1992: The Worst NBA All-Star Game

The sharp and complete transition between two eras in the NBA doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it’s downright jarring, like a major geopolitical shift after a war rather than a passing of the torch where the next generation asserts itself as the older generation declines. I don’t mean something like Michael Jordan‘s retirement in 1998 either. That was not ultimately an instant sea change. It was if you’re a Bulls fan, but legends drafted in the mid-80s still had their rivalries going—the Pacers and Knicks in the East, the Jazz, Rockets, Spurs, Trail Blazers, and Suns in the …

Read More

The Greatest NBA Players Not in the Hall of Fame

There are currently 34 players in NBA history with at least 100 Win Shares who are not in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Of those, nine—in descending order, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbrook—are still active. It’s probably safe to say all nine will eventually end up in the Hall after they retire, and five (James, Paul, Durant, Harden, and Curry) are absolute locks to go in on the first ballot. Another eight—Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Vince Carter, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tyson Chandler, and …

Read More

A Wild 2021 Finish Brews in the Western Conference

Through games of May 2, the Western Conference features a three-way tie at 36-28 for the 5 seed with just eight games to go in the regular season. And as alluded to in last week’s “6 is the New 8”, this is a fantastic year to have such a three-car pileup on the NBA standings highway. Most of the time, when you get a tie across a bunch of mid-seeds, it’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as all that hangs in the balance is who gets to host whom in what ultimately meaningless Game 1 of a …

Read More

6 is the New 8: The Fight To Avoid the NBA 2021 Play-In Games

As this article goes to press on the evening of April 29, the NBA has on its hands a fascinating look into the wisdom of choosing a four-team play-in tournament to decide the final two playoff spots in this truncated 72-game season. In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are tied for the sixth spot at 33-30. In the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks hold a half-game lead, 34-27 vs. 34-28, over the Portland Trail Blazers. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal; the big race would be 8 vs. 9 to determine who gets to either …

Read More

Portland’s Painful Regression Has Begun

See? I told you so. A few weeks back (April 6, to be exact), I pointed out that the Portland Trail Blazers had a won-lost record that seemed not at all to correlate with the points scored and allowed in their actual games. They were a slightly sub-.500 team posting wins like a squad that wins 50 games in a normal 82-game season. Since I said that (early enough in the day that they hadn’t yet played the Los Angeles Clippers that night), Portland is 2-8. And what’s more, four of those losses, including the last three in a row, …

Read More

1992: The Glorious Apex of Horace Grant

There have, at points in NBA history, been seasons where a good-but-not-great player came out of absolute nowhere to reach such lofty heights that, when they regressed back to their natural talent level, lapsed into history as one of those seasons that becomes a gee-whiz moment like “wait, he did WHAT?” Josh Smith did it in 2010, finishing fourth in the league in VORP in the only season he hit more than half of his shots before shooting his way out of the NBA entirely. Brandon Roy did it a year before—he was always very good during his brief but …

Read More

16 Games Without LeBron, What’s Up with the Lakers?

When LeBron James went down with an ankle injury that could cause him to miss the rest of the regular season as the Los Angeles Lakers save him for the playoffs, and with Anthony Davis still out and having not played since February 14, Lakers fans had every reason to panic despite standing at 28-13 at the time of LeBron’s injury. Since then, including the loss to the Atlanta Hawks that was the end result of the game in which LeBron got hurt, the Lakers are 7-9, having played .500 ball over their last 10 games in which every loss …

Read More

Russell Westbrook Keeps Breaking Advanced Stats

Remember 2017? When Russell Westbrook snookered everyone into thinking he was historically great by averaging a triple-double over the course of a season for the first time since Oscar Robertson did it 55 years before? And remember when those of us in the media lost our minds and gave him the MVP award? Well, he’s spent the past four years making us all look like idiots, and in 2021, he is once again averaging a triple-double—this will be the fourth time in his career he’s managed the feat if he keeps it up—and making the kind of people who still …

Read More

The Most Underachieving Teams in NBA History

In our last piece, we took a look at the most overachieving teams in NBA history—that is, the teams whose regular-season records most exceeded the record you’d expect them to post given their point differential. But what about the flip side of that? What about teams that did great on the aggregate scoreboard but lost far more games than the stats say they should have? We’re going to look at that today. Some of these teams missed the playoffs when they should’ve gotten in. Others had a lower seed and a tougher road. And still others got a better draft …

Read More

The Most Overachieving Teams in NBA History

In every team sport where points (or goals) are counted to determine a winner, there is a strong correlation between point differential and won-lost record. Indeed, two major sports—baseball and basketball—have developed mathematical formulas to predict with startling accuracy the overall record of a team in any given year. And indeed, when that ledger gets too far out of balance, it is often a sign that a team is about to sharply regress toward its expected record, all other things being equal (that is, they didn’t punt on the season at the trade deadline after a below-expectation start, for example.) …

Read More