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10-Year NBA Win Rank Snapshot

A 10-year season-by-season Win Rank snapshot for an NBA franchise creates an insightful visual narrative.

Toronto Raptors: The quick rise of the 06-07 season ended up becoming an aberration of the Bryan Colangelo/Chris Bosh tenure. The Raptors were never able to become a contender with that roster and they have begun their climb all the way up to 11th this season without a franchise superstar, making Masai Ujiri’s job more difficult and more intriguing.

Brooklyn Nets: The Jason Kidd and Vince Carter trades set the Nets rapidly down to the bottom of the NBA and a costly roster around Deron Williams has brought them back into the top half. A continuation of their M-shaped trajectory is probable due to the nature of constructing a roster via trades and free agency instead of the draft.

New York Knicks: The Knicks haven’t had a top-5 finish since 96-97 and only did the arrivals of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony brought the Knicks out of the twenties, where they’d been in all but one season since 2002. Re-signing Carmelo probably puts them on the M-shaped path of the Nets, while pulling together a better draft pick and multiple max contract slots in 2015 would almost certainly lead to a more sustainable way forward.

Boston Celtics: Since he’s done it before, Danny Ainge appears to again be quickly letting the Celtics get very bad with the hope of getting very good in very quick fashion. The Celtics nearly snuck into The Finals in 2012 despite finishing 10th in the NBA in the lockout-shortened season, but the fairly consistent decline of Pierce/Garnett/Allen is clear in this graph.

Philadelphia 76ers: Sam Hinkie inherited a team visibly on the NBA’s infamous mediocrity treadmill and the decision to begin a full-blown rebuild makes more sense in how badly the previous models were working. The 76ers have had just two top-10 finish since 90-91, as both the Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson eras were unsuccessful in building workable title contenders around future of Hall of Famers.

Indiana Pacers: On the mediocrity treadmill coming out of the Jermaine O’Neal/Ron Artest era, the Pacers very unexpected entered the NBA’s elite with the rise of Paul George and Roy Hibbert, two players not expected to become this good going into the draft.

Chicago Bulls: Squandering their position coming out of the Eddy Curry trade with the Ben Wallace signing and the preference of Tyrus Thomas over LaMarcus Aldridge or Brandon Roy in the short-term, the Bulls shot back up to the NBA’s best with the lottery win for Derrick Rose along with the decision to hire Tom Thibodeau. The Joakim Noah part of the Curry trade is what saved the Bulls from crashing back to the NBA’s bottom third following Rose’s injuries.

Cleveland Cavaliers: The departure of LeBron James in 2010 serves as the first of several L-shaped dives. The Cavaliers’ drop from 7th to 13th after they reached The Finals in 2007 was a stronger indication of the limitations around LeBron in hindsight than we realized when they had the best record in the NBA in 08-09 and 09-10. Despite drafting first overall twice in three seasons and fourth in two of them, there is a lot of work on the roster that needs to be done before they return to the top half of the NBA.

Detroit Pistons: The Pistons were good and then they weren’t very quickly, dropping from 2nd in 07-08 to 17th in 08-09 with the Iverson for Chauncey Billups trading proving disastrous in the short-term that season and the signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva with the created cap space mimicking the result in the long-term.

Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks have been moderately up but mostly down since Don Nelson’s departure in the late eighties. With just one top-10 finish since 1989, the Bucks have been consistently average until this 15-win season.

Miami Heat: The Shaquille O’Neal/Dwyane Wade run was always going to be a short one, but the speed of the fall exceeded expectations. Wade was trapped in mediocrity before the arrivals of LeBron and Bosh in 2010.

Washington Wizards: The supposed glory days of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler looks far more modest in hindsight with 12th-15th finishes in those four seasons before injuries hit. The Wizards have been on the Thunder Model since John Wall’s arrival, but they appear to be a James Harden short with Otto Porter being their final high pick before becoming a playoff team.

Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats were unable to parlay successive seasons of high picks into more than a team with the 15th best record in the NBA and improving beyond 16th this season will be equally challenging without a pick in this class.

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks escaped an eight-year run in the NBA’s cellar by jumping onto the mediocrity treadmill. Even as Danny Ferry as stripped significant portions of the roster, the Hawks have remained a playoff team somehow.

Orlando Magic: The Magic climbed steadily as Stan Van Gundy figured out how to construct a system around Dwight Howard, but they didn’t have enough young pieces to make it sustainable. When Howard was traded in 2012, the Magic predictably bottomed out altogether as part of the Thunder Model.

