no), he could have made many more memories if he had been on the team for more time. But his one-and-a-half years were that good. Add another year or two like that and he’d be a few spots higher, though breaking the top 6 or so would be tough for almost anyone. His year-plus of contributions both during the regular-season and playoffs move Dikembe up to 11 in my rankings.