My favorite contemporary writer, the incomparable Bill James, has used the “In a Box” concept in several of his books. Basically what James does is choose a topic (e.g., a baseball manager) and then makes an idiosyncratic list of the topic’s defining features. I think the format works well for a blog post, so today I would like to put the the 1980s NBA “In a Box”.
IN A BOX: THE 1980S NBA*
* Includes the 1979-80 through 1988-89 seasons.
Attendance: 111 million (110,789,364)
|1987-88 Detroit Pistons||1,066,505||1982-83 San Diego Clippers||158,887|
|Los Angeles Lakers||6,414,692||Los Angeles/SD Clippers||3,000,479|
The Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets actually had the lowest total attendance figures, but they were expansion teams that debuted in the 1988-89 season. They will also be omitted from any cumulative “bests” or “worsts” that appear below.
New Orleans Jazz to Utah, 1979-80
San Diego Clippers to Los Angeles, 1984-85
Kansas City Kings to Sacramento, 1985-86
Best W-L Record by Team:
|1985-86 Boston Celtics||67-15||.817|
The Celtics made five appearances in the NBA Finals — winning three titles — and had six of the decade’s top 13 win-loss records.
Worst W-L Record by Team:
|1986-87 Los Angeles Clippers||12-70||.146|
The Clippers were the only team to play the entire decade without making a playoff appearance.
Having Their Best Decade:
Having Their Worst Decade:
|San Antonio Spurs||387-433||.472|
Home-Court Winning Percentage: .649
This represents the second highest home-court winning percentage in a decade in NBA history, trailing only the 1950s.
Largest Home-Court Advantage: Denver Nuggets, +.400
In an average season, the Nuggets were 30-11 at home and 13-28 on the road.
Tallest Player: Manute Bol, 7’7″
Bol and Gheorghe Muresan (also 7’7″) are the tallest players in NBA history.
Shortest Player: Muggsy Bogues, 5’3″
Bogues is the shortest player in NBA history.
Heaviest Player: Geoff Crompton, 280 lbs.
Crompton reportedly weighed 325 pounds when he he reported to the University of North Carolina as a freshman.
Lightest Player: Spud Webb, 133 lbs.
Webb is the lightest player in NBA history.
Best Players by Season:
Most Win Shares:
|Michael Jordan, 1987-88||21.2|
Jordan had the top three single season win share figures in the decade. In addition to the season listed above, he had 19.8 win shares in 1988-89 and 16.9 in 1986-87.
Best Offense by Team:
|1987-88 Los Angeles Lakers||115.6|
|Los Angeles Lakers||111.9|
The Lakers appear five times on a list of the decade’s nine most efficient offenses.
Worst Offense by Team:
|1982-83 Houston Rockets||97.0|
|New Jersey Nets||103.6.|
The 1982-83 Rockets were one of the worst teams in NBA history, finishing 14-68 with an adjusted margin of victory of -11.1 points per game.
All Offense/No Defense (Team): 1981-82 Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets finished first in points scored per 100 possessions (114.3) and last in points allowed per 100 possessions (113.9).
Best Defense by Team:
|1982-83 New Jersey Nets||98.9|
From 1980-81 through 1986-87, the Bucks finished in the top four in points allowed per 100 possessions in all but one season (1982-83, when they finished sixth).
Worst Defense by Team:
|1981-82 Denver Nuggets||113.9|
Starting with the 1980-81 season, the Nuggets had either the worst or second-worst defensive rating three times in four seasons (they were fourth worst in 1982-83).
All Defense/No Offense (Team): 1982-83 Washington Bullets
The Bullets finished second in points allowed per 100 possessions (99.3) and next-to-last in points scored per 100 possessions (99.1).
Best Backcourt: 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers
Point guard Magic Johnson averaged a career high 23.9 points per game and won his first MVP award, shooting guard Byron Scott averaged 17.4 points per game and was fourth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage, and sixth man Michael Cooper had the second-best offensive season of his career and was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Best Frontcourt: 1985-86 Boston Celtics
Totals in seasonal notation, based on 82 games.
The selections of Jordan over Sidney Moncrief and Barkley over Kevin McHale were difficult, but in the end the peak seasons of Jordan and Barkley could not be ignored. Based on win shares, Jordan had the top three seasons of the decade (1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89), followed by two of Barkley’s seasons (1987-88, 1988-89).
Coach of the Decade: Pat Riley, Los Angeles Lakers
Riley had an average win-loss record of 60-22 during the regular season, and in the postseason he piloted the Lakers to four championships.
All Offense/No Defense (Player): Kiki Vandeweghe
VanDeWeghe had 65.1 win shares for the decade, with 90.7 percent of them coming at the offensive end. No other player with at least 25 win shares had a higher percentage of their win shares generated on offense.
All Defense/No Offense (Player): Mark Eaton
For the decade, Eaton had 28.2 win shares, with 123.4 percent of them coming at the offensive end. Wait a second, that has to be a typo, right? No, it’s not: Easton finished the decade with 34.8 defensive win shares and -6.6 offensive win shares.
New Statistics: The 3-point shot was introduced at the start of the decade, so 3-point field goals made and attempted and 3-point field goal percentage became official statistics. This also led to the formulation of effective field goal percentage* (an unofficial statistic), an adjusted field goal percentage that takes into account the extra point provided by a made 3-point shot.
* Mike Dunleavy supposedly came up with the formula when he was negotiating his own contract in the early part of the decade.