Los Angeles Clippers: The Brand/Cassell/Kaman run was a quick rise and fall for Mike Dunleavy, but winning the lottery in 2009 for Blake Griffin and trading for Chris Paul very quickly propelled the Clippers to the NBA’s elite strata with improvement each of their three seasons together.

Golden State Warriors: The 2007 and 2008 Warriors, built around Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and a young Monta Ellis, were high on entertainment but just slightly above average in wins. The Warriors missed the playoffs in 2008 and then fell back to the bottom third of the NBA when Davis left for the Clippers. A healthy Stephen Curry and a better overall roster gave the Warriors a quick climb to the NBA’s top-10 in each of the past two seasons.

Phoenix Suns: The first year of the graph coincides with the arrival of Steve Nash in which they had the best record in the NBA. The bounce back season in 09-10 from 13th to 5th was the final chance for Nash, as the departure oStoudemire that offseason sent them down to the bottom half.

Sacramento Kings:  The Kings were a top-8 team from 00-01 until 04-05 and this graph shows the quick fall to the bottom of the league where they have been stuck without winning a lottery to draft the type of franchise cornerstone that can turnaround the franchise.

Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers have the most ‘what goes up must come down’ looking graph in the entire NBA. When Shaquille O’Neal was traded in 2004, they dropped to 21st, but quickly returned to 10th in 05-06 and the Pau Gasol trade/Andrew Bynum development made them elite again.

Oklahoma City Thunder: When the Thunder Model is referred to, this is what it looks like in terms of wins. The Ray Allen/Rashard Lewis Sonics fell swiftly from a great 04-05 season to 21st in 05-06 and Sam Presti put his foot on the drowning core. Three bad seasons followed for Kevin Durant, which is even more remarkably bad in hindsight considering how great he’s become, and then their meteoric rise to a perennial top-5 team.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers shot up from 24th to 16th to 7th with the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge core before injuries derailed their chance at joining the elite. The Damian Lillard/Terry Stotts arrival prevented the Blazers from needing to bottom out and trade away Aldridge.

Minnesota Timberwolves: We’re missing the L-shape franchise player departure we have seen from other clubs since this graph doesn’t include the Wolves’ 03-04 season in which they finished 2nd in the NBA in wins. Kevin Love has brought the Wolves out of the very bottom of the NBA, but several bad drafts has the team weighed down to mediocrity.

Denver Nuggets: The departure of Carmelo didn’t hurt the Nuggets in the short-term, but the absence of an All-Star talent in this past injury-filled season exposed some of the roster construction issues.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz executed a quick rebuild out of the Malone/Stockton era around Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko, but they were a little short of ever reaching the top-5 despite making the 2007 Western Conference Finals. The Jazz fully embraced the youth movement this season by letting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk.

San Antonio Spurs: Extend this out to 89-90 and the graph is even more impressive. The Spurs have been 10th or better every season except of course 96-97 when David Robinson was injured. The Spurs have been a top-5 team in wins in 18 of those 25 seasons. The gold standard in every way.

Houston Rockets: The Thunder Model will continue to be more frequently imitated, but the Rockets Model will be interesting to study should Dwight Howard and James Harden reach The Finals in one of the next three seasons. The Rockets never dropped below the middle of the NBA coming out of the Yao Ming/Tracy McGrady era, but they were able to construct a well-balanced team around two of the top-10 players in the league.

Memphis Grizzlies: The L-shape appears again with the Gasol trade in 06-07, but the rise back up to the top-10 is quick due to the Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph acquisitions.

Dallas Mavericks: The Dirk Nowitzki/Mark Cuban partnership has only produced one title, but it looks a lot like a slightly lesser version of the Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan Spurs. The drop from 5th to 14th and 17th following the championship was part of a short-term plan for a long-term rebuilding with the hopes of landing Howard and Williams, but they’ve successively pieced it back together with undervalued assets like Monta Ellis.

New Orleans Pelicans: Chris Paul gave the then-Hornets a rapid turnaround, yet it proved unsustainable with an uncertain ownership and injury issues. Anthony Davis gave the Pelicans the chance to replicate the Thunder Model, but Dell Demps has been instructed to accelerate the timeline with costly moves for Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans.

The Three-Team Race For Eighth

With approximately two weeks remaining in the NBA regular season, the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is a three-team race. The New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers all have a chance to qualify for the right to face either the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs.

Let’s take a look at how the race has intensified over the last several weeks. 

New York Knicks

The Knicks' troubles are mostly on the defensive end where they rank 25th in defensive efficiency, but they haven’t improved much defensively as of late. Rather, their improvement at the other end of the floor is the reason for their 11-3 record over their last 14 games.

