knicks
Because sometimes one basketball just isn't enough...

In looking forward to the Gay-Iverson-Mayo-Randolph Era in Memphis, I decided to write about some of the worst APG teams in NBA history. I used a few crude rules in my research. First, pre-shot clock era teams were immediately disqualified. Second, I began my stat search with the 1967-68 season, which is the first year the NBA used an 82-game season. And for that reason, all 1998-99 teams were disqualified because that season was shortened to 50 games due to the player strike...and the level of play was generally pretty sucky that season.

It's worth noting, however, that the 1998-99 Hawks (15.6 APG) and Clippers (16.4 APG) ranked first and second all-time in lowest APG during the shot clock era. So, if nothing else, they deserve dishonorable mention. It's also worth noting all stats came from Basketball-Reference.com.

1. 1976-77 New York Nets: This team averaged 17.3 APG during a season in which the league average was 23.9 APG. The Nets went 22-60, which was the worst record in the league by eight games. (The Milwaukee Bucks finished 30-52). Not surprisingly, they were the worst scoring team in the NBA at 95.9 PPG. (The league average was 106.5 PPG). Even less surprisingly, they were also the worst shooting team in the league at .429 (versus the league average of .465).

Update! Trev wrote: "The 1976-77 Nets where a special kind of bad because they are also the only team on the list to average more turnovers than assists with 19.9 per game. Good god did that team have Emeka Okafor and Yinka Dare's grandfathers running the point or something? No. Just Hall of Famer Tiny Archibald! (Well at least for 34 games)."

2. 2008-09 Memphis Grizzlies: That's right! Last year's Griz ranked second-worst all-time based on my criteria! Good times are coming, my friends. They are coming. Anyway, the Grizzlies averaged 17.4 APG, 93.9 PPG, and shot .454 from the field. The league averages were 20.9 APG, 100.0 PPG and .459. Note that they shot about the league average but were still by far the worst team in terms of APG. Oddly enough, the second-worst APG team last season was...the Orlando Magic at 19.4 APG. However, the Magic finished with 59 wins and the Grizzlies had only 24.

3. 2005-06 New York Knicks: And Isiah Thomas finally rears his ugly head. Although he "only" put this squad together. Larry Brown coached it (against the will of his players of course). Stephon Marbury led these Knicks with 6.3 of their 17.9 APG. The team also featured other noted non-passers such as Eddy Curry, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson and Quentin Richardson. (At 23-59, they finished with the league's second-worst record (to the 21-61 Portland Trail Blazers). For the record, the league average in APG that season was 20.6. Here's the crazy part: the 05-06 Knicks were the 12th best shooting team in the league (.455).

4. 1999-00 Los Angeles Clippers: No "Worst Evers" list would be complete without a mention of the Clippers, right? These Clips dished out 18.0 APG during a season in which the average team was dishing out 22.3. They were the second-worst (to the dreadful post-Jordan Bulls) scoring team (92.0), the third-worst shooting team (.426), and they had the worst record (15-67). They truly were who we thought they were.

5. 1989-90 New Jersey Nets: Speaking of teams who are who we thought they were...the 89-90 Nets also averaged 18.0 APG when the league average was 24.9. That's right. These Nets had almost seven fewer APG than an "average" team. This fact looks even worse when you consider that they were the eighth-best shooting team in the league that season (.485). At 17-65, they were even worse than the expansion Heat (18-64), Magic (18-64), Hornets (19-63), and Timberwolves (22-60).

6. 2005-06 Dallas Mavericks: Here's where things get wonky. Like the 1999-00 Clippers and 1989-90 Nets, these Mavericks averaged 18.0 APG. They finished with only five more total assists than the Knicks squad that ranks third on this list. However, they won 60 games, which gave them the third-best record in the league behind the Pistons (64-18) and Spurs (63-19). Moreover, the Mavs went all the way to the NBA Finals...which they might have won if not for a few dozen iffy foul calls that went in Dwyane Wade's favor. So, basically, they bucked every trend associated with teams who don't pass the ball.

7. 2004-05 Seattle Supersonics: Another trend-bucking team, these Sonics -- led by Ray "I'm open!" Allen (3.7 APG) and Rashard "NO, I'M OPEN, PASS IT TO MEEEEEEE!" Lewis (1.3 APG), the Sonics went 52-30, won the Northwest Division and made it to the Western Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual champion Spurs in six games. Mind you, Rashard Lewis missed the last three games of that series with a sprained left toe. But despite the loss of their second-leading scorer, they came within a few points of forcing a seventh game. Note that, in that final game, the Sonics dished out only 13 assists...well below their season average of 18.1.

