Editors Note: This topic was spurred by a recent conversation with my boss (yes that’s right, the blog does not pay the bills…if you’re curious I am a competitive mime artist) concerning closed window’s of opportunity in the NBA.
A few qualifiers and ground rules before I kick-off:
- Obviously has to be within the last 20 years. So we’re talking 1988-89 season up until today.
- Must be a three year sustained run of success. (Example: The Pacers had a couple decent two years runs but faded in the 3rd year.)
- Cannot have won a championship with the same basic core of players. Example: ’05-’08 Pistons would certainly merit inclusion, yet they won the 2004 NBA Title with mostly the same players. Also I struggled with including the 1993-1996 Spurs since the 1999 Spurs won it all with something the previous editions lacked (Tim Duncan), yet they had 3 of the same starters and I hate the Spurs so they’re off. I now expect Sgt. Zim’s rebuttal column.
- Both post-season and regular season success will be considered. However, a team that enjoyed a great deal of post-season success with only pedestrian regular season’s will likely not be included (see ’01-’03 Nets who lost back to back NBA Finals, but averaged only 50.5 regular season wins).
- I’ve ordered this list by average number of regular season wins during their 3 years span
1. 2004-2007 Dallas Mavericks – 61.66 wins per year
- Head Coach – Avery Johnson, Don Nelson (first 64 games of ’04-’05)
- Key Players – Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Devin Harris, Josh Howard
- Playoff Results – 2004-2005 – Lost in 2nd round to Suns (6 games). 2005-2006 – Lost in NBA Finals to Miami (6 games). 2006-2007 – Lost in 1st round to Golden State (6 games).
- Key Stats – Ranked 4th, 1st, and 2nd respectively in basketballreference.com’s offensive rating (which factors in points scored per 100 possessions) over the 3 year span.
- Peak Point – The ’05-’06 Mavs held a 2-0 series lead in the NBA Finals against the Heat. They went on to lose 4 straight and the series.
- The Background – Led by Dirk Nowitzki, who would win an MVP in the ’06-’07 season, these editions of the Mavericks could always score when needed and played a surprisingly underrated brand of defensive basketball. Certainly the ’05-’06 team blowing a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals was a tough pill to swallow but the ’06-’07 Mavs were even better. They won 67 games and ran roughshod over the entire NBA. Unfortunately for Maverick fans Avery Johnson decided it would be wise to attempt to run with Golden State in the first round of the playoffs, which resulted in the 42-win Warriors, even with a gimpy Baron Davis, easily dispatching Dallas in 6.
- The Downfall – the following season Dallas took a major step back, winning just 51 games, a season which included a panic trade of 25 year-old Devin Harris (a 2009 All-Star) for 35 year-old (timer) Jason Kidd. The Mavs yet again fell in the first round of the playoffs in 2008 and followed that up by getting to the 2nd round this year. They’ve not been considered a real title threat since their 67 win season.
- What Might Have Been – Although it was after the 3 year run, trading emerging star Devin Harris for Jason Kidd during the ’07-08 season only served to quicken the demise of the Dallas run.
2. 1993-1996 Seattle Supersonics – 61.33 wins per year
- Head Coach – George Karl
- Key Players – Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf, Nate McMillan, Sam Perkins, Kendall Gill (2 years)
- Playoff Results – 1993-94 – Lost in 1st Round to Denver (5 games). 1994-95 – Lost in 1st Round to Lakers. 1995-96 (4 games). Lost in NBA Finals to Chicago (6 games).
- Key Stat – An example of what was one of the more offensively balanced teams of the ’90’s, out of this three year run only once did a player (Gary Payton in ’94-95), average over 20 points per game.
- Peak Point – The ’95-96 team won 64 games and cruised into the finals before getting down 3 games to none to Michael Jordan’s Bulls. The valiant Sonics won the next 2 and stayed relatively close in Game 6, but fell, losing the series in the process.
