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How 2+ Conference Finalists in 3 Seasons Fared 5 Years Later

Posted by Neil Paine on May 12, 2011

With the Magic, Lakers, and now Celtics being dispatched from the playoffs, I was thinking about whether a down period was necessary for teams that had been at the top for multiple seasons when their run was finally over.

Part of Danny Ainge's rationalization for the Kendrick Perkins-Jeff Green trade was to make the Celtics younger and give the team a solid player in the future. But do (older) mini-dynasties like Boston's ever really have a future? Does a modern NBA team ever successfully rebuild on the fly, or are good years always followed by a transition period of losing? Instead of making any attempt to build a future, should he have just committed to the 2011 team and accepted losing down the road?

Let's go to the data -- every team that went to at least 2 conference finals in 3 years, and their winning percentages in the next 5 years (Y+1, Y+2, ... , Y+5). "Age" is the team's minute-weighted average age in year Y's playoffs. "<.500" and "<.350" are the # of seasons in the next 5 that they posted a a record worse than .500 and .350, respectively. Enjoy:

Year Franchise Conf Finals, 3 yr Age Y Y+1 Y+2 Y+3 Y+4 Y+5 <.500 <.350
1973 NYK 3 28.7 0.695 0.598 0.488 0.463 0.488 0.524 3 0
1973 BOS 2 27.9 0.829 0.683 0.732 0.659 0.537 0.390 1 0
1973 LAL 3 30.9 0.732 0.573 0.366 0.488 0.646 0.549 2 0
1974 BOS 3 28.7 0.683 0.732 0.659 0.537 0.390 0.354 2 0
1974 NYK 3 28.5 0.598 0.488 0.463 0.488 0.524 0.378 4 0
1974 MIL 2 27.8 0.720 0.463 0.463 0.366 0.537 0.463 4 0
1975 BOS 3 29.4 0.732 0.659 0.537 0.390 0.354 0.744 2 0
1975 GSW 2 26.4 0.585 0.720 0.561 0.524 0.463 0.293 2 1
1975 CHI 2 30.3 0.573 0.293 0.537 0.488 0.378 0.366 4 1
1976 BOS 3 29.5 0.659 0.537 0.390 0.354 0.744 0.756 2 0
Year Franchise CF apps, 3 yrs Age Y Y+1 Y+2 Y+3 Y+4 Y+5 <.500 <.350
1976 GSW 2 25.6 0.720 0.561 0.524 0.463 0.293 0.476 3 1
1978 PHI 2 26.3 0.671 0.573 0.720 0.756 0.707 0.793 0 0
1979 WAS 2 28.8 0.659 0.476 0.476 0.524 0.512 0.427 3 0
1979 OKC 2 26.8 0.634 0.683 0.415 0.634 0.585 0.512 1 0
1980 PHI 2 26.9 0.720 0.756 0.707 0.793 0.634 0.707 0 0
1980 OKC 3 26.9 0.683 0.415 0.634 0.585 0.512 0.378 2 0
1981 BOS 2 27.2 0.756 0.768 0.683 0.756 0.768 0.817 0 0
1981 PHI 2 27.2 0.756 0.707 0.793 0.634 0.707 0.659 0 0
1982 PHI 3 27.7 0.707 0.793 0.634 0.707 0.659 0.549 0 0
1982 BOS 3 27.2 0.768 0.683 0.756 0.768 0.817 0.720 0 0
Year Franchise CF apps, 3 yrs Age Y Y+1 Y+2 Y+3 Y+4 Y+5 <.500 <.350
1982 LAL 2 27.0 0.695 0.707 0.659 0.756 0.756 0.793 0 0
1983 PHI 3 27.4 0.793 0.634 0.707 0.659 0.549 0.439 1 0
1983 LAL 2 27.7 0.707 0.659 0.756 0.756 0.793 0.756 0 0
1983 SAS 2 27.6 0.646 0.451 0.500 0.427 0.341 0.378 4 1
1984 BOS 2 28.0 0.756 0.768 0.817 0.720 0.695 0.512 0 0
1984 MIL 2 28.0 0.610 0.720 0.695 0.610 0.512 0.598 0 0
1984 LAL 3 27.1 0.659 0.756 0.756 0.793 0.756 0.695 0 0
1985 BOS 2 28.7 0.768 0.817 0.720 0.695 0.512 0.634 0 0
1985 PHI 2 28.3 0.707 0.659 0.549 0.439 0.561 0.646 1 0
1985 LAL 3 27.4 0.756 0.756 0.793 0.756 0.695 0.768 0 0
Year Franchise CF apps, 3 yrs Age Y Y+1 Y+2 Y+3 Y+4 Y+5 <.500 <.350
1986 BOS 3 29.3 0.817 0.720 0.695 0.512 0.634 0.683 0 0
1986 MIL 2 26.0 0.695 0.610 0.512 0.598 0.537 0.585 0 0
1986 LAL 3 28.3 0.756 0.793 0.756 0.695 0.768 0.707 0 0
1987 BOS 3 29.5 0.720 0.695 0.512 0.634 0.683 0.622 0 0
1987 LAL 3 28.3 0.793 0.756 0.695 0.768 0.707 0.524 0 0
1988 BOS 3 30.7 0.695 0.512 0.634 0.683 0.622 0.585 0 0
1988 DET 2 27.6 0.659 0.768 0.720 0.610 0.585 0.488 1 0
1988 LAL 3 29.2 0.756 0.695 0.768 0.707 0.524 0.476 1 0
1989 DET 3 28.3 0.768 0.720 0.610 0.585 0.488 0.244 2 1
1989 LAL 3 29.8 0.695 0.768 0.707 0.524 0.476 0.402 2 0
Year Franchise CF apps, 3 yrs Age Y Y+1 Y+2 Y+3 Y+4 Y+5 <.500 <.350
1990 DET 3 29.3 0.720 0.610 0.585 0.488 0.244 0.341 3 2
1990 CHI 2 26.3 0.671 0.744 0.817 0.695 0.671 0.573 0 0
1990 PHO 2 27.1 0.659 0.671 0.646 0.756 0.683 0.720 0 0
1991 CHI 3 27.2 0.744 0.817 0.695 0.671 0.573 0.878 0 0
1991 DET 3 30.4 0.610 0.585 0.488 0.244 0.341 0.561 3 2
1991 LAL 2 28.2 0.707 0.524 0.476 0.402 0.585 0.646 2 0
1991 POR 2 27.8 0.768 0.695 0.622 0.573 0.537 0.537 0 0
1992 CHI 3 27.8 0.817 0.695 0.671 0.573 0.878 0.841 0 0
1992 POR 3 28.6 0.695 0.622 0.573 0.537 0.537 0.598 0 0
1993 CHI 3 28.2 0.695 0.671 0.573 0.878 0.841 0.756 0 0
Year Franchise CF apps, 3 yrs Age Y Y+1 Y+2 Y+3 Y+4 Y+5 <.500 <.350
1994 NYK 2 28.9 0.695 0.671 0.573 0.695 0.524 0.540 0 0
1994 UTA 2 29.5 0.646 0.732 0.671 0.780 0.756 0.740 0 0
1995 IND 2 28.4 0.634 0.634 0.476 0.707 0.660 0.683 1 0
1995 HOU 2 29.0 0.573 0.585 0.695 0.500 0.620 0.415 1 0
1996 ORL 2 27.2 0.732 0.549 0.500 0.660 0.500 0.524 0 0
1996 UTA 2 29.6 0.671 0.780 0.756 0.740 0.671 0.646 0 0
1997 CHI 2 30.8 0.841 0.756 0.260 0.207 0.183 0.256 4 4
1997 UTA 2 29.7 0.780 0.756 0.740 0.671 0.646 0.537 0 0
1997 HOU 2 32.7 0.695 0.500 0.620 0.415 0.549 0.341 2 1
1998 CHI 3 32.1 0.756 0.260 0.207 0.183 0.256 0.366 5 4
Year Franchise CF apps, 3 yrs Age Y Y+1 Y+2 Y+3 Y+4 Y+5 <.500 <.350
1998 UTA 3 30.4 0.756 0.740 0.671 0.646 0.537 0.573 0 0
1999 IND 2 31.2 0.660 0.683 0.500 0.512 0.585 0.744 0 0
2000 IND 3 30.9 0.683 0.500 0.512 0.585 0.744 0.537 0 0
2000 NYK 2 29.7 0.610 0.585 0.366 0.451 0.476 0.402 4 0
2000 LAL 2 29.3 0.817 0.683 0.707 0.610 0.683 0.415 1 0
2000 POR 2 30.0 0.720 0.610 0.598 0.610 0.500 0.329 1 1
2001 LAL 2 28.3 0.683 0.707 0.610 0.683 0.415 0.549 1 0
2001 SAS 2 30.2 0.707 0.707 0.732 0.695 0.720 0.768 0 0
2002 LAL 3 28.1 0.707 0.610 0.683 0.415 0.549 0.512 1 0
2003 NJN 2 27.3 0.598 0.573 0.512 0.598 0.500 0.415 1 0
Year Franchise CF apps, 3 yrs Age Y Y+1 Y+2 Y+3 Y+4 Y+5 <.500 <.350
2003 SAS 2 27.1 0.732 0.695 0.720 0.768 0.707 0.683 0 0
2004 DET 2 27.3 0.659 0.659 0.780 0.646 0.720 0.476 1 0
2004 LAL 2 30.2 0.683 0.415 0.549 0.512 0.695 0.793 1 0
2005 DET 3 28.1 0.659 0.780 0.646 0.720 0.476 0.329 2 1
2005 SAS 2 28.6 0.720 0.768 0.707 0.683 0.659 0.610 0 0
2006 DET 3 29.1 0.780 0.646 0.720 0.476 0.329 0.366 3 1
2006 MIA 2 29.4 0.634 0.537 0.183 0.524 0.573 0.707 1 1
2006 PHO 2 26.8 0.659 0.744 0.671 0.561 0.659 0.488 1 0
2007 DET 3 29.5 0.646 0.720 0.476 0.329 0.366
2007 SAS 2 30.8 0.707 0.683 0.659 0.610 0.744
Year Franchise CF apps, 3 yrs Age Y Y+1 Y+2 Y+3 Y+4 Y+5 <.500 <.350
2008 DET 3 28.8 0.720 0.476 0.329 0.366
2008 SAS 2 31.6 0.683 0.659 0.610 0.744
2009 CLE 2 27.2 0.805 0.744 0.232
2009 LAL 2 27.3 0.793 0.695 0.695
2010 BOS 2 29.4 0.610 0.683
2010 ORL 2 28.0 0.720 0.634
2010 LAL 3 29.0 0.695 0.695

