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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.

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.

How Clippers Can Enter Defensive Elite

Two weeks before the start of the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 NBA season, Chris Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers and he had the heavy burden of reversing the fortunes of a franchise that had only advanced out of the first round of the playoffs on time since 1976. 

The duo of Paul and young superstar Blake Griffin led the Clippers to the 4th best offensive efficiency in the 11-12 season and a first round victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in seven games. However, the more experienced San Antonio Spurs exposed the Clippers in Round 2, but there was ample reason to be hopeful about the future of the Clippers' franchise.

The Clippers lived up to expectations during the 12-13 season. While they only improved their playoff seeding by one spot (from 5th to 4th), they improved their winning percentage by 7.7 percent (from 60.6 percent to 68.3 percent) and they significantly increased their point differential (from positive 2.6 to positive 6.5). However, they ultimately fell short in the postseason, losing to an improved Grizzlies team in six games in the first round.

The Clippers' offense has been effective over the past two years mainly because of the mastery of Paul and the improvement of Griffin. Conversely, Los Angeles has been less successful on the defensive end, where the team’s shortcomings are often blamed on the inexperienced frontcourt duo of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers' defensive issues can be attributed to that pairing and here we'll examine what strategy the front office should pursue to remedy those deficiencies.

In 11-12, the Clippers finished 18th in defensive efficiency, allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions (DEFF). Most of that was due to a lack of frontcourt depth, however, as the Clippers posted a 101.2 DEFF in 1,555 minutes of lineups involving Griffin and Jordan. The Spurs exposed the Griffin-Jordan duo in the 2nd round of the playoffs by scoring a ridiculous 121.6 points per 100 possessions in 90 minutes against lineups including Griffin and Jordan. The tandem seemed to take a step back on the defensive end in 12-13. In 1,810 minutes, lineups including Griffin and Jordan posted a 104.2 DEFF (down three points per 100 possessions from the year before), which would place them at about 20th in the league.

In both of the Clippers’ playoff exits in the last two seasons, their opponent outperformed their offensive efficiency from the regular season. While the Clippers improved their defensive efficiency dramatically from 11-12 to 12-13, two problems persisted from one season to the next. The first is three-point defense. The Clippers were 27th (36.5 percent) and 26th (37.3 percent) in the league in opposing 3-pt percentage in 2011-12 and 2012-13, respectively. Their inability to defend the 3-point ball revealed itself against the Spurs, when San Antonio shot a remarkable 43.7 percent from downtown during the 4-game sweep. Let’s dive into the stats to figure out why the Clippers struggle to defend from downtown.

The Clippers' three-point defense was especially porous when Griffin and Jordan were on the court at the same time. In 12-13, opponents shot 41.8 percent from beyond the arc against lineups including Griffin and Jordan. For comparison’s sake, the Warriors led the league in team 3PT% for the season with a rate of 40.3 percent. Lineups with Griffin and Jordan had problems guarding the perimeter in part because of how the two big men defended the pick and roll. Often times, the defender (either Griffin or Jordan) guarding the screener in the pick and roll would leave the roll man and jump out to the perimeter to corral the ball handler. Meanwhile, the other big man would often overextend himself to help on the roll man, which would expose the paint. The other defenders would react by sinking in to protect the paint, which meant straying a little too far from the 3-point line. This enabled opponents to make a high percentage of their 3-point attempts. Zach Lowe expertly detailed this trend at Grantland.

Interestingly, in lineups with Griffin that were absent of Jordan, the Clippers dramatically improved their 3-point defense as the opposing 3-pt percentage dropped from 41.8 percent to 36.7 percent. However, while the Clippers may have improved their 3-point defense without Jordan, they struggled in other areas such as defensive rebounding and limiting their fouls. 

2012-13

Lineup

MINS

DEFF

DRB%

OPP 3PT%

OPP FTA Rate

Griffin & Jordan

1,810

106.9

75.2%

41.8%

0.236

Griffin w/o Jordan

798

107.5

73.0%

36.7%

0.425

 (*** Table info from NBAwowy.com)

The 0.252 opposing free throw attempt rate (OPP FTA) posted by lineups with Griffin and Jordan would rank about 8th in the league. On the contrary, lineups with Griffin but without Jordan had an abysmal 0.425 OPP FTA, which would be by far the worst in the league, as the Raptors were last in the league in OPP FTA in 12-13 with an OPP FTA of 0.247. The dramatic increase in fouls indicates the Clippers lack of rim protection when Jordan is on the bench. 