- The Background – ’93-94 and ’94-95’s Sonics won a ton of games but couldn’t quite put it together in the playoffs. In ’94 they became the first top seed to fall to a number 8 where Dikembe Mutombo famously led the Nuggets to the first round upset and in the next season they fell to the Cedric Ceballos-led Lakers. History penalizes this Sonics era because of their first round failures. They finally put it together in ’95-’96 and reached the NBA Finals, but just couldn’t close the deal. This fast-breaking team was easily one of the most fun teams to watch of the decade, the Payton to Kemp alley-oops were an art. Big Smooth (Perkins), Detlef Schrempf, and Nate McMillan filled out the roster. Interestingly enough, Bill Cartwright capped his 14 year career with a 29 game stint with the ’94-95 Sonics.
- The Downfall – Following the Finals year, the Sonics won 2 consecutive Pacific Division titles, yet they were no longer the class of the Western Conference as it was Utah’s turn to play Jordan fodder. What certainly hastened the decline was the Kemp trade to Cleveland, which netted the Sonics Vin Baker (see below).
- What Might Have Been– During the Sonics run to the finals, Shawn Kemp was the 4th highest paid player on the team. Thus began some loud complaining from Kemp, and ended with his trade to Cleveland (in which the Sonics picked up problem drinker Vin Baker). The trade didn’t really work out for either party as Baker began his well-documented problems with alcohol and Kemp spent the NBA lockout eating a diet that must have solely consisted of rich decadent chocolate cake. Perhaps getting Frank Brickowski (3rd highest paid player) locked down before Kemp wasn’t the greatest idea.
3. 1995-1998 Utah Jazz – 60.33 wins per year
- Head Coach – Jerry Sloan
- Key Players – Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Byron Russell
- Playoff Results – 1995-96 – Lost Western Conference Finals to Seattle (7 games). 1996-97 – Lost NBA Finals to Chicago (6 games). 1997-98 – Lost NBA Finals to Chicago (6 games).
- Key Stat – Ranked 2nd, 2nd, and 1st respectively in the the basketballreference offensive rating system. Impressive considering Malone, Hornacek, and to a lesser extent Stockton, were their only consistent scoring threats.
- Peak Point – Does it get much closer than Game 5 in Utah, series tied at two games each, Michael Jordan with the flu, and the Jazz up 16 in the 1st quarter? Yet as has gone down in NBA lore as “The Flu Game”, Jordan fought back, scoring 38 points to lead the Bulls to a 90-88 victory.
- The Background – The only crime of these Jazz teams was that their 3 year run coincided directly with the Chicago Bulls 2nd three-peat. These three seasons were the culmination of a stretch in which Jerry Sloan led the Jazz to nine 50-win seasons in a span of 10 years. Malone won the 1997 NBA MVP award (somehow over Jordan…but he won it) and was a consistent 27 points per game scorer during these three years. John Stockton ran the offense with frightening precision, averaging 14 points to go with over 10 assists, while Jeff Hornacek provided the dead-eye shooting accuracy that pushed Utah to the next level they could not achieve in the earlier part of the decade. Hornacek shot a staggering 42.5% from three point range between ’95-98. The rest of the Jazz roster was filled out with a combination of heady veterans (Antoine Carr, Chris Morris) and athletic, defensive minded young players (Byron Russell, Shandon Anderson). No matter which way you slice it, this was one of the better teams for most of the 1990’s.
- The Downfall – Age began to catch up with Utah. They finished 37-13 in the lockout shortened ’98-99 season but were unable to get past up-start Portland in the 2nd round. After that they were just an average team, sure they could win 50 every year but you weren’t exactly thereatened by their playoff presence and they were certainly no threat to win the title. By the end of the 2nd NBA Finals attempt, Stockton was 36, Hornacek 35, and Malone 34. If they’d peaked two years before or two years after they did I have no reason to believe they wouldn’t all be wearing championship rings.
- What Might Have Been – Hard to point to a player or personnel decision that the Jazz could have improved with (besides perhaps adding an athletic scorer scorer at small forward), so how about perhaps making the decision to double-team Jordan at the end of Game 6 of the 1998 Finals. When His Airness hit his game-winning and final shot as a Bull he was single-covered by Byron Russell. Although Jordan had showed an ability to pass off on the last shot in the biggest stage before (see Paxson, Kerr), I think you’d prefer Toni Kukoc beat you than Michael Jordan.
