October 22, 2012

47 Wins?

Warning! What follows is not pretty. But don't ever accuse me of being a front runner.

The 2012-2013 NBA season tips off next Tuesday, October 30 when the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Washington Wizards. At the beginning of the last few NBA seasons, I have wondered if this is the year the Wizards will finally win 47 games. Why 47 games? Because since I became a Wizards season ticket holder in 2000, every franchise except two has won 47 games in a single regular season. One of those two lowly franchises is the Charlotte Bobcats, who maxed out at 44 wins in the 2009-2010 season; but the Bobcats have only existed for eight seasons so they are a little handicapped in this statistic. The other franchise, of course, is the Wizards, who managed 45 wins in the 2004-2005 season, the same year we reached the second round of the NBA playoffs.

That anecodotal futility mark started me wondering: are the Wizards really one of the two worst franchises in the NBA over the last 12 years? Turns out the answer might be yes. Let's take a look.

Wins Per Season
Over the past 12 seasons, the Wizards have won an average of 31.4 games, including the actual win total from the abbreviated 2011-2012 66-game season. That mark is good for second worst in the NBA over that period, 0.7 wins behind the Golden State Warriors but ahead of the Bobcats by a whopping 2.8 wins. Five teams (the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics) have AVERAGED more wins over that period than the 45 games the Wizards won in our best of those 12 seasons. The Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz would be added to that list if you throw out last year's shortened season. We may be thankful the Bobcats have only been around eight years.

From the 2000-2001 through 2011-2012 NBA seasons, there were 17 teams that won fewer than 20 games in a season. The Wizards did it twice: in 2000-2001 and 2008-2009. Three other franchises, the Bobcats, Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves, also failed to win 20 games twice during that span. No franchise won fewer than 20 games three times in that span. Note I included last year's abbreviated season in Charlotte's numbers because they only won seven games. Even if the season were 188 games long, they still wouldn't have won 20 games at their pace last season. The silver lining here (it's a stretch, I know) is that in the Wizards' two sub-20 win seasons, they did manage to win 19 games each time.

While the Wizards average win total is second worst in the NBA, their median win total is tied for dead last with the Los Angeles Clippers at 31.5 wins. The Bobcats, who saved us from being dead last in average wins per season, are a full game ahead of us along with the Timberwolves. None of these franchises are models of success, although the Clippers did make the second round of the playoffs last year behind Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and appear to be loaded with talent this year.

The graph below was published in an April 3, 2012 Washington Post article at a time when it appeared last year that the Wizards might set a franchise record low for winning percentage in a season. The Hopwood years start in 2000-2001. Lots of red; I told you it wasn't pretty. Despite that performance, I have never thought of not renewing my season tickets. Take that however you will.

Playoff Wins Per Season
In my time as a season ticket holder, the Wizards have made it to the playoffs four times. That may not seem like a lot to you and it's not. Only three teams, the Bobcats, Warriors and Clippers, have fewer appearances. The encouraging thing here is that if you added the playoff appearances of each of those teams since the 2000-2001 season, they would add up to the total for the Wizards, so I'm counting my blessings (I think) that I am not a Bobcats, Warriors or Clippers fan. And while we only appear in the playoffs more frequently than three teams, there are three other teams (the Timberwolves, New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors) tied with us at four appearances so we are not alone in our lack of achievement in this category.

When we do make the playoffs, we don't win much. We have averaged 2.0 wins per playoff appearance with just one trip to the second round where we were unceremoniously swept by the eventual champion Miami Heat. That's better than only the Portland Trailblazers, Knicks and Bobcats, who in their lone playoff appearance during this stretch did not tally a single W. 

Division Titles, Conference Titles and NBA Championships
Nothing. That pretty much sums this up. No division titles, no conference titles and no NBA championships. Granted, over the past 12 years, the NBA Finals have been dominated by a small group of teams. Only six franchises have won a championship and another five have come up short by losing in the Finals. But of the 30 franchises in the NBA, 21 have won division titles over that period, led by the Spurs with eight and Lakers with seven. The ones that haven't: the Atlanta Hawks, Bobcats, Warriors, Houston Rockets, Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Knicks, Trailblazers and, of course, the Wizards. That record puts us either last or tied for 22nd, depending on how you look at it. I'll go with tied for 22nd.

So after all that, are the Wizards one of the two worst franchises in the NBA over the last 12 years? Maybe so. If not, they are pretty close to that. There is definitely some company; the same teams appear over and over in my description above. That doesn't make me feel any better.

So as this season starts, I'm again hoping for 47 wins. That seems more realistic than hoping for division titles or championships at this point. Hopefully this is the year. It all starts Tuesday.

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