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February 5, 2009
The New Historical Abstract
Basketball Style

by Kevin Pelton


Doesn't it seem like just yesterday that we were all wondering what kind of damage would be wrought by the Y2K bug? Yet we are now in the last year of this awkwardly-named decade. (The Oughts? The Double Zeroes?) Because the NBA season spans two calendar years, we are but five months away from the end of the league's decade.

I first got to thinking about the '00s as an NBA era just over a year ago, and in a specific context. I was re-reading the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, which among other features breaks down the entire history of the nation's pastime by decade. That got me to wondering what a similar chapter about the NBA in the '00s would feature. It was too early to actually compile one at that point, but as we enter the decade's last year, now seems appropriate to get a jump on the countless thousands of decade reviews we're likely to see this December.

I've altered James' original categories somewhat in adjusting them to the NBA and made a couple of my own additions, but for the most part stayed faithful to James' vision. I should also pause to note the invaluable assistance of Basketball-Reference.com to my research, including Justin Kubatko specifically looking up one stat for me. Also, all numbers are through Dec. 31. Without further ado....

Attendance Data: 194,680,803 total fans at NBA games
Highest: 2000-01 San Antonio Spurs (22,273 average); Chicago Bulls (20,907)
Lowest: 2001-02 Charlotte Hornets (11,286); Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies (14,474)

Best Won/Lost Record by Team:
(Season) 1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers and 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks (67-15)
(Decade) San Antonio Spurs (542-227, .705)

Worst Won/Lost Record by Team:
(Season) 2004-05 Atlanta Hawks (13-69)
(Decade) Charlotte Bobcats (120-240, .333); Atlanta Hawks (276-493, .359)

The best and worst combined records in the '00s:

Team            W    L      %

San Antonio    542  227   .705
Dallas         517  252   .672
L.A. Lakers    490  278   .638
Detroit        477  291   .621
Phoenix        463  305   .603
Sacramento     447  323   .581
Utah           432  339   .560
Indiana        414  355   .538
Houston        408  363   .529
New Orleans    397  369   .518

Team            W    L      %
Charlotte      120  240   .333
Atlanta        276  493   .359
Chicago        290  480   .377
Memphis        294  476   .382
L.A. Clippers  295  474   .384

Having Their Best Decade Ever: Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs
Having Their Worst Decade: Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder

Largest Home-Court Advantage: Denver Nuggets (.625 home winning percentage, .339 on the road). For the most part, home-court advantage is not sustainable in the NBA. However, because of the Mile High City, the Nuggets have historically had the league's strongest difference between home and road play.

Tallest Player: 7'7" Gheorge Muresan played 30 games in 1999-00. Shawn Bradley and Yao Ming are both listed at 7'6".
Shortest Player: Again, 5'3" Muggsy Bogues played briefly in the decade. Otherwise, 5'5" Earl Boykins.
Heaviest Player: Oliver Miller (325 pounds)
Lightest Player: Boykins (135 pounds)
Oldest Player: Kevin Willis suited up for Dallas late in the 2006-07 season at age 44, making him the oldest player in league history.
Youngest Player: When Andrew Bynum made his NBA debut in November 2005, he was less than a week removed from his 18th birthday. With the advent of the age limit, that league record will not be broken unless the system changes.

Highest WARP:
Kevin Garnett, 2003-04 (27.4)
Kevin Garnett (196.7)

I would have guessed Tim Duncan, who finished second at 183.3 WARP. The two of them far surpass anyone else. The top 10:

Player               WARP

Kevin Garnett       196.7
Tim Duncan          183.3
Kobe Bryant         146.6
Dirk Nowitzki       144.6
Shaquille O'Neal    144.4
Jason Kidd          139.4
Tracy McGrady       130.7
Elton Brand         128.3
Shawn Marion        123.5
Paul Pierce         120.2

Highest PPG:
(Season) Kobe Bryant, 2005-06 (35.4 ppg)
(Decade) Allen Iverson (28.6 ppg)

Highest RPG:
(Season) Ben Wallace, 2002-03 (15.4 rpg)
(Decade) Dwight Howard (12.4 rpg)

Highest APG:
(Season) Steve Nash, 2006-07 (11.6 apg)
(Decade) Chris Paul (9.7 apg)

All-NBA Team:
G - Jason Kidd
G - Kobe Bryant
F - Kevin Garnett
F - Tim Duncan
C - Shaquille O'Neal

All-Defensive Team:
G - Jason Kidd
G - Bruce Bowen
F - Ron Artest
F - Tim Duncan
C - Ben Wallace

Best Player Who Never Won the MVP Award: Jason Kidd (presuming, of course, that LeBron James will eventually win one, possibly this season).
Worst Award Selection: Rookie of the Year, 2002-03 (Amar'e Stoudemire over Yao Ming)
Best Unrecognized Player: Elton Brand

Best Shooter: Ray Allen
Best Defensive Player: Tim Duncan
Best Stopper: Bruce Bowen
Best Dunker: Vince Carter
Best Without the Ball: Peja Stojakovic
Best Screener: Jason Collins
Biggest Ballhog: Flip Murray
Iron Man: Bruce Bowen

Fastest Player: Leandro Barbosa
Slowest Player: Rafael Araujo
Best Athlete: Josh Smith

Best NBA Books:
:07 Seconds or Less, Jack McCallum
The Last Season, Phil Jackson
The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, Free Darko authors
Pro Basketball Prospectus/Forecast series, John Hollinger

(Not a great decade for NBA books, honestly. The list is lacking in depth. I am leaving a spot open for Bill Simmons' forthcoming NBA offering in the hope that it delivers.)

Five Largest NBA Changes During the Decade:
1. Rules re-interpretation limiting contact on the perimeter, which has helped lead to the rise of young point guards late in the decade and increased use of smallball.
2. Increasing pace after a decade of the game slowing down (also related to one).
3. Rising influence of international players and globalization of the league's fanbase.
4. Creation of the D-League and progress toward a true minor-league system.
5. Development of an APBRmetrics community, with teams embracing statistical analysis.

Best Offense: 2004-05 Phoenix Suns
Best Defense: 2007-08 Boston Celtics
All Offense/No Defense: 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks. Relative to league average, those Mavericks were actually the most potent offense in modern NBA history, just above the 2004-05 Suns. Yet it was that Dallas team that truly lived up to the all-O/no-D rep that followed Phoenix; the Mavericks ranked 26th in the league in Defensive Rating. That makes them the most offensively-biased squad in modern history.
All Defense/No Offense: 2004-05 Chicago Bulls (second in Defensive Rating, 26th in Offensive Rating)

Best Backcourt: Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, San Antonio (2002-present)
Best Frontcourt: Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic, Sacramento (1998-2004)

First of His Kind: Wang Zhizhi (first Chinese player in NBA)
Last of His Kind: Amir Johnson (last preps-to-pros player drafted)
One of a Kind: Allen Iverson
A Very Good Movie Could Be Made About: Yao Ming

A Better Man Than a Ballplayer: Eric Snow
A Better Ballplayer Than a Man: Ron Artest
Most Admirable Superstar: Steve Nash

Mr. Dickens, I'd Like You to Meet: Kelenna Azubuike, Udonis Haslem, Boniface Ndong, Ansu Sesay
Nicknames: Agent Zero (Gilbert Arenas), The Matrix (Shawn Marion), Half Man/Half Amazing (Vince Carter), The Answer (Allen Iverson), Vanilla Gorilla (Joel Przybilla), The Custodian (Brian Cardinal), The Rhino (Craig Smith), White Chocolate (Jason Williams), Junk Yard Dog (Jerome Williams)

Harold Miner Award: Nikoloz Tskitishvili
Flameout: Jay Williams
Could I Try This Career Over? Darius Miles
Ted Stepien Talent Scout Award: The Minnesota Timberwolves swapped down a pick with the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2006 NBA Draft, allowing the Blazers to take Brandon Roy and leaving the Timberwolves with Randy Foye. Minnesota got only cash out of the deal.

Outstanding Sportswriter: David Aldridge

Franchise Shifts:
2001 - Vancouver to Memphis
2002 - Charlotte to New Orleans
2008 - Seattle to Oklahoma City

After 16 years without a franchise moving, the NBA has had three moves in the last eight years, and David Stern has hinted more potentially could be on the horizon. The instability is a disturbing league-wide trend.

New Arenas:
2000 - AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami
2001 - American Airlines Center, Dallas
2002 - AT&T Center, San Antonio
2003 - Toyota Center, Houston
2004 - FedEx Forum, Memphis
2005 - Charlotte Bobcats Arena (now Time Warner Cable Arena)

The late '90s and early '00s produced a high number of new arenas (the Air Canada Centre, Conseco Fieldhouse, the Pepsi Center, Philips Arena and the Staples Center all opened in 1999), but things have slowed considerably since then. The Orlando Magic plan to move into the Orlando Events Center in 2010.

Best Division: The 2003-04 Midwest Division saw all seven teams finish .500 or better, with four of them winning at least 50 games.

Best NBA Finals: 2005--San Antonio 4, Detroit 3. Though the series went the distance and featured one classic game (Game 5, won by Robert Horry's late three), it wasn't especially memorable. Here's hoping the 2009 Finals give us one legendary title series this decade.
Best Playoff Series: 2002 Western Conference Finals--L.A. Lakers 4, Sacramento 3

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

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Hanging Fifty (02/04)
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Rookies on Parade (02/06)

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