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”.
When I was a kid, I can remember looking at a basketball encyclopedia and being amazed by some of the statistics from the 1960s:
- Wilt Chamberlain once scored over 50 points per game.
- Bill Russell annually grabbed over 20 rebounds per game.
- Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double for an entire season.
And the list goes on.
I was born in the 1970s, but the decade I most closely identify with my childhood is the 1980s. We had Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and later Michael Jordan, but I can remember thinking “These guys are good, but they must not be that good. Their numbers aren’t close to those put up by guys like Chamberlain, Russell, and Robertson.”
As we head into the last four weeks of the 2013-14 NBA season, I thought I would take another look at how the MVP race is shaping up. Here are my top five candidates through games of March 18, 2014:
Using the team ratings found on KenPom.com, I ran 10,000 simulations of this year’s NCAA tournament. A summary of the results of those simulations appears below.
I used the K.I.S.S.* method for these simulations, so I did not make any adjustments for injured players (e.g., Kansas and Joel Embiid), “hot” teams (e.g., Michigan St.), or distance traveled (e.g., Arizona will not have to travel very far in their regional).
* Keep It Simple, Stupid
The San Antonio Spurs have been a juggernaut in the Tim Duncan era*, winning four NBA titles and finishing with 50 or more wins in every season but one**.
* The 1997-98 season to present.
** That would be the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, when San Antonio won 74.0 percent of its games and claimed its first NBA championship.
In the Duncan era, the Spurs have had a winning record 96.5 percent of the time during the regular season. To put that number in perspective, the only other franchise to break 80 percent over that time period is the Los Angeles Lakers, a distant second at 80.8 percent.
And over that same span, the Spurs have had the NBA’s best record on 15.5 percent of all days during the regular season, second only to the Lakers (16.5 percent).
After yesterday’s 19-point loss to the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks are now 21-39 and almost a sure bet to lose 50 games.
This disaster of a season follows a 54-win campaign in 2012-13, and as I mentioned on Twitter this morning that would put the Knicks in rarefied air:
NYK on pace to become 6th team in NBA history to follow a 50-W season with a 50-L season (62 STL, 81 ATL, 95 GSW, 97 SAS, 11 CLE).
— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) March 3, 2014
I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at the NBA teams that went from 50 wins one season to 50 losses the next.
First, I need to apologize for how long it’s been since I’ve written. I realize there’s not much point in having a blog if it’s going to go dark for almost three months. Unfortunately there were some things going on related to my career that needed my attention. Now that these things have been dealt with, though, I’m hoping to write on a more regular basis.
The other day on Grantland.com, Bill Simmons shared the following email from one of his readers:
Did Willie Burton lose the trophy for “Most Random Player to Score 50 in an NBA Game” to Terrence Ross? I’m waiting for Contract Year Rodney Stuckey 50 point game. It’s coming.
–Tony N., Richmond, Virginia
I know Tony N. was only being semi-serious, but that’s a great question, and it’s one I’d like to try to answer in this post.
One of my favorite topics when it comes to sports is player comparison. Was Barry Bonds a better hitter than Babe Ruth? Was Jim Brown the best running back of all time? Who was the most efficient scorer in basketball history?
In a sport such as baseball, questions similar to those above are easier to answer thanks to the detailed statistical history of the game.
But in basketball, we are left with a very incomplete statistical record prior to the mid-1970s. The NBA did not record offensive rebounds, steals, or blocks until the 1973-74 season, and player turnovers were not recorded until the 1977-78 season.*
* It should be noted that the ABA was ahead of the game in this regard. Player turnovers are available for all ABA seasons; offensive rebounds are available for all players starting with the 1968-69 season; and steals and blocks are available for all players starting with the 1973-74 season.
As we near the end of the first quarter of the 2013-14 NBA season, I thought I would take a look at how the MVP race is shaping up. Here are my top five candidates through games of December 3, 2013:
The Keltner List is a series of subjective questions formulated by famed sabermetrician Bill James used to help assess whether or not a player deserves to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Although the system was designed to evaluate baseball players, with a few minor tweaks it can also be used to assess the Hall-worthiness of basketball players. Today I will assess the Hall of Fame chances of Kevin Johnson.