The 2001-02 season saw Kidd lead the Nets to a surprising 52-30 finish, and marked one of his best all-around seasons as he finished second to the Spurs' Tim Duncan in MVP voting. Many have argued that Kidd deserved to win the award because of his impact in New Jersey—transforming the Nets from perennial league doormats into championship contenders seemingly in the space of a single training camp. His contribution to the Nets during his first season in New Jersey was huge, and resulted in one of the greatest turnarounds in NBA history. He was also fortunate to join the team when he did, as the team reaped the benefits of the newly healthy Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles and Keith Van Horn; along with the trading of Eddie Griffin for Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins, and Brandon Armstrong.
Under Kidd's guidance, the young Nets team prospered through the playoffs and ended up advancing all the way to the Eastern Conference title and the franchise's first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals. However, New Jersey's season would end without an improbable NBA crown, as Kidd and the Nets were swept in four games by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers.