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December 21, 2008
Prospectus Hoops List
December 20, 2008

by Bradford Doolittle

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Wednesday afternoon, I was on a Boston radio station (1510 the Zone), defending the fact that the Celtics, 23-2 at the time and riding a 15-game winning streak, were not sitting comfortably on top of the Hoops List.

Well, shoot, how do you poke holes in the performance of a team on pace to win 76 games? What isn't there to like about the Celtics? Besides the won-lost record, Boston has thus far nearly matched last season's remarkable point differential (10.0 this year vs. 10.3 last season). Their defensive efficiency is again the best in the league, even better than last year, which has offset a slight dip on the offensive end. The ascension of Rajon Rondo has turned the Big Three into the Big Four. What in the name of Red Auerbach is the problem?

There is no problem, of course. The champion Celtics have not changed in any meaningful way since last season. What has changed is the caliber of competition. The reason the Celtics weren't No. 1 is because of the remarkable start by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who sport a +13.1 point differential and are on pace to win a franchise-record 69 games. Meanwhile, the Lakers were on pace to win 72 (prior to Friday night's loss in Miami, that is) and have a +10.3 in the point differential department.

After stating the Cavs' case as eloquently as I could, while also acknowledging that if I were rating teams subjectively, I'd without a doubt have the Celtics on top, Boston went out a few hours later and took a hard-fought road contest in Atlanta. Lo and behold, the win nudged the Celtics ahead of Cleveland. Boston reclaims the No. 1 spot for the first time since the second week of the season.

The Celtics, Cavs and Lakers have spent the first 30 percent of the season putting a considerable gap between themselves and the rest of the league. The Cavs' power ranking (66.3) would put them more than 16 games above Orlando, the third-best team in the East, by the end of the season. The Lakers' 62.7 rating projects to 7.5 wins above the next-best team in the West, Portland. That gap, however, seems to shrink a little bit every week.

It's still relatively early and perhaps the power trio atop the NBA won't be able to maintain the torrid pace they've set to date. However, if they did, it would be historic-type stuff. Since the ABA-NBA merger, just four teams--three Michael Jordan-era Bulls teams and last year's Celtics--have notched double-digit point differentials. If three teams are able to get there this season, well, that would be something.

Since we're talking history, this week I'm offering up some franchise comps. For each team, I've tried to match this year's version with its most-similar counterpart since the ABA days. Using a cross section of team metrics, including Dean Oliver's Four Factors, offensive and defensive efficiency and a couple of others, I've calculated similarity scores between this year's squad and each version of each franchise going back to the 1976-77.

Obviously, many of the teams' most-similar predecessors turn out to be from the last year or two. So I'm ignoring the four seasons previous to this one. My hope is that this helps you get a handle on how your favorite team shapes up by matching them with a squad for which you have some historical context. At the same time, it might prove instructive to see how those older teams made out when playoff time came around, if they managed to get to the playoffs. On top of all that, it gives me a chance to invoke some names of the NBA's past and I love NBA history.

This will be the last Hoops List until a day or two after Christmas so whether you celebrate that, something else or nothing at all, happy holidays, peace and best wishes to you and yours.

RANK (Last Week) Team (Power rating) [ WIN PACE / PYTHAGOREAN PACE / PRESEASON PROJECTION ]

(Statistics through Dec. 18)

1. (3) Boston Celtics (67.0) [ 75 / 66 / 63 ]
Rankings: NET: 2; OFF: 6; DEF: 1; PACE: 18

Most similar to 1983-84: This was the second of the three Celtics championship teams of the 1980s. I was a little surprised that the '85-86 squad that won 67 games didn't turn out to be most similar. In fact, last year's Celtics were most like this year's Celtics but, after that, the next three were the teams that went to the NBA finals all three years from 1984 to 1986. While it was close, the '83-'84 team was the best match because they committed more turnovers--a malady which affects this year's Celtics--and were similarly dominant on the offensive boards. Larry Bird, at 27, was in his prime while Kevin McHale was still Boston's sixth man. Cedric Maxwell started alongside Bird and Gerald Henderson started in the backcourt with Dennis Johnson, a slot occupied the following year by Danny Ainge.

2. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers (66.3) [ 68 / 71 / 44 ]
Rankings: NET: 1; OFF: 1; DEF: 2; PACE: 24

Most similar to 1992-93: The Cavaliers have won 57 games twice in their history, a franchise record that this year's edition is threatening to shatter into small pieces. Prior to LeBron James, the salad days for Cleveland came under Lenny Wilkens, from 1987-88 to 1992-93. The last of those squads was the best match for this year's Cavs. That team won 54 games and was swept in the Eastern Conference semifinals by Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Like this year's Cavs, the '93 team was terrific offensively (114.3 offensive efficiency vs. 116.0) and had almost dead-on matches in eFG%, turnover rate and free-throw rate. What that team didn't have was a player like James. Instead, the '93 Cavs were led by a balanced core trio of Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance and Mark Price. Among the role players, current Cleveland GM Danny Ferry played 76 games that season. The next season, the slow descent began. Daugherty's physical problems began to surface and Gerald Wilkins took the place of Craig Ehlo alongside Price. Mike Fratello led Cleveland to three 47-win seasons but they didn't escape the first round of the playoffs again until James was on the scene.

3. (2) Los Angeles Lakers (62.7) [ 71 / 65 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 3; OFF: 3; DEF: 4; PACE: 3

Most similar to 1999-00: Since the Lakers play at a fast pace, I thought maybe one of the Showtime teams from the 1980s would surface as their best match but, instead, it's the first of the Shaq/Kobe three-peat teams. That team won 67 games, more than any of the Magic Johnson teams, was similarly tough on defense to this year's crew, though they went about it in different ways. The older squad had a much better opposing eFG% (.443 to .478) but this year's team forces more turnovers and does a better job on the offensive glass. Shaquille O'Neal was the dominant force on that LA squad, averaging nearly 30 points per game, while Kobe Bryant passed the 20-points per game mark for the first time in his career. As for the Showtime Lakers, the best match was the '86-'87 champions that won 65 games. Pretty good comps for this year's Lakers.

4. (4) Portland Trail Blazers (55.2) [ 51 / 53 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 6; OFF: 2; DEF: 21; PACE: 30

Most similar to 2001-02: No, it's not the 1976-77 Blazers that Portland fans might have been hoping for as a perfect match. Instead, it's the first Maurice Cheeks version of the Blazers that won 49 games and lost in the first round of the playoffs. That's kind of a letdown. That team also played at a slow pace but was a little more defensive-oriented than this year's group. The Blazers of that era also featured a deep roster but unlike this year's team that is crammed with young talent, the '02 team was a veteran bunch. Bonzi Wells, at 25, was the youngest rotation player then while this year's Blazers have seven players that age or younger playing prominent roles.

5. (5) Denver Nuggets (54.7) [ 55 / 55 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 5; OFF: 8; DEF: 5; PACE: 5

Most similar to 1994-95: An interesting match, though it should be noted that the most similar squads are the Nuggets of the last three seasons, which we're leaving out in this exercise. The '95 Nuggets were a .500 team that eked into the playoffs and lost in the first round. This year's Nuggets seem capable of more than that. The two squads are almost a dead-on match offensively, but this year's team is much better on the defensive end. The top players on the '95 Nuggets were Dikembe Mutombo, Reggie Williams and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. Another interesting character from that squad: Bison Dele.

6. (7) New Orleans Hornets (54.5) [ 55 / 55 / 45 ]
Rankings: NET: 7; OFF: 5; DEF: 11; PACE: 29

Most similar to 1994-95: Last year's Hornets are the actual best match, as you'd expect, but after that you have to go back to one of the best of the Charlotte Hornet squads of the mid-'90s. The Hornets went 50-32 that season and lost in the first round of the East playoffs. Statistically, the teams are almost a dead match except this year's Hornets are better on the offensive glass. That's something of surprise since the older group was built around Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson. The point guard on the '95 Hornets was Muggsy Bogues, a worthy antecedent for Chris Paul.

7. (6) Houston Rockets (51.6) [ 52 / 51 / 61 ]
Rankings: NET: 9; OFF: 16; DEF: 6; PACE: 22

Most similar to 1994-95: Good news, Rockets fans. This is the third team already whose best comp won the NBA title. The '95 Rockets were the second of back-to-back championship squads, a pair of fat mice playing while a mouse named Michael Jordan was away. Both versions of the Rockets were/are tough on the road. This year's team is more defensive-oriented. While this year's Rockets are deep, they nonetheless have an easily identifiable core trio of Yao Ming, Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady. The '95 champs were led by Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and a whole slew of solid role players like Kenny Smith and Vernon Maxwell.

