Every NBA franchise, ranked (part 3)

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On Twitter, Jacob Greenberg of The Diss posed the following question:


After seeing someone respond with “Bucks” — many erroneously believe that consistently finishing the season in the 7-10 range is the worst place to be in the NBA — I felt compelled to examine the question a bit more closely. Using a very simple measure of success — regular season winning percentage, number of playoff home games, and coaching changes — I’m ranking every NBA franchise over the last 5, 10, and 15 years. Part 1 and part 2 covered the last 5 and 10 NBA seasons, respectively. Today I’ll be looking at the top and bottom franchises of the last 15 NBA seasons.

Top 5

1. San Antonio Spurs

  • W%: 70.4%
  • Home Playoff games: 105
  • Coaches: 1

No, that’s not a typo — over the last 15 years, the Spurs have had the same winning percentage that they had over the last 10 years, and that’s pretty insane. To win an average of 58 games a season over 15+ years is remarkable. They’ve also had success in the playoffs, as they also tied for first (with the Lakers) in the number of playoff games hosted. And they did it all without changing their coach even once.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

  • W%: 64.4%
  • Home Playoff games: 105
  • Coaches: 9

Moving the needle back to 1998-99 means that the Lakers’ three straight championships are included in the data, and that gives them the second best record and has them tied for first in home playoff games. But even though Phil Jackson coached the team in 11 of those 15 seasons, the Lakers somehow still managed to have 9 coaches in 15 years. Surely the Phil Jackson ship has sailed in L.A., so it will be interesting to see how they do without him.

3. Dallas Mavericks

  • W%: 64.0%
  • Home Playoff games: 64
  • Coaches: 3

The story for the Mavs in the past 15 years is the same as it is for their past 10 years: very good during the regular season and with a decent amount of playoff success, but not as much as you would expect given their record. Still, the turnaround the team has experienced since Mark Cuban bought the team in January of 2000 has been remarkable.

4. Miami Heat

  • W%: 56.5%
  • Home Playoff games: 82
  • Coaches: 3

The Heat have the hosted the third-most playoff games over the past 15 years but have endured a couple of painful seasons in between rebuilds. If any NBA team shows why tanking doesn’t work, it’s Miami. Trades and free agent signings have been the drivers behind their success, and their one stereotypical tanking season led to the #2 pick and Michael Beasley. Who is now on their team for the veteran’s minimum.

5. Boston Celtics

  • W%: 53.8%
  • Home Playoff games: 70
  • Coaches: 4

Anyone remember the Antoine Walker Celtics? The five years we’ve added to the sample are all years that Walker played for Boston. All I can remember from that time is Walker bricking a ton of threes and Paul Pierce jumping on the scorer’s table after their comeback against the Nets. Still, their recent six year run was so good that it’s enough to keep them in the top five.

Bottom 5

29. Washington Wizards

  • W%: 38.3%
  • Home Playoff games: 13
  • Coaches: 10

Dead last in winning percentage and tied for second last in playoff home games, the Wiz also went through the most coaches during this period. The sad thing is that Washington’s best season in the past 34 years — 45 wins in 2004-05 — is included in the sample. That’s right: the Wizards have not won more than 45 games in a season since 1979. Now that is hopeless.

28. Golden State Warriors

  • W%: 39.9%
  • Home Playoff games: 11
  • Coaches: 9

It’s hard to believe, but the Warriors have actually been worse over the past 15 years than the Clippers. Sure, they have identical regular season records over that time, but they’ve hosted fewer playoff games and gone through more coaches.

27. Los Angeles Clippers

  • W%: 39.9%
  • Home Playoff games: 14
  • Coaches: 7

This is a list of terrible franchises and the Clippers aren’t dead last?!? Chris Paul has been with the team for two seasons, and both seasons have been better than any Clippers/Braves season that came before them. Which just goes to show how important it is to get your hands on one of the league’s few true superstars.

26. Memphis Grizzlies

  • W%: 42.2%
  • Home Playoff games: 23
  • Coaches: 8

The Grizzlies have had a a couple of decent seasons and have actually strung together four straight seasons where they’ve won 40 or more games. But when the Grizz haven’t won 40 or more games, they’ve kept their win totals in the 20s. Still, it should only take one or two more seasons before they surpass the team directly ahead of them on the list….

25. Toronto Raptors

  • W%: 43.5%
  • Home Playoff games: 13
  • Coaches: 6

With the fifth-worst record and tied for the second fewest playoff home games, the Raptors have been quite bad. They’ve only cracked the 0.500 mark four times in their history, and the franchise record for most games won in a season is a mere 47. The only team with such a pathetic max wins count in the last 15 years are the Wizards (see above). The Raptors will have to do better if they want to keep their fans — even the Maple Leafs manage to advance in the playoffs every now and then.

Final Notes (and Results)

This is the third time that the Bucks are absent from the bottom five teams. Two much more illustrious franchises — the Knicks and the Bulls — rank below them. In fact, we should remember that, right after Michael Jordan retired for the second time, the Bulls had a six year stretch where they averaged 20 wins a season. Last season, only the Orlando Magic managed to equal that figure, and some years no teams win only 20 or fewer games. Even highly regarded franchises can go through tough spells. But the Bucks? Their dry spells haven’t been all that bad compared to several other NBA teams that ended up below them in the rankings.

No team has been more hopeless over the past 15 seasons than the Washington Wizards. But the question is “which NBA team is the most hopeless right now“, and the Wizards probably won’t end up having the most hopeless year this season. Is it the Charlotte Bobcats, who look like they being run into the ground by one of the greatest basketball players of all time? Or maybe it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves, who seemed poised to finally break their long playoff drought last year, only to be undone by countless injuries. Or maybe it’s the Sacramento Kings, although the good feelings from the new ownership have probably helped fans forget about their recent disappointments. Reasonable people can disagree. But the Bucks? The numbers show that they should be out of the question.

Here is the full table of results:

Rank Team Percentile (15Y)
1 San Antonio Spurs 99.8%
2 Los Angeles Lakers 95.2%
3 Dallas Mavericks 93.8%
4 Miami Heat 92.2%
5 Boston Celtics 82.6%
6 Utah Jazz 78.1%
7 Indiana Pacers 74.1%
8 Detroit Pistons 71.5%
9 Phoenix Suns 63.8%
10 Houston Rockets 53.9%
11 Oklahoma City Thunder 51.8%
12 Orlando Magic 49.6%
13 Denver Nuggets 46.8%
14 Portland Trailblazers 46.5%
15 Philadelphia 76ers 45.0%
16 Sacramento Kings 42.9%
17 New Orleans Pelicans 39.2%
18 Atlanta Hawks 32.7%
19 Brooklyn Nets 31.1%
20 Milwaukee Bucks 31.0%
21 Cleveland Cavaliers 28.7%
22 New York Knicks 26.4%
23 Chicago Bulls 25.1%
24 Minnesota Timberwolves 23.8%
25 Toronto Raptors 18.7%
26 Memphis Grizzlies 16.0%
27 Los Angeles Clippers 11.8%
28 Golden State Warriors 7.4%
29 Washington Wizards 5.4%
30 Charlotte Bobcats NA

– Devin

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