Stat

Offensive Eff

Defensive EFF

Net EFf

Full Season

105.2

106.7

-1.5

Last 14

112.8

106.2

+6.6 

One might think the improved offense is a result of some new strategy but it seems that the Knicks are simply making more of the shots that they have been taking all season. They have traded some of their 2-point attempts for more 3’s but not by a significant amount. And they aren’t assisting much more or turning it over much less than their season average either. The two main reasons for the offensive uptick have been increased playing time for Amar’e Stoudemire and more accurate shooting from J.R. Smith.

Mike Woodson has bolstered the offense simply by giving Stoduemire more minutes. Stoudemire's field goal percentage has hovered right around 55% all season and he’s able to get to the free throw line better than anyone on the roster other than Carmelo Anthony. More time for an efficient scorer like Stoudemire has unsurprisingly led to improved offense.

Over the last 14 games, J.R. Smith’s field goal percentage has been about 6 percentage points better than his season average but it’s not because he’s taking better shots. In fact, he’s taking and making more unassisted 3-pointers, which are shots that don’t tend to be the most successful. His 3-pointer on the first possession of Wednesday night’s game against the Nets exemplifies the kind of shot that Smith has been making more of recently.

http://on.nba.com/1q7zil8

Stoudemire’s increased playing time and Smith’s improved shooting accuracy have enabled the Knicks to vault themselves into serious contention for the 8th seed in the Eastern conference. 

Atlanta Hawks

Many thought the Hawks would fall apart when they lost Al Horford to a torn pectoral muscle for the season in late December. Initially, it seemed as if they would be able to hang on to a playoff position, as they garnered a 9-8 record in their first 17 games without Horford. Since the start of February, however, they have fallen apart because of injuries to first time all-star Paul Millsap and sharpshooter Kyle Korver. 

When Millsap sat out for five games at the end of February and beginning of March, the Hawks’ defense collapsed. They allowed over 100 points to the Bulls and Celtics (two of the bottom three eams in the league in terms of offensive efficiency) and 129 points to the Suns. Losing Millsap forced Hawks Mike Budenholzer to play Mike Scott and DeMarre Carroll at the power forward position where both are unequipped to deal with opposing big men. Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah had their way with the thin Hawks frontline and the Celtics badly took advantage of Atlanta on the offensive glass.

Korver’s injury demonstrated his value to the team’s offense, as the Hawks were largely incapable of scoring during his absence. The Hawks failed to break 90 in three of the six games that Korver missed, two of which were against average defenses in the Portland Trail Blazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Those poor showings reflect the Hawks reliance on Korver’s perimeter excellence (and simply the threat of him being there) to fuel their offense, especially without Horford.

Since Horford Injury

 

Minutes

Offensive Rating

Korver ON

1281

103.5

Korver OFF

841

99.0

http://on.nba.com/1lG3u7C

Check out this play where the threat of Korver coming off a curl screen creates an opening for Millsap to get a look at the rim. Plays like this one demonstrate how Korver’s value on offense comes from his shooting and his ability to create openings for others. His shooting prowess enables him to attract the attention of the defense just by being on the floor and the result is easier shot attempts for his teammates.

The Hawks record hasn’t been good without Horford, but that is largely due to the fact that they are 1-11 when either Millsap or Korver has had to sit out. With Millsap and Korver playing (since Horford went down) the Hawks’ record is a respectable 15-18. Atlanta can ill afford to lose Millsap or Korver again during their final 8 games if they want to make the playoffs over the Knicks and the resurgent Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers' newly assembled roster was finally starting to mesh when they were victorious in consecutive games on the road against the Suns and the Warriors. Unfortunately, Kyrie Irving went down with a biceps injury in the following game and the Cavs lost their next four. However, that losing streak included competitive games against the Heat, Thunder, and Rockets. Further positive signs emerged when the Cavs defeated the Knicks, Raptors, and Pacers in the same week without Irving. 

It is tempting to point to Irving’s absence as the explanation for the aforementioned victories but in reality, those wins represented an extension of the positive signs that were on display in the wins against Phoenix and Golden State.  In the 9 games without Irving, the Cavs offensive efficiency didn’t improve much but it didn’t decline either, which is surprising given that they were missing their leading scorer. The offense was able to maintain its level of production because everybody became more willing to share the ball. The Cavs averaged 21.1 assists per game in the first 11 games with Hawes and 23.6 assists per game in the following nine games in which Irving sat out. Two players in particular increased their number of assists in the aforementioned nine games.

