“Hack-A” Is Stupid. Stop Doing It.

During the Nuggets-Jazz game Tuesday night, Denver, trailing late in the game, tried the “Hack-A” strategy on Rudy Gobert, who had started the game 1-of-6 from the line. Gobert is a poor free throw shooter (63.1 percent for his career.) But even if he were a 50 percent shooter, it would still be a stupid idea to hack him and send him to the line. If we strip every element of the Offensive Rating formula out except for free throw attempts, what we’re left with is PTS/(.44xFTA)x100. The free throw attempt multiplier takes into account the fact that not every …

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The Denver Nuggets’ Weird 2-1 Start

As the Denver Nuggets get ready to face the Utah Jazz (as this goes to press it’s about two hours from tipoff), they are going to have to overcome a weird and disturbing three-game start to the season. Sure, they’re two up and one down after losing 99-87 to Cleveland Monday night, but one 87-point game generally doesn’t drag a team too badly even in the first three. The Nuggets are 26th in the league in Offensive Rating at a pathetic 100.1. Combine that with their 99.6 pace (eighth-slowest in the rapid-fire NBA of 2021) and they’re not even cracking …

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Small Sample Sizes Make the Best NBA Stats (2021-22 Edition!)

It’s time for the third annual edition of Small Sample Sizes Make the Best NBA Stats! If you’re not familiar with the concept, you can read the 2019-20 edition or the 2020-21 version, but the basic idea is after the first week of the season, when every team has played two or three games, there are all kinds of wacky statistical anomalies from players and teams getting off to hot (or ice-cold) starts. Projecting them for the entire season can be all kinds of fun and produce some insane forecasts that speak to just how powerful the Law of Averages …

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The Washington Wizards’ Best Season: 1978

The Washington Wizards haven’t had much success since they dropped the name “Bullets” after the 1997 season. In point of fact, the Bullets/Wizards haven’t been any good since Wes Unseld—now the coach of the 2022 Wiz—retired in 1981. But during Unseld’s 13-year career, the Bullets were one of the NBA’s best teams throughout the 1970s, making four NBA Finals in nine years between 1971 and ’79. Trouble was, three of those Finals appearances resulted in losing to teams that peaked at the right time—two of those opponents, the 1971 Bucks and 1979 SuperSonics, had their best seasons in franchise history. …

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The Utah Jazz’s Best Season: 1997

The Utah Jazz enjoyed a 20-year run of success, making the playoffs every year from 1984 to 2003. For the second year of that run, they drafted John Stockton 16th overall. For the third, they drafted Karl Malone 13th. No team before or since has managed to grab Hall of Famers in the draft in consecutive years despite being locked in what is normally Mediocrity Hell; the Jazz went 45-37 in 1984 and 41-41 in 1985. 13 years later, the Jazz made consecutive NBA Finals to cap off the prime of their two long-standing superstars. And in 1997, Utah set …

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The Toronto Raptors’ Best Season: 2019

The Toronto Raptors seem to be in rebuild mode as the 2021-22 season begins, but if indeed that is the case and last year’s 27-45 record was a true sign of the franchise’s fall from grace, Raptors fans can look back fondly on a seven-year run from 2014 to 2020 that featured seven playoff appearances, nine playoff series wins, and a title. It is that championship in 2019—the franchise’s only ring and a sign of how a one-year rental on a player can go wonderfully right—that serves now as the high-water mark of the franchise. So let’s turn back the …

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The San Antonio Spurs’ Best Season: 2014

The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the NBA’s best franchises since they entered the league after the ABA merger in 1976. In 45 years, they’ve won five titles in the Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan era between 1999 and 2014, reached the conference finals in three out of five years between 1979 and 1983 when George Gervin was their biggest star, and until 2021, when a 33-39 season broke the streak, had never missed the playoffs in two consecutive years. To choose a best season from all of that, especially the run as perpetual contenders in the aughts and most …

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The Sacramento Kings’ Best Season: 2002

Since moving from Kansas City in 1985, the Sacramento Kings have just eight winning seasons, which came all in a row between 1999 and 2006. In a franchise history that stretches all the way back to the Rochester Royals joining the BAA for the 1948-49 season and winning the franchise’s only title in 1951, the squad has 23 winning seasons in 72 tries. The team is so far underwater that they could go 82-0 in the next five regular seasons and still end up far enough under .500 in franchise history that they’d have to keep winning almost to Christmas …

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The Portland Trail Blazers’ Best Season: 1977

The Portland Trail Blazers, since 1977, have missed the playoffs just eight times. They were just two wins away from making three straight NBA Finals between 1990 and 1992, losing to Magic Johnson and the Lakers in six games in the Western Conference Finals in 1991. Other than a lost decade between 2004 and 2013 that featured just three playoff appearances sandwiched with a five-year playoff absence before 2009 and a two-year drought after 2011, the only year they missed the playoffs was 1982. “Since 1977” is the key to all of this. Portland missed the playoffs in each of …

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The Phoenix Suns’ Best Season: 1993

The Phoenix Suns and playoff disappointment go together like guns and ammo. You can’t have one without the other. The best regular season of the John MacLeod coaching era in the 1970s and early ’80s came in 1981, where they went 57-25…and lost to the Kansas City Kings, who had gone 40-42 that year. The Mike D’Antoni-coached, Steve Nash-directed Suns of the mid-aughts won 62 games in 2005 and 61 in 2007 and lost in the West finals in ’05 and the second round in ’07. And the 2021 Suns went 51-21 (a 58-24 82-game pace) made the playoffs for …

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