8. (10) Orlando Magic (50.0) [ 63 / 56 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 4; OFF: 10; DEF: 3; PACE: 9

Most similar to 1995-96: An encouraging match for the Magic. The '96 Magic was the last Orlando team with Shaquille O'Neal, featuring a classic starting five of O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and Horace Grant. Like the current Magic, that team wasn't very deep. The '96 group won 60 games, while this year's Magic are on pace to win 63. Both squads outplayed their point differential. This year's team plays better defense but, other than that, the numbers are very close. In the 1996 playoffs, the Magic were dispatched in four games in the East finals by the Bulls' team that won 72 games. The '96 Magic were great at the wrong time and, when you think about it, the same thing could happen to this year's Magic.

9. (9) Atlanta Hawks (49.7) [ 49 / 45 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 12; OFF: 11; DEF: 12; PACE: 25

Most similar to 1995-96: Before the Hawks emerged from a decade-long slumber during the second half last season, they enjoyed nearly two decades of respectability. The names changed--John Drew/Tree Rollins/Dan Roundfield became Dominique Wilkins/Doc Rivers/Kevin Willis and finally turned into Steve Smith/Christian Laettner/Mookie Blaylock. The '96 Hawks won 46 games and reached the East semifinals. This year's Hawks are better overall on defense but the older group forced a ton of turnovers. Other than that, they're very close. The next season, that version of the Hawks topped out at 56 games but still couldn't get past the second round. At the rate of growth of this year's Hawks, you can imagine a similar ceiling, but probably not this year.

10. (8) Dallas Mavericks (47.4) [ 47 / 48 / 51 ]
Rankings: NET: 11; OFF: 14; DEF: 9; PACE: 11

Most similar to 2000-01: That was the first Don Nelson-coached Dallas squad that broke through, winning 53 games and getting to the second round in the postseason. That Mavs haven't won fewer than 51 games in any season since then. With a win pace of 47 games supported by a Pythagorean pace of 48, that streak is in jeopardy. Dirk Nowitzki was also the featured player on the '01 squad, joined by Steve Nash and Michael Finley in the core trio. When you think about it, teaming Josh Howard and Jason Kidd isn't that different, except two of the three are a whole lot older.

11. (11) Phoenix Suns (47.1) [ 47 / 41 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 13; OFF: 4; DEF: 24; PACE: 10

Most similar to 1994-95: When you step back and look at the Suns in the big picture, it becomes pretty clear that the recent cycle of success for Phoenix has about run its course. For the four years previous to this one, the Suns won 54 games or more while playing at a pace of 95 or more possessions per game. This year, the pace has crawled back to the pre-Steve Nash level of about 91 possessions per game. Whether or not there is cause and effect regarding that fact and the following one, I leave up to you to decide: The Suns are worse on both offense and defense than at any time since Nash joined the team. So while the four most recent Suns teams aren't eligible for this piece anyway, it's worth noting that none of the those unique squads is the top match for this year's team. For that, you have to go back to 1994-95, when Paul Westphal roamed the sidelines and Charles Barkley was in his last gasp as a Sun. The '95 team also featured notables like Mayor Kevin Johnson, who was limited to 35 starts that season because of injuries; inspirational jazzman Wayman Tisdale; Boston GM Danny Ainge; and colossal waste of talent, Richard Dumas. It was sort of a hodge-podge of a roster. Sort of like the one Steve Kerr has assembled this year. However the news isn't all bad: That hodge-podge won 59 games in '94-95. Like this year's team, that squad played well over their heads according to Pythagoras but still managed to reach the second round of the playoffs. The two seasons subsequent to that were .500-type seasons in Phoenix, which is where this edition of the Suns is headed with this collection of players.

12. (15) San Antonio Spurs (46.5) [ 49 / 48 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 10; OFF: 12; DEF: 10; PACE: 27