4. 1989-1992 Portland Trailblazers – 59.66 wins per year
- Head Coach – Rick Adelman
- Key Players – Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Kevin Duckworth, Jerome Kersey, Cliff Robinson, Buck Williams
- Playoff Results – 1989-90 – Lost NBA Finals to Detroit (5 games). 1990-91 – Lost in Western Conference Finals to Lakers (6 games). 1991-92 – Lost in NBA Finals to Chicago (6 games).
- Key Stat – 4th, 3rd, and 2nd in the NBA respectively in basketballreference’s defensive ratings (points allowed per 100 possessions) during this three season run.
- Peak Point – In the 1992 NBA Finals the Bulls and Blazers were even at 2 games with Game 5 taking place in Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. Unfortunately for Portland (and many other teams on this list), Mr. Jordan took over and led Chicago to 2 straight wins to capture their 2nd of 6 titles.
- The Background – It’s probably just the Suns fan in me, but I felt like this Blazers squad was one of the more hated of the early 90’s. Even if it is just my bias talking, the fact that I think they were hated means that they were damn good. If anyone remembers, up until the ’92 Finals there was a legitimate debate as to who was the better swing-man between Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler – the Glide was actually that good. Surrounding Drexler was Terry Porter, who was a great point guard but garbage coach, Kevin Duckworth, Buck Williams, Jerome Kersey, and Cliff Robinson. In spite of looking like the Penguin from Batman lore, Duckworth was actually a multi-talented center. Then the Blazers had Kersey, who provided a surprising amount of scoring (never less than 13 a game during this run) and Williams who averaged almost a double-double over this 3 year span. A young Cliff Robinson provided most of the scoring punch off the bench for these Blazers squads.
- The Downfall – The Blazers took a rather large step back in 1992-93 due to an injury to Drexler. The years that followed saw a combination of aging and increased competition in the Western Conference slow Portland to a point where they did not win a playoff series for another 6 seasons. By ’94-95 Portland dealt Drexler to Houston so he could win a title, Porter was a part-time starter, and Cliff Robinson was the star player. A few years later the Blazers old identity was completely gone and they became the Jail Blazers we all knew and loved so much.
- What Might Have Been Moment – It probably wouldn’t have hurt the Blazers to draft that Jordan fellow instead of Sam Bowie when given the opportunity in 1984. If that had happened who knows what teams would and wouldn’t be on this list, although it is interesting to think about Drexler and Jordan playing together. In a less drastic move, they were 4 picks away from selecting Vlade Divac in the 1989 Draft. Though he may not have been able to become Portland’s starting center immediately, it could have been enough to keep the 1990-91 Lakers from beating the Blazers in the Conference Finals.
T5. 1992-1995 Phoenix Suns – 59 wins per year
- Head Coach – Paul Westphal
- Key Players – Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle,
- Playoff Results – 1992-93 – Lost in NBA Finals to Chicago (6 games). 1993-94 – Lost in 2nd round to Houston (7 games). 1994-95 – Lost in 2nd round to Houston (7 games).
- Key Stat – 1st, 1st, and 2nd respectively in points per game during the three year stretch.
- Peak Point – Take your pick. Down 3 games to 2 in the ’93 Finals but up 2 points with only seconds remaining in Game 6 (Paxson then hits 3 to win it), up 2-0 in the 1994 2nd round over eventual champion Houston, or up 3 games to 1 in the 1995 playoffs over eventual champion Houston, either way you can’t lose. Three times the Suns fell during this three year run, and three times it was to the team that would win the championship.
- The Background – The ’88-92 Suns enjoyed 4 consecutive 50 win seasons, however they were never really a threat to win the championship. The core of KJ, Majerle, Hornacek and Chambers was good but just not good enough. Enter Charles Barkley. In the 1992 off-season the Suns picked up Barkley from the 76ers for Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang, and immediately became a title contender. Phoenix won 62 in 1992-93 and reached only their 2nd Finals in franchise history. Over the next couple of years the team added key veterans such as Danny Manning, Wayman Tisdale, and A.C. Green and again were serious title contenders. Yet like San Antonio would in the 2000’s, the Houston Rockets stood in the way. Olajuwon and company won back to back titles after getting past what many considered to be a superior Phoenix team.