2/21 – 3/14 (With Kyrie & Hawes)

Player

Assists/48

USG

AST/USG

Dion Waiters

4.1

31.2%

13.14

Luol Deng

2.9

20.2%

14.36

3/16 – 3/30 (With Hawes & No Kyrie)

Player

Assists/48

USG

AST/USG

Dion Waiters

6.2

27.9%

22.22

Luol Deng

5.0

20.8%

24.04 

Both Dion Waiters and Luol Deng averaged more assists per 48 minutes after Irving’s injury. And that’s not only because they had the ball more. Waiters, in particular, increased his assists despite seeing his usage rate decline. He has showed an increased willingness to create plays for his teammates rather than for himself. 

http://on.nba.com/1lG7oNO

This sequence against the Toronto Raptors illustrates how the Cavs have operated more smoothly on offense as of late than they were early in the season their offense consisted mainly of stagnant isolations. In the clip, Waiters catches the ball on the wing after a pin-down screen from Hawes and then quickly moves into an elbow pick-and-roll with Varejao, which results in an easy layup.

The Cavs offense was getting better before Irving’s injury not because of it. If Coach Mike Brown can find a way to combine Waiters’ and Deng’s increased assist levels with Irving’s unique offensive skill set, the offense should improve dramatically. Perhaps even enough to vault the Cavs into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

That’s how the bottom of the Eastern Conference got to where it is now. With two weeks to go, it’ll be interesting to see which team is able grab the eighth seed and whether that team can pose any kind of a threat to the Pacers or Heat in the first round of the playoffs. 

2014 First Round Picks (Which Teams Own The Picks?)

While RealGM has an excellent database of the draft picks that have been traded between teams, I wanted to put together a summary more focused on the upcoming draft. For the sake of clarity, this version will only deal with the first round.

Atlanta Hawks- Have the right to swap their own pick with Brooklyn’s. At this point, it appears Atlanta will just keep their own and move on.

Boston Celtics- Have their own first and the less favorable of Atlanta and Brooklyn, likely Brooklyn right now. They have a future first from the Sixers as well, but it only goes this year if Philadelphia makes the playoffs. We all know that will not happen.

Brooklyn Nets- No matter what, they lose their pick without getting one in return.

Charlotte Bobcats- Their own first goes to Chicago as long as the Bobcats stay remotely on track (top-10 protected) but they pick up Portland’s unless the Blazers effectively lose out. The lingering question is Detroit- if the pick is 1-8, the Pistons keep it but if it’s 9th or worse it goes to Charlotte. My gut feeling is that once Detroit knows they will not make the playoffs we will see a push to the bottom reminiscent of the 2012 Warriors.

Chicago Bulls- Have their own pick and Charlotte’s unless the Bobcats collapse. The Sacramento pick they acquired in the Luol Deng trade is top-12 protected so it will not come this year.

Cleveland Cavaliers- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Dallas Mavericks- One of the more interesting situations in the league. By having top-20 protection on their pick (it goes to Oklahoma City if it falls 21-30 this year), the Mavs could lose their pick if they make the playoffs. Right now, the bottom seeds in the West look to be about even with the 3-4 spots in the East, so it could go either way.

Denver Nuggets- They keep the better of their pick and New York’s, sending the worse one to Orlando.

Detroit Pistons- Keep their pick if it is eighth or better, otherwise it goes to Charlotte. I fully expect them to understand the incentives and lose enough to retain it.

Golden State Warriors- Their first goes to Utah no matter what.

Houston Rockets- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Indiana Pacers- Their pick is going to Phoenix as a part of the Luis Scola trade from last summer.

Los Angeles Clippers- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Los Angeles Lakers- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Memphis Grizzlies- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Miami Heat- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Milwaukee Bucks- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Minnesota Timberwolves- The pick is top-13 protected, meaning they have to make the postseason or have the best record of any non-playoff team to send it to Phoenix. At this point, it looks like the pick will be No. 13 and thus the Wolves will keep it.

New Orleans Pelicans- Their pick goes to Philadelphia unless it lands in the top-five. It will be hard for the Pelicans to jump enough of the teams “ahead” of them, but they still have a shot of jumping them in the lottery itself.

New York Knicks- They lose their pick no matter what, though the destination could change.

Oklahoma City Thunder- They have their own pick and get Dallas’ first if it ends up between 21 and 30, certainly a possibility.

Orlando Magic- Retain their own pick and get the less favorable of Denver and New York’s selections. This could end up swinging on whether the Knicks can make the playoffs- if they do, the pick falls a few spots to No. 15.

Philadelphia 76ers- They keep their own pick as long as they miss the playoffs (just a formality at this point) and pick up one from New Orleans as long as it falls outside the top five.