Most similar to 1993-94: The other day, I saw a documentary about the Ramones in which Rob Zombie said that the best part about seeing the Ramones, is that they never changed. No matter much time had passed, they looked and sounded just the same. I'm starting to think that holds true for the Spurs. Some of the names change. Things seem to be sliding at times and the end of the Spurs as we know them seems to be at hand. Really, though, not much has changed and they look and play the same as ever. That how it seems, anyway. The top match for this year's Spurs is last year's Spurs. Prior to that, though, you have to go back to the 1993-94 edition. That was two years before Gregg Popovich took over. Tim Duncan was in his freshman year at Wake Forest. San Antonio won 55 games that year but lost to the Jazz in four games in the first round of the postseason. John Lucas coached David Robinson to his best season. The Admiral averaged nearly 30 points per game and posted a PER above 30. He dipped ever so slightly the following year but won his only MVP award--that's how it goes sometimes. Other than Robinson, the roster included Dennis Rodman, who averaged more than 17 rebounds per game, Dale Ellis and current Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. The similarity to this year's squad stems from an identical defensive efficiency figure (albeit in a different league context) built upon a fairly conservative defensive scheme that doesn't force a bunch of turnovers. Unlike this year's team, however, the '94 Spurs didn't sacrifice offensive rebounding for defensive efficiency, not that Rodman would have allowed that to happen anyway.

13. (12) Utah Jazz (46.2) [ 48 / 51 / 50 ]
Rankings: NET: 8; OFF: 7; DEF: 8; PACE: 14

Most similar to 2002-03: This was the last run for the Stockton/Malone Jazz. Karl Malone was off to L.A. after the season while John Stockton called it quits at the age of 40. Current Jazz Matt Harpring, Andrei Kirilenko and Jarron Collins were already on the scene. Instead of the young, talented roster around them now, those three were surrounded by vets like Mark Jackson and Calbert Cheaney as well as mediocrities like Greg Ostertag and Scott Padgett. The Jazz's 20-year playoff run ended with the '03 campaign. Utah won 47 games and the rebuild was on. It's tough to say that any squad is similar to this year's Jazz when Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer have barely spent any time on the court at the same time this season.

14. (13) Detroit Pistons (42.8) [ 49 / 41 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 15; OFF: 13; DEF: 20; PACE: 26

Most similar to 2001-02: This makes sense. The top match for the Pistons is the first team to break through in the franchise's current run of success. That was a changing-of-the-guard team, as is this one. Then, something was just beginning. Now, the picture is a little more muddled. Joe Dumars, you would figure, has a transition plan in mind. That plan is not yet exactly clear. The '03 Pistons were the last Detroit team without Chauncey Billups running the point--until this year's team. That team was led in scoring by a former Sixer guard: Jerry Stackhouse, whose part is played by Allen Iverson this season. Piston coach Michael Curry started 75 games for Detroit in '03, posting a 6.2 PER in the process. Thankfully, as a coach he does not seem to have the same propensity for playing players like himself.

15. (14) Chicago Bulls (40.1) [ 39 / 35 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 16; OFF: 23; DEF: 14; PACE: 6

Most similar to 1985-86: Well, this is fun. If this year's Bulls were going to match with any of the Michael Jordan-era teams, it would be this one. That was the year that Jordan missed 64 games with a foot injury, leaving Stan Albeck with a core trio of a decrepit George Gervin, Orlando Woolridge and Sidney Green. Jerry Krause had Chicago aimed straight for the lottery, but Jordan returned in time to foil those plans, willing the team into the playoffs despite a 30-52 record and then scoring 63 points in a first-round game against the Celtics. The two versions of the Bulls had similar struggles on the road, shot the ball about the same, forced exactly the same rate of turnovers and probably share a similar playoff fate, sans the Jordan outburst.

16. (20) Milwaukee Bucks (38.6) [ 33 / 34 / 31 ]
Rankings: NET: 22; OFF: 24; DEF: 16; PACE: 13

Most similar to 1992-93: The '93 Bucks were just another edition of a franchise that has floundered for the better part of the last 18 years, save for one outstanding season under George Karl. Like this year's team, they also had a new coach (Mike Dunleavy). There is not much to recommend the '93 Bucks, whose core trio consisted of Blue Edwards, Eric Murdock and, I guess, Frank Brickowski. An ancient version of Moses Malone made an appearance on that team. None of the young players on the squad--Lee Mayberry, Murdock, Todd Day--developed into long-term stars. Milwaukee fans hope the same doesn't hold true for the likes of Andrew Bogut, Luc Mbah a Moute and Joe Alexander.