8. 2001-02 Houston Rockets: This is more like it! The 01-02 Rockets began the season with a starting lineup of Cuttino Mobley, Steve Francis, Kenny Thomas, Glen Rice and Kevin Cato, and they ended the season with a starting squad of Tierre Brown, Oscar Torres, Kenny Thomas, Terence Morris and Kelvin Cato. No wonder they dished out only 18.1 APG and won a mere 28 games. It's also not surprising that this was Rudy Tomjanovich's next-to-last season with the team.

9. 2005-06 Portland Trail Blazers: Note that this is the third 2005-06 team in this list. Coincidence? I think not. The 21-win Blazers averaged 18.2 APG and were the worst team in the league that season, worse even than the Isiah Thomas-assembled Knicks. And just check out this roster: Zach Randolph, Darius Miles, Juan Dixon, Ruben Patterson, Sebastian Telfair...if you're a Portland fan, I'm sure your mouth is filled with throw-up right now. But they, things are SO much better now, right? See. It all paid off.

10. 2005-06 Orlando Magic: Fittingly enough, we round out this list with yet another team from the 2005-06 season, which shall hereafter be referred to as "The Year Passing Died." Steve Francis, the leader of that 2001-02 Rockets team from two paragraphs ago, led this 36-win squad (which featured Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglue, Jameer Nelson and Grant Hill) with 5.7 of the team's 18.2 APG.

Labels: , , ,

26 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hey, where are Crawford and Curry's balls!! err!! basketballs

Blogger Trev said...
The 1976-77 Nets where a special kind of bad because they are also the only team on the list to average more turnovers than assists with 19.9 per game. Good god did that team have Emeka Okafor and Yinka Dare's grandfathers running the point or something? No. Just Hall of Famer Tiny Archibald! (Well at least for 34 games).

Blogger Trev said...
Also 76-77 was the Nets last year in New York. Maybe that explains why New Yorkers are not in a big hurry to bring them back.

Blogger GonzoPal said...
ThereĀ“s something intriguing about Gay-Iverson-Mayo...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Let me guess... 2005-06 is when they introduced the new handchecking rules.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Something to consider regarding the Clips at #4: I recently read an article about the stats people for the Clippers being instructed to artifcially deflate assist totals so that their players would be worth less as free agents. Obviously this has not been proven, but it's something to keep in mind.

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
This upcoming memphis team also had me thinking... has any team ever had four 20 ppg scorers before? I know there have been teams with 3 but I don't know about 4. I doubt its ever happened. While highly, highly unlikely... its atleast conceivable that Z-Bo, Mayo, Gay and AI could all avg 20 a game.

And only win 30 games.

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
Anonymous #2 - That was my guess too. As it turns out, they actually made the rule change for the 2004 - 2005 season. In addition to hand-checking, the defensive three second call was also added, so guys started getting more space to drive to the hoop. It's not at all surprising that the teams would take a season to adjust to the rules and set new plays and go after players that fit the new scheme.

However, some of the effects from the shift in defensive handicaps already began to show up right away in the 04-05 season. For example, even though I am from San Antonio, I contend that these rules really helped make Parker the player he is today, so I took a look. Prior to the 04-05 season, Parker was an average guard in terms of shooting percentage. If you look at his shot selection, he took close range shots in the low 30% range. Following the rule change, that number went up roughly 10% to the low 40s, and stayed there. In fact, in the assist deprived 05-06 season, a ridiculous 49% of the shots Parker took were from inside (though his assist numbers weren't that low compared to his other seasons). I don't have the time right now to dig into how it affected other players, but in the case of Parker it really confirms what I believe altered his play to All-Star guard level.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
stalling on Livin' Large is what this is

Anonymous Anonymous said...
look at me dave, look...

Blogger Dan B. said...
In other news, great going, Delonte West. It's always great when an NBA player gets arrested for gun possession, but even better when it involves a motorcycle and a goddamn shotgun.

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
Certainly it seems like the new rules have made this era of the NBA a guard-dominated one. I could be wrong, but I can't think of another era that had so many dominant small guys - the likes of Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, etc.
Small quick guards who can get into the lane really flourish these days.

Something else I just realized... everyone attributes Steve Nash's jump in numbers mid-career to playing under D'Antoni's system, but perhaps it was the new rules? 2004-2005 just happened to be the year that Nash arrived in Phoenix and started dishing out 11-12 assists a game.

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
Hi Bawful,

I'm not sure if you are familiar with the "Curry Line"? One of the analyst at Yahoo invented it and it's pretty funny. It's basically the ratio of
Assists + steals + blocks to turnovers for a player. It is helpful for fantasy players.