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7 Responses to “How 2+ Conference Finalists in 3 Seasons Fared 5 Years Later”

  1. ElGee Says:

    By my count that's 87 teams. 46 (53%) stayed above .500 all 5 seasons.

    The average team had it's win% drop 10.6% (8.7 wins) in those 5 seasons from Y.

    -LG

  2. Ben Says:

    98 Bulls blowup really was unique...

  3. Neil Paine Says:

    Looks like the 90s Jazz, early-2000s Spurs, late 90s Pacers, and late 80s Celtics were the only mini-dynasties as old as the current Celtics to sidestep the bust part of the boom-and-bust cycle. And of those teams, all but the Spurs gravitated toward .500 hell at some point.

  4. ElGee Says:

    Btw, the only teams who improved the win% in the following 5 years:
    84 Bucks
    01 Spurs
    90 Bulls
    90 Suns
    82/83/84 Lakers
    78 Sixers
    93 Bulls
    94/96 Jazz

  5. Ian Says:

    What I find interesting is that none of the final 4 teams (whoever they turn out to be) were among the final 4 last year. In fact, none have been part of the final 4 since Miami and Dallas in 2006.

  6. Greyberger Says:

    in BoP a .700 win% team is expected to decline to .650% in one year... if that is the average win% of our teams above, how does performance in y+1 y+2 etc compare to what you'd expect from the natural shuffling of teams up and down year to year?

  7. Matt, Colombia Says:

    Why are teams being repeated? Instead of 91 Chicago, 92, 93, etc. shouldn't we just look at it from the last time a team made the conference finals after getting there 2+ times?