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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.

Xavier Henry Elevates Game, Mind And Body In Redemptive Season With Lakers

Xavier Henry exited the doctor’s examination room and impatiently clenched his hand, fearing his wrist lacked the capacity to allow him to finish a resurrecting season. Moments later, his doctor emerged from an office, eyed the wrist and looked toward a young NBA journeyman on his third team in four years.

“Xavier, you need surgery,” the doctor told Henry.

Henry had known his past wrist injuries that alleviated within a week were nothing like this sharp pain in his left shooting wrist, and he heard from the doctor that it was as severe as possible – short of a fracture. He was diagnosed with a torn ligament on March 22 and prescribed a surgery timetable of sooner than later. From Kobe Bryant to Luol Deng, Henry heard about players passing on wrist surgery, testing their pain tolerance and, slowly, curing the ligaments.

And still, Henry had been informed his ligament had ruptured too seriously, beyond the grasp of natural healing.

If he wanted to continue playing, the Los Angeles Lakers’ trainers warned Henry he’d endure perhaps his career’s most grueling physical challenge. In the days later, Henry practiced in the Lakers’ facility and felt his wrist respond to the bumps and hits delivered on it. That’s when he says he decided, “I might as well play it out and see how long I can go before I get surgery.”

With the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans, the lottery expectations with which Henry entered the league in 2010 went unattained. He failed to stay healthy, failed to produce when on the court. After this season, Henry will undergo surgery on his wrist and is unsure if his right knee – in which he sustained a bone bruise and an abnormality of the lateral meniscus – needs some sort of procedure as well.

For someone on a one-year deal, Henry understands there’s no urge to force him to play through these injuries. He easily could fix the wrist and rest the knee, and yet Lakers' coaches and teammates recognize his loyalty to the staff that gave him a chance to earn a lasting position and merit another contract.

“If the Lakers want me back, I would love to be back,” Henry told RealGM. “I love it here, love playing on this team, and we have a great organization. It’s been eye-opening for me, and I enjoy it. You always have two sides of things – I can’t always control whatever I want to in free agency.

“The wrist, it’s painful. This doesn’t feel like it’s going away, but I’d rather play in these games and give myself a chance to get better, develop with the guys and try to get wins before I hang it up and know it’s done for the season.

“And I got so much on my mind, trying to heal and leave it all on the court. I really want to make this last as long as I can.”

For three seasons, Henry had been a meager part and less heralded talents rose above him in rotations. He was a five-star college recruit fleeting out of a role in the NBA. There was an incoherent jump shot. There were rare glimpses of athleticism. There was a glorified role player at Kansas lacking a niche on the next level.

The Lakers came calling with a training camp invitation in September, and most of all, came pitching a wing reserve spot in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Between his first preseason performance of 29 points and seven rebounds and a 22-point season debut, Henry captured a roster spot.

Between then and now, Henry has averaged 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, one steal and 21.3 minutes per game – presenting a more polished jumper, a knack to draw fouls and reach the free throw line at an average of 4.2 shot attempts and a high-character approach inside the locker room and on the sideline. In a lost Lakers season, Henry starred in two of their best moments: a destructive dunk on Jeff Withey in November, and 22 points in 23 minutes in a 127-96 victory over the New York Knicks on March 25.

“I just didn’t get the same opportunity and the same playing time in the past,” Henry says. “I hurt myself early in my career … but I didn’t get the same kind of opportunities that I have now and I’m trying to make the most of every one that I get.”

Henry so wishes he had back those two months he missed due to his right knee issue, and sitting in the trainer’s room he would feel distant from the team. He remembers some past locker atmospheres; how everyone would forget the presence of an injured teammate.

This time, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Farmar made concerted efforts to stay updated on Henry and his knee’s status, and it made such a difference for him to receive their input.

“They stayed in my ear,” Henry says. “I was hurt, and they made sure I was on top of my rehab and made sure I was ready to come back.”

All but three players on guaranteed contracts for next season, all the losing for a historic franchise, and Henry knows the Lakers’ infrastructure has every reason to be toxic. It has every reason to be a despondent, scattered group.

“For a lot of guys on one-year deals and not knowing what they’re going to do in the summer, there could be a lot more controversy with players trying to go on their own,” Henry says. “But guys are really trying to commit to the team aspect, and I like that. The camaraderie is pretty good. We all want to win and we are all dedicated to working.

“It doesn’t always happen for us of course, but the games we have won, we’ve had guys play together.”

From Nick Young’s team-building antics to Henry’s unyielding approach with his injuries, this is what maintains the Lakers’ sane environment and keeps them communicative. “[Henry] is tough, he’s fearless,” D’Antoni said recently. “He loves to play, and he battles.”

No one knows exactly who will return to the Lakers in the offseason, decisions looming up and down the roster. No, Henry won’t be choosing between only non-guaranteed camp offers in free agency, so, yes, a bright smile fills the face about the excitement and prospect of being desired, of finding an agreement with Los Angeles management.

Whatever, Henry says, because the last weeks of a season and post-season remedies consume his mind. Out of all rationality, out of the doctor’s advice, he probably belongs most on the bench for good – restoring his body’s health – and still, here is Xavier Henry promising to play out a season with a busted wrist, a dragging knee and an end that removes those distasteful ones of years past.

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.

Grading The Deal: Warriors Trade For Steve Blake

The Warriors may have corrected their single biggest overall roster flaw for the rest of the season by trading for Steve Blake, while the Lakers get closer to avoiding the luxury tax.

The Complex Business of Taxing (And Advising) Athletes

For athletes, the challenge of choosing a team that gives them the best opportunity to win championships while maximizing their earnings potential continues to be a delicate balance filled with unknowns. Basketball reasons aside, Dwight Howard's decision to leave Los Angeles was hardly a disastrous one from a financial perspective.

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 Bargain Bin's Best

The days of the $6 million per year role player may be all but over. Mo Williams, Mike Miller, Beno Udrih and Wayne Ellington are at the forefront of the new market inefficiency in the NBA -- veteran role players from the free agency bargain bin.

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.

Grading The Deal: Dwight Howard Chooses Houston

Daryl Morey and the Rockets have acquired two top-10 players in James Harden and Dwight Howard in nine months to culminate a series of moves that has no real precedent in the NBA. Also receiving grades in this edition is Dwight himself and the Lakers.

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.

Why Houston Makes The Most Basketball Sense For Dwight Howard

To keep Dwight Howard, the Lakers will have to sell him on a vision for 2014 and beyond. As a result, if championships are his goal, the Rockets are the safer bet for a whole host of reasons.

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.

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