- The Downfall – After the 2nd consecutive Game 7 defeat at the hands of Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets, Suns management decided they needed to go out and get a center. Unfortunately they decided that center should be Hot Rod Williams. And even more unfortunately, they decided that the price paid for Hot Rod would be franchise mainstay Dan Majerle. By this point, Barkley was disinterested, and some of the other key veterans (KJ, Danny Manning) could not stay healthy. Phoenix won just 41 games in 1995-96 and never again threatened to regain their old form.
- What Might Have Been Moment – In the summer of 1993 the Suns signed Richard Dumas to a long-term contract. Dumas took that contract and basically spent it on cocaine, as he was never again a factor in the NBA. On the other hand, following the 1994 season, Phoenix lost Cedric Ceballos to a contract with the Lakers. Perhaps if Phoenix had signed Ceballos to a long-term extension instead of Dumas things would have resulted differently for both players. In his first two seasons with the Lakers, Ceballos averaged over 20 points per game and was an All-Star in 1995. Provided Ceballos would have had similar development with the Suns he could have been enough to put them over the top in 1994-95.
T5. 2004-2007 Phoenix Suns – 59 wins per year
- Head Coach – Mike D’Antoni
- Key Players – Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Raja Bell (2 seasons), Leandro Barbosa
- Playoff Results – 2004-2005 – Lost in Western Conference Finals to San Antonio (5 games). 2005-2006 – Lost in Western Conference Finals to Dallas (6 games). 2006-2007 – Lost in 2nd round to Spurs (6 games).
- Key Stat – Led the NBA in scoring all 3 seasons of this run, never averaging less than 108 points per game. Also were 1st, 2nd, and 1st respectively in basketballreference’s offensive ratings.
- Peak Point – In 2007, the 2nd round match-up between the Suns and Spurs was widely considered the true NBA Finals. As the Suns were finishing off a Game 4 victory, Robert Horry infamously hip-checked Steve Nash into the sideline boards. Seeing the fallen Nash on the ground spurred Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw to briefly leave the bench, which resulted in both players being suspended for Game 5. In spite of this unfair (Ed’s note – yea I said unfair, David Stern is an attorney and he’s claiming that there is no way around the language of the NBA rule here? It says “leave the area of the bench”, technically Stoudemire nor Diaw even left the sideline. But I am highly biased…so I digress) suspension the Suns still carried a 6 point lead into the 4th quarter of Game 5 before falling 88-85. The Spurs won the next game and then proceeded to roll by the undermanned Jazz in the Conference Finals and frighteningly pedestrian Cavs in the Finals to take the title.
- The Background – The Suns won just 29 games in 2003-2004, yet dumping Stephon Marbury on the Knicks was just what Phoenix needed to turn everything around. In the off-season Phoenix added Steve Nash to complement Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, and Leandro Barbosa and exploded for 62 wins. Nash was the perfect point guard for Coach Mike D’Antoni to run his “Seven Seconds or Less” offense and the breakneck Suns put up over 110 points per game. A hallmark of the Suns was tremendous three point shooting, as they shot 39.3% as a team during the ’04-05 season en route to the Western Conference Finals. Following this first year, the Suns dealt Joe Johnson (as detailed below) to Atlanta for Boris Diaw and 2 first-round draft picks, and Amare Stoudemire suffered a major knee injury. Notwithstanding these issues the Suns still won 54 games and again made the Western Conference Finals. With a healthy Stoudemire in 2006-2007 the Suns won 61 games and there 3rd consecutive Pacific Division title before falling to San Antonio in the 2nd round in 6 games. This team was about as fun to watch as any team in the history of the NBA, it even put 2 MVP trophies in the case of Steve Nash, but it did put a damper on the thought that you could win an NBA title just by outscoring everyone.