So far, we’ve learned that lineups with Griffin and Jordan didn’t defend the 3-point shot well in 12-13 and were pretty solid in terms of rebounding and avoiding fouling. On the contrary, the Clippers did a better job of defending from behind the arc without Jordan but they had a hard time rebounding and avoiding fouling when Jordan left the game. Let’s compare the numbers from the 12-13 table above with the numbers from this year. 

2013-14

Lineup

MINS

DEFF

DRB%

OPP FG%

OPP 3PT%

OPP FTA Rate

Griffin & Jordan

1,294

103.1

74.9%

44.7%

35.3%

0.252

Griffin w/o Jordan

300

109.2

74.3%

46.5%

33.1%

0.461

( *** Table info from NBAwowy.com) 

Lineups with Griffin and Jordan have improved their defensive efficiency thus far in the 13-14 season, in large part, because of their improvement defending the 3PT shot. Allowing the opposition to shoot 35.3 percent is just about a league average rate, which is a dramatic improvement over last season, where Griffin-Jordan lineups allowed their opponent to shoot 41.8 percent from downtown. This improvement can be attributed to Doc Rivers’ efforts to convince Jordan not to jump out on the perimeter nearly as much as he did in the past. While Jordan has improved his defensive positioning, he is still prone to overextending himself and compromising the Clippers defense. When Jordan successfully commits to remaining in the paint, the Clippers wing defenders can remain attached to perimeter shooters, thereby diminishing their ability to accurately shoot 3-pointers.

The main problem on defense that has carried over from last season is the way in which the Clippers defense collapses when Jordan leaves the game. The 109.2 DEFF without Jordan would rank in the bottom-three of the league. The defensive struggles are in large part due to the fact that these lineups still foul at an absurd rate. The Clippers began this season with BJ Mullens and Ryan Hollins as their primary backup big men, both of whom are guilty of excessive fouling. Mullens is currently 18th in the league in personal fouls per 36 minutes and Hollins is 20th. Mullens has recently seen his playing time decrease, as the Clippers have preferred to use either Barnes or Dudley at the 4-spot when Griffin is on the bench. Regardless, it is pretty clear that the Clippers are in dire need of a third big man who can provide some rim protection when Jordan heads to the bench.

Doc Rivers has helped the Griffin-Jordan frontcourt improve defensively, mainly by encouraging Jordan to avoid drifting too far from the paint. The Clippers' major problems on defense this season have occurred when Jordan is on the bench. As the trade deadline approaches, the Clippers should consider shopping for a backup big man who can play defense. Anderson Varejao, Brandon Bass, Jason Thompson, and Jordan Hill are just a few examples of players who might be available, as they are veteran big men on teams that are currently out of the playoff hunt. Acquiring a capable third big man will go a long away in improving the Clippers chances of contending in the Western Conference.

The Real Blake Show

Chris Paul wasn’t making Blake Griffin better; he was making him worse. CP3 is a pair of training wheels Blake no longer needs. While everyone focuses on his athleticism, it’s his skill and feel for the game that makes him an elite player. If Blake couldn’t pass or dribble, he would be Thomas Robinson.

Lamar Odom's Complicated Legacy

If this is it, Lamar Odom leaves behind a complicated legacy in the sport. However, the player he could have been shouldn’t detract from the incredible player that he was.

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.

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.

Streaking Clippers Know They’re An Unfinished Product

In a lot of ways, the Clippers haven’t even revealed their true identity. They will always go as far as Chris Paul can lead them, but the depth of their roster has yet to take form.

The Reality Of Point Guard Defense

Having a great defensive help defender in the post such as Dwight Howard is helpful, but help is not the same as prevent. Once a point guard gets beat, the team is at a numerical disadvantage, rotating to take away the immediate threat of a basket at the cost of conceding a later one.

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.

The Eric Bledsoe Countdown

No player in the NBA has made a bigger leap this season than Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers third-year guard who has been dubbed “Mini-LeBron.” Bledsoe is being under-used currently and could be the NBA's next franchise changing player to become available via trade.

Jamal Crawford's Return

The Clippers needed a guy that could provide them instant firepower without disrupting their talented core. Crawford was looking for a winning team that would let him contribute without striping him of his ability. It was a perfect marriage and both sides are benefiting.

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