Phoenix Suns- They have their own pick and Indiana’s on lock and appear likely to pick up Washington’s since the Wizards should make the playoffs. Minnesota’s pick has top-13 protection, so I expect the Suns to only end up with three this year.

Portland Trail Blazers- Their pick is going to Charlotte unless the Blazers have a truly epic collapse.

Sacramento Kings- Their pick has top-12 protection, so the Kings look like they will keep it even if they rattle off some late-season wins.

San Antonio Spurs- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Toronto Raptors- Have their own pick free and clear and no other first rounders.

Utah Jazz- They have both their own pick and Golden State’s.

Washington Wizards- They will send their pick to Phoenix barring a major letdown.

The Third Contract

Most players have very little control over their destination for their first two NBA contracts, but the third contract creates a complete shift in power dynamics.

Paul Millsap's All-Star Caliber Season Lifts Hawks From Disappointment Of Losing Horford

Paul Millsap had anticipated a prosperous collaboration with Al Horford, a cleverly run offense by Jeff Teague – not Horford’s second major torn pectoral injury in two years, Teague lost to an ankle injury for now, and, most of all, a charge to be “Do it all Paul,” as teammates call him.

Top-60 Players In NBA Today (Considering Everything)

The goal here is look at overall long-term value of players by considering age, contract, positional scarcity and of course overall quality, without factors like a player’s connection with a franchise or fit within a specific system.

2013-14 NBA Season Preview

While the Western Conference has six teams (Clippers, Thunder, Rockets, Grizzlies, Warriors) in its first tier, the Eastern Conference is a tier of one (Heat) with the Bulls, Pacers and Nets vying for the second tier.

The NBA's Mediocrity Treadmill Since 84-85

The treadmill is somehow both more and less common than some might think. While teams tend to fall within the 30-49 win range, as would be expected in such a competitive league, the dreaded never-ending stream of late lottery picks is uncommon.

Jeff Teague Commits To Hawks' Vision After Near Split

Danny Ferry and Mike Budenholzer called Jeff Teague late Saturday afternoon. Together they delivered a message Teague wanted all along out of the organization that drafted him in 2009 and thrust him into a 2011 playoff series against Derrick Rose that he still credits as outline for his potential.

2013 NBA Mock Draft (Final Edition)

Draft day has finally arrived and while everyone pines for the 2014 class already, this one has the chance to be sneaky good in the 'many quality starters' variety.

2013 NBA Mock Draft (Wednesday/Quality Of Opp. Edition)

In this mock, we include the PER of each player based on the quality of opponent. Even statistics in this context can only go so far, but helps move beyond the possibility of inflation against competition that isn't even close to being NBA caliber.

Choosing Destinations For The 2013 Free Agency Class

The 2013 free agency class won't stop everything the way 2010 did and 2014 will, but it is strong and deep with many different possible outcomes. Here is what the top-30 players 'should' do.

2013 NBA Mock Draft (Draft Week Edition)

Entering draft week in a draft universally labeled as weak preceding the best draft of the decade, few people are talking themselves into falling in love with any specific player as fervently as usual.

2013 NBA Draft Board

Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, Otto Porter and Alex Len join Nerlens Noel at the top of our draft board.

The Bottom Line On Chris Paul's Free Agency

Whether Chris Paul thinks Donald Sterling threw him under the bus isn’t the point. If he thinks Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are a championship-caliber frontline, he’ll get over it.

The Eliminated (First Round Teams)

The Lakers, Clippers, Nets, Rockets, Nuggets, Hawks, Celtics and Bucks were the first eight teams eliminated from the playoffs and in this edition, we look at their main questions heading into the offseason.

Released Of Trade Burden, Flexibility Awaits Josh Smith

The Hawks had sought trade offers for Josh Smith, and a deal seemed inevitable. Their decision to keep Smith in the end resonated with him, but both sides know the flexibility that awaits now.

Kyle Korver Freed With Hawks, Open To Bulls Return

For his part, Derrick Rose was an advocate of Kyle Korver over the past two seasons, both guards benefiting from the facets of their repertories that capitalizes each other best – dribble penetration and outside shooting. As much as anyone, Rose would have loved for Korver to stay with the Bulls.

Hawks Find Short-Term Success After Making Moves For Long-Term

While there are many things guys like Josh Smith and Al Horford would like to prove personally, they’ve led a team-first approach that has positioned the Hawks near the top of the conference standings. Everything is about team this season, especially the motivation to prove they’re more than a one-man show.

2013 Amnesty Primer

As we move forward with “Amnesty 2.0,” we will see the fascinating possibilities that the provision brings even as the number of teams and players left dwindles with time.

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