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Teams of the Decade: 2000s

Posted by Neil Paine on January 23, 2009

The last time I did a post like this, it was to identify the 10 best non-champions in the NBA during the decade of the 2000s. Now I'm going to extend the same method and rank the franchises over the past 9+ seasons. As a refresher, the ratings are calculated by adjusting the pythagorean expectation for home-court advantage, playoff performance, and the spread of competition in the league for each season. The final result is what's called a "z-score", or the number of standard deviations above (or below) average each team was, which can then be compared to other teams across multiple seasons or even eras.

For the decade rankings, I've taken each individual team's seasonal z-scores and computed a weighted average by the number of games played in each season. This "average season" z-score is what's used for the final rankings, and it's worth noting that Charlotte's short existence is not held against them -- their weighted average is simply computed for every season since 2004-05.

On to the rankings:

Rank Franchise             Z-Score
----+---------------------+-------
1    San Antonio Spurs      1.617
2    Dallas Mavericks       1.149
3    Los Angeles Lakers     1.046
4    Detroit Pistons        0.828
5    Phoenix Suns           0.787
6    Sacramento Kings       0.670
7    Utah Jazz              0.466
8    Houston Rockets        0.336
9    Indiana Pacers         0.265
10   Minnesota Timberwolves 0.144
11   New Jersey Nets        0.073
12   New Orleans Hornets    0.056
13   Boston Celtics         0.049
14   Miami Heat             0.049
15   Portland Trail Blazers 0.037
16   Philadelphia 76ers    -0.044
17   Orlando Magic         -0.106
18   Denver Nuggets        -0.144
19   Oklahoma City Thunder -0.150
20   Cleveland Cavaliers   -0.211
21   Toronto Raptors       -0.296
22   Milwaukee Bucks       -0.308
23   Golden State Warriors -0.540
24   Washington Wizards    -0.548
25   Los Angeles Clippers  -0.576
26   New York Knicks       -0.605
27   Memphis Grizzlies     -0.637
28   Chicago Bulls         -0.807
29   Charlotte Bobcats     -1.063
30   Atlanta Hawks         -1.119
----+---------------------+-------

Here's a closer look at some of the more interesting results:

Even though they won 3 titles, the Lakers actually finished slightly behind the Dallas Mavericks. Why, you ask? Well, look at the 2 teams side by side:

Year Tm   G   aPW%  SOS   Rate  Z-Sco Rk Tm   G   aPW%  SOS   Rate  Z-Sco Rk
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--
2000 LAL 105 0.672 0.517 0.687  2.030  1 DAL  82 0.486 0.500 0.486 -0.160 18
2001 LAL  98 0.627 0.521 0.646  1.507  2 DAL  92 0.579 0.519 0.597  0.962  5
2002 LAL 101 0.644 0.520 0.661  1.761  1 DAL  90 0.604 0.509 0.613  1.245  4
2003 LAL  94 0.554 0.516 0.570  0.729  6 DAL 102 0.644 0.524 0.665  1.798  2
2004 LAL 104 0.579 0.529 0.607  1.111  7 DAL  87 0.602 0.510 0.612  1.153  6
2005 LAL  82 0.434 0.508 0.442 -0.536 21 DAL  95 0.604 0.513 0.617  1.237  4
2006 LAL  89 0.537 0.505 0.542  0.532  9 DAL 105 0.640 0.518 0.656  1.787  1
2007 LAL  87 0.486 0.512 0.498  0.218 13 DAL  88 0.659 0.498 0.657  1.588  3
2008 LAL 103 0.631 0.523 0.653  1.317  2 DAL  87 0.592 0.503 0.595  0.869 10
2009 LAL  42 0.703 0.492 0.696  1.572  3 DAL  42 0.528 0.482 0.510  0.178 13
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--

Los Angeles has been better than Dallas 5 times, which means Dallas has been better in the decade's other 5 seasons. Neither team has been out of the top 10 for more than 2 seasons. L.A. has 5 top-5 appearances; Dallas has 6. Despite the disparity in championships, these 2 franchises have been really close over the past decade.

Indiana has been average at best for a large part of the decade:

Year Tm   G   aPW%  SOS  Rate   Z-Sco Rk
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--
2000 IND 105 0.600 0.502 0.602  1.039  5
2001 IND  86 0.488 0.485 0.474 -0.277 18
2002 IND  87 0.515 0.492 0.507  0.130 15
2003 IND  88 0.558 0.480 0.538  0.398 11
2004 IND  98 0.655 0.484 0.640  1.399  3
2005 IND  95 0.511 0.497 0.508  0.123 14
2006 IND  88 0.537 0.490 0.527  0.367 12
2007 IND  82 0.446 0.491 0.437 -0.593 21
2008 IND  82 0.463 0.483 0.446 -0.360 19
2009 IND  42 0.443 0.524 0.468 -0.200 18
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--

However, they manage to finish among the decade's top 10 thanks to 2 really great seasons -- 2000, when they went to the Finals and lost to the Lakers, and 2004, when they won 61 games and took the eventual champion Detroit Pistons to 6 games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Since we're weighing by games played, those two seasons receive extra weight, and it's enough to push the Pacers past Minnesota (another franchise whose decent early-decade performance is sometimes forgotten because they're struggling right now).