- The Downfall – Steve Kerr? Robert Sarver? The following season Shawn Marion’s desire to be traded became overwhelming, and despite being tops in the Western Conference at the time, the Suns dealt Marion, along with Marcus Banks to Miami in exchange for Shaquille O’Neal. The gamble on the Big Aristotle failed as the Suns slipped to 6th in the West and were knocked out of the playoffs in 5 games by the Spurs. After the 2008 playoffs, Mike D’Antoni took off for New York and the Suns brought in Terry Porter. Porter didn’t even make it through the season before he was fired, basically for trying to get a team without good defensive players to play defense. A combination of Porter and an injury to Stoudemire two games into the Alvin Gentry era, kept the Suns out of the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Hard as it is to say, the run is dead.
- What Might Have Been Moment – The Joe Johnson fiasco. Johnson was a budding star in ’04-05, he averaged 17.1 points per game and was finally beginning to show the potential that made him a lottery pick of the Celtics years earlier. He was a restricted free-agent in the summer of 2005 and his relationship with Suns management had gotten so bad that the Suns were left with no option but to deal him. As Johnson wanted to be the lead guy, Atlanta stepped in and traded Boris Diaw and a couple of first round picks to Phoenix to complete the swap. Diaw turned out to be an alright player when Stoudemire was injured in ’05-06 but was basically soft and incapable with Amare in the lineup. The first round picks on the other hand turned out to be Rajon Rondo and Robin Lopez. This would be acceptable had the Rondo pick not be dealt to Boston for cash, one in a long line of up-yours moments by Robert Sarver involving draft picks (Andre Igoudala, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez anyone?). Joe Johnson has since fulfilled his potential and become a multi-time All-Star and center piece for an Atlanta Hawks team that just made it to the 2nd round.
7. 2000-2003 Sacramento Kings – 58.33 wins per year
- Head Coach – Rick Adelman
- Key Players – Chris Webber, Mike Bibby (2 years), Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson
- Playoff Results – 2000-2001 – Lost in 2nd round to Lakers (4 game). 2001-2002 – Lost in Western Conference Finals to Lakers (7 games). 2002-2003 – Lost in 2nd round to Mavericks (7 games).
- Key Stat – The Kings were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively in average points per game over this three year stretch.
- Peak Point –Sacramento held a 3-2 series lead in the 2002 Conference Finals before a controversy filled Game 6. The Lakers eeked out a 4 point win over the Kings, helped by the fact that they attempted 40 free throws, including 27 in the forth quarter. Disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy has since made allegations that 2 of the referees in the game were operating under orders to make sure this series reached a 7th game (thus the 4th quarter free throws and foul trouble for Divac, Webber, and all other Kings big men). Obviously the Lakers went on to win Game 7 and then the NBA Finals over a weak Nets team.
- The Background – Welcome back to the list Rick Adelman! Before the 2000-2001 campaign, the Kings franchise hadn’t won 50 games in a season since they were the Cincinnati Royals in ’63-64, Chris Webber came in and changed all of that. After somehow convincing Washington to trade them the 25 year-old Webber for 33 year-old Mitch Richmond, the Kings began their run. Webber made his Sacramento debut in ’98-99 and led the Kings to just their 2nd playoff berth since the 1986 season. The ’98-99 campaign also marked the rookie season for Peja Stojokovic, the next season saw the Kings add Divac. During 2000-2001, White Chocolate (Jason Williams) was the Kings point guard, feeling that he wasn’t quite the best leader for the team Williams was dealt to Vancouver in the off-season for Mike Bibby. The Kings were a near-perfect mix of slick passing big men (Webber, Divac) and shooters (Bibby, Stojakovic, Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu). There was all of that PLUS the crazy fatal attraction like existence of Doug Christie’s wife Jackie, and the towel waving prowess of Mateen Cleaves.
- The Downfall – In the 2nd game of their 2003 2nd round series against Dallas, Chris Webber suffered a massive knee injury. This resulted in Webber missing nearly a year of action while he underwent microfracture surgery. Unfortunately for Kings fans, Webber would never regain the athletic playing style that complemented his consistent 23-10 performances. As is the case with most teams, the Kings weren’t the same without their superstar. They reached a 7th game in the 2nd round of the 2004 playoffs before falling to the T-Wolves but have yet to reach the 2nd round since.
- What Might Have Been Moment – Besides being from Los Angeles or being one of the league’