17. (17) Indiana Pacers (37.9) [ 29 / 35 / 41 ]
Rankings: NET: 18; OFF: 21; DEF: 18; PACE: 4

Most similar to 1988-89: The '89 Pacers were the last truly bad Indiana team until the season before last. They won 28 games under four different coaches. The roster had young talents like Reggie Miller, Chuck Person, Rik Smits and Wayman Tisdale. Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles backed up Vern Fleming at the point. With the fine collection of young talent, the '89 Pacers were headed for better days. It remains to be seen if Indiana fans will be able to say the same thing about this year's team, which would seem to have some upside with young star Danny Granger, a still-young T.J. Ford plus rookies Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert.

18. (22) New York Knicks (36.9) [ 36 / 35 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 19; OFF: 17; DEF: 23; PACE: 2

Most similar to 1981-82: This is awesome stuff, even if the '82 Knicks didn't have Bernard King. New York did have a couple of young pillars in Bill Cartwright and Michael Ray Richardson, but they supported some aging vets in the troubadour stage of their careers, like Randy Smith, Paul Westphal, Campy Russell, Maurice Lucas and Mike Newlin. It's almost like Isiah Thomas was running the show instead of starring as a rookie point guard in Detroit. The '81-82 season also turned out to be the last one for legendary Knicks coach Red Holzman after 1,300 games and a pair of NBA championships. The similarity to this year's team is purely statistical. They were dead ringers in both offensive and defensive efficiency and in eFG%, both for and against. Still, while it's fun to remember a nondescript Knicks team that won 33 games, there probably not much to learn from the trip down memory lane.

19. (21) Philadelphia 76ers (35.6) [ 36 / 38 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 17; OFF: 27; DEF: 7; PACE: 17

Most similar to 1997-98: Larry Brown's first Sixers squad won 31 games, led by Allen Iverson's 22 points per game in his sophomore season. There were a lot of young players on that team--A.I., Jerry Stackhouse, Theo Ratliff, Tim Thomas, Joe Smith, Eric Snow and Anthony Parker--who all remain active more than a decade later. (Eric Snow is still on the Cavs' roster even though he spends all of his time hanging out in the NBATV studios.) That collection of players never quite coalesced into a big winner, though Brown did get them to the finals a few years later, minus most of those names. Like this year's team, the '98 Sixers shot and allowed about the same eFG%, posted a similar efficiency margin and underplayed their Pythagorean profile. With Philly currently riding a three-game winning streak under interim coach Tony DiLeo, 76er fans are still hoping to upgrade this comp.

20. (19) Toronto Raptors (35.2) [ 32 / 29 / 42 ]
Rankings: NET: 23; OFF: 19; DEF: 22; PACE: 20

Most similar to 2003-04: I don't think Bryan Colangelo hoped to revive an '04 Raptors team that won 33 games, but that's exactly the pace this year's Toronto cagers are setting. The previous squad was a defensive outfit, while this one is more apt on the offensive end, but the end result is a minus 3.5 to 3.7 efficiency margin in both cases. Chris Bosh can tell you about that season--'03-04 was his rookie year. He probably looks around him and sees Jose Calderon instead of Alvin Williams, Anthony Parker instead of Vince Carter and Andrea Bargnani instead of Donyell Marshall and wonders just how much as really changed.

21. (16) Miami Heat (34.1) [ 41 / 39 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 14; OFF: 15; DEF: 17; PACE: 23

Most similar to 2003-04: The good news for Miami fans is that last year's 15-win disaster is not the most similar to this year's Heat. The '04 team won 42 games and lost in the second round of the East playoffs under Stan Van Gundy, a season that Heat honcho Pat Riley would surely accept from this year's bunch. Dwyane Wade was a rookie that season and was surrounded by the core of players that Riley turned into Shaquille O'Neal: Brian Grant, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler.

22. (18) New Jersey Nets (34.1) [ 41 / 33 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 21; OFF: 9; DEF: 27; PACE: 16

Most similar to 1991-92: The '92 Nets were an interesting mix of young talent like Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman plus veterans like Sam Bowie and Mookie Blaylock. Their leader, however, was Drazen Petrovic, who posted a 20.1 scoring average. He upped that to 22.3 the following season before being killed in a car accident in Europe. The '92 Nets won 40 games and exited after the first round of the East playoffs, results that probably mark the upside for this year's team

23. (26) Memphis Grizzlies (27.0) [ 29 / 29 / 19 ]
Rankings: NET: 20; OFF: 22; DEF: 19; PACE: 21

Most similar to 2002-03: In the fall of 2002, aging coach Hubie Brown took over an 0-8 Memphis squad from Sidney Lowe and led them to 28 wins--then a franchise best. The next three seasons saw 50, 45 and 49 wins, before the Grizzlies slid back to pre-Hubie levels. The '03 team had most of the pieces of the good Memphis teams--Pau Gasol, Jason Williams, Shane Battier and Mike Miller. That should buoy the spirits of Memphis fans this season, who hope that Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Michael Conley and Marc Gasol can take the franchise to even greater heights.

24. (25) Charlotte Bobcats (26.9) [ 25 / 30 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 24; OFF: 26; DEF: 15; PACE: 28

Most similar to N/A: Sorry, none of the Bobcats teams qualify, but here's a quick history lesson: there has yet to be a good Charlotte Bobcats team.

25. (28) Los Angeles Clippers (26.6) [ 22 / 27 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 25; OFF: 29; DEF: 13; PACE: 12

Most similar to 2002-03: The '03 edition of the NBA's most enigmatic franchise was actually pretty fun to watch despite winning just 27 games. L.A. had young stars in Andre Miller and Elton Brand. Young talents like Corey Maggette, Lamar Odom and Quentin Richardson showed oodles of potential. That roster made a lot more sense than the current Clipper roster, but like all Clipper teams, they couldn't hold the talent together.

26. (24) Golden State Warriors (24.7) [ 22 / 26 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 26; OFF: 18; DEF: 28; PACE: 1

Most similar to 2001-02: The '02 Warriors won 21 game with a fast-paced roster that didn't really play any defense. Yeah, that sounds about right.

27. (23) Sacramento Kings (20.8) [ 22 / 19 / 39 ]
Rankings: NET: 29; OFF: 25; DEF: 29; PACE: 8

Most similar to 1997-98: If you're a Sacramento fan, you're hoping to see the 1998-99 team here, the one that showed signs of lifting the franchise out of their quagmire. Sorry, it's the team before that, one that featured rookie coach Eddie Jordan in his only season leading the Kings, and the likes of Mitch Richmond, Corliss Williamson and Billy Owens--none of whom really had anything to do with the team's later success. Buck up, though, Kings fans, because it's likely that Jason Thompson, Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes and Francisco Garcia are going to be part of the next good Sacramento team.

28. (27) Washington Wizards (19.5) [ 14 / 22 / 32 ]
Rankings: NET: 27; OFF: 20; DEF: 30; PACE: 19

Most similar to 2000-01: The '01 Wizards, led by Rip Hamilton, were so bad that they forced team exec Michael Jordan to don a uniform for two seasons just to keep the turnstiles turning. There's not much to learn from that team, except they needed an infusion of talent. There was no clear direction then, nor is there one now.

29. (29) Minnesota Timberwolves (17.5) [ 13 / 20 / 26 ]
Rankings: NET: 28; OFF: 28; DEF: 26; PACE: 15

Most similar to 1991-92: Wow, we're talking the franchise nadir here, a 67-loss team two years away from drafting Kevin Garnett. Are things really that dire in Minnesota today? Yeah, I think so.

30. (30) Oklahoma City Thunder (11.3) [ 6 / 16 / 23 ]
Rankings: NET: 30; OFF: 30; DEF: 25; PACE: 7

Most similar to 1985-86: The '86 Sonics won 31 games but are the most non-recent similar squad to this one because Seattle was never this bad. The '86 team did have some young components in Xavier McDaniel and Tom Chambers that later teamed with Dale Ellis to become a very good--and exciting--team. There are similarities to X-man and Jeff Green and Chambers to Kevin Durant. There is not much Dale Ellis in Russell Westbrook but the Thunder's young trio does offer plenty of hope for better days ahead.

Definitions:

Adjusted winning percentage (AWP) = ((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) / (((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) + ((home losses x .1.4)+(road losses x 0.6)))

Opponents winning percentage (OWP) = aggregate percentage of games won for each team's opponents, based on the number of times the team has faced that opponent.

Pythagorean winning percentage (PYTH) = uses the basketball-reference formula of Games x (Points scored^14) / ((Points scored^14) + (Points allowed^14))

Power rating = (((PYTH + AWP)/2)*(OWP/.500)) x 82

WP82 = wins produced per 82 games, adjusted for playing time

WP3K = wins produced per 3,000 minutes

RANKINGS: NET = net efficiency ratio; OFF - offensive efficiency; DEF - defensive efficiency; PACE: average possessions per game

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Bradford by clicking here or click here to see Bradford's other articles.

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