Despite an ongoing streak of 5 consecutive playoff appearances (closing in on 6 this season), the Denver Nuggets are below-average for the decade. As you can see, it's because they were just so profoundly awful during the first 4 years of the 2000s:

Year Tm   G   aPW%  SOS  Rate   Z-Sco Rk
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--
2000 DEN  82 0.441 0.502 0.443 -0.550 22
2001 DEN  82 0.446 0.511 0.457 -0.430 19
2002 DEN  82 0.360 0.510 0.369 -1.338 27
2003 DEN  82 0.291 0.515 0.304 -1.726 28
2004 DEN  87 0.513 0.514 0.527  0.381 11
2005 DEN  87 0.544 0.508 0.553  0.572  9
2006 DEN  87 0.497 0.502 0.498  0.050 14
2007 DEN  87 0.525 0.507 0.532  0.581  9
2008 DEN  86 0.553 0.501 0.554  0.539 11
2009 DEN  43 0.573 0.507 0.579  0.738  7
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--

Somehow the New York Knicks escaped "decade's worst franchise" honors:

Year Tm   G   aPW%  SOS  Rate   Z-Sco Rk
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--
2000 NYK  98 0.534 0.503 0.537  0.348 11
2001 NYK  87 0.551 0.482 0.534  0.297 14
2002 NYK  82 0.411 0.491 0.403 -0.974 23
2003 NYK  82 0.472 0.487 0.459 -0.388 20
2004 NYK  86 0.448 0.487 0.435 -0.550 19
2005 NYK  82 0.454 0.487 0.441 -0.541 22
2006 NYK  82 0.344 0.496 0.340 -1.682 29
2007 NYK  82 0.420 0.491 0.411 -1.019 25
2008 NYK  82 0.359 0.493 0.353 -1.185 26
2009 NYK  41 0.424 0.502 0.426 -0.597 23
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--

Still, they haven't been an average team since 2000-01. On the other hand, the Chicago Bulls have been above-average 3 times this decade, and were a top-10 team in 2006-07... But unfortunately, the rest of the decade has been pretty rough on the 1990s' top franchise:

Year Tm   G   aPW%  SOS  Rate   Z-Sco Rk
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--
2000 CHI  82 0.277 0.499 0.276 -1.825 28
2001 CHI  82 0.282 0.494 0.277 -1.793 29
2002 CHI  82 0.310 0.496 0.306 -2.003 29
2003 CHI  82 0.396 0.489 0.386 -1.061 25
2004 CHI  82 0.348 0.487 0.336 -1.694 28
2005 CHI  88 0.524 0.485 0.509  0.134 13
2006 CHI  88 0.497 0.497 0.494  0.008 15
2007 CHI  92 0.588 0.491 0.579  1.015  8
2008 CHI  82 0.422 0.491 0.413 -0.643 21
2009 CHI  43 0.434 0.519 0.453 -0.338 20
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--

And finally, you really have to give it up for the Atlanta Hawks, the absolute worst franchise in the NBA over the past 10 years. That they've managed to crawl out of the pit they dug for themselves and become a top-10 team this year is commendable, but it doesn't really make up for some truly epic failures earlier in the decade:

Year Tm   G   aPW%  SOS  Rate   Z-Sco Rk
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--
2000 ATL  82 0.389 0.493 0.383 -1.058 25
2001 ATL  82 0.361 0.487 0.349 -1.310 26
2002 ATL  82 0.405 0.491 0.397 -1.038 24
2003 ATL  82 0.419 0.486 0.405 -0.886 23
2004 ATL  82 0.395 0.486 0.382 -1.145 26
2005 ATL  82 0.264 0.498 0.262 -2.200 30
2006 ATL  82 0.378 0.495 0.373 -1.321 28
2007 ATL  82 0.386 0.492 0.379 -1.627 30
2008 ATL  89 0.440 0.500 0.440 -0.406 20
2009 ATL  41 0.563 0.499 0.562  0.604  8
----+---+---+-----+-----+-----+------+--

I'd say that's one team who's definitely hoping the next decade is more prosperous than the last one.

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2 Responses to “Teams of the Decade: 2000s”

  1. Andrew Norris Says:

    Great piece. The Mavs have been good this decade, but I wouldn't have thought they would be ahead of the Lakers. Then again they're 0-1 in the Finals, and the Lakers are 3-2, and I expect that colors my perception quite a bit.

    Could you post the breakdown data for all the teams? I'm particularly curious to see how close the Spurs have been to staying in the top 5 for the whole decade.

  2. Andy Says:

    I know this stat is not actually generous to the Knicks, it's just their number... but they're probably the dog of the 2000s, even with 1999-2000. Although there is more fury for them going 22-60 compared to Golden State teams with Jamison et al.

    The Hawks look like they can make up some of the hole.

    I might send this to the bitter Minnesota fans/non-fans.