Here's a link if you are interested.
http://busersports.com/categories/curry-line/
Here is the 06-07 year when it was invented and it's amazing how allergic Eddy Curry is to positives.
http://sports.yahoo.com/fantasy/nba/news?slug=mb-curryline_0607

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
Just took a look at another team on the 05-06 list, the Mavs. The 04-05 season also coincided with another event: the exit of Steve Nash. It's not coincidental then that the Mavs went to Dirk increasingly in iso situations right around then.

Dirkalicious, pre-rule change and with Nash, had 72% of his field goals assisted, and post-rule change, had 53% and then 51% (05-06) of his field goals assisted in the next two seasons. His inside scoring was assisted 69% of the time in 03-04, but only 45% in 04-05, and 33% in 05-06. By the 06-07 season, after the Season of No Passing, his assisted numbers climbed back up a little, but never to reach pre-rule change/Nash levels.

The replacement of Michael Finley with Jason Terry also had a big effect on the Mavs' passing numbers. Terry's close range shots were assisted on less than 1/3 - 1/5th of the time that Finley was passed to, and his outside shooting is also a lot less dependent on others.

Bonus Using Stats to Prove "Facts": Wang Zhizhi had the best per minute +/- numbers of any Clipper in 03-04 with an amazing 29.9 PER. Clearly the reason why the Clippers now suck is because they threw away a Lebron-esque player.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The ref lockout has begun...

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4485270

Anonymous Anonymous said...
who cares about Livin Large cousin Anonymous, these "worst" posts are better and funnier, i wish bawful was a machine so he could post them every hour

Blogger bob said...
The Mavs didn't have a proper point guard after Nash left until they made the Trade That Shall Not Be Named.

From 2004-2007, they had a combo guard (Terry), an inexperienced scoring-minded "point guard" (Harris), a slasher who more recently has become a chucker (Howard) and of course Dirk, who doesn't need to pass. And obviously, Sagana Diop and Erick freakin' Dampier hardly resemble Arvydas Sabonis or even Brad Miller. On the bench, the most notable guy was Jerry Stackhouse and well...I really can't go on.

The best passer on those teams was Darrell Armstrong, and he was mostly there to wave towels and tell the kids bedtime stories.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Bawful: AnacondaHL to the rescue!

The highest correlation to the "abnormalities" is pace. A double extra special bawful to the 1976-77 NYN since out of these teams, they are the only ones with a Pace over 100, at 103.7. Add in that they have the only sub 97 Offensive Rating, at a paltry 92.2, and it's like these guys were literally just chucking it up every possession.

Both the "good teams" Mavs and Sonics, had sub-90 paces, and good enough ORtg-DRtg differentials to get them solid records.

Caleb Smith: Love the question. It's a tough one to data mine, and of course 2 players with +20.0 PPG is easy.

The 07-08 GSW had Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, and Baron Davis, and of course finished 48-34 and missed the playoffs.

GSW did this in 1990-91 also with Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin (lol), and Tim Hardaway.

Blogger Trev said...
I had some down time at work earlier today and looked for teams with four 20 ppg scorers and I couldn't find any. There where a surprising amount of teams with three 20+ scorers with the Nuggets doing it regularly in the early 80's with mixed results. I think the Celtics of Russell and Cousy came closest with two guys averaging over 20 and 2 others averaging 19.

Anonymous RT said...
Delonte West did his best Carl Johnson impression. I wonder if he got two stars or three?

http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2009/09/cleveland_cavaliers_guard_delo_3.html

Blogger shnk said...
"Turkoglue" <-- good one :) Don't know if this is typo or on purpose, but still. Shame it doesn't describe his play or anything...or does it? :)

Blogger CassavaLeaf.com said...
Was there a rule change that made 05-06 stats so bad?
I thought that year the 'pace' of game was faster..... guess I was wrong

Anonymous jollyrench said...
Have you analyzed shots attempted per assist? It seems like that would be a good indicator of selfishness. Marbury in his last 70+ game season had 2.36(952/403) shots per assist,whereas CP3 had 1.46(1255/861) shots per assist last year.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
http://www.businessinsider.com/worstcities/americas-most-depressing-places-kokomo-indiana

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Somewhere on the WWW is an anonymous story from an official NBA scorer. It documents the absurdity of the home scorer and home they manipulate the boxscore for the team or for a player.

http://deadspin.com/5336974/an-assist-for-nick-van-exel-how-an-nba-scorekeeper-cooked-the-books

Read it and move on. Nothing happening here.

Blogger chris said...
Soo...if the 2005-06 Portland Trail Blazers are the model for the future success one can get throwing a season away to non-selfless basketball, was the Not-Answer signed in Memphis just to help them garner a better chance in the lottery?

Links to this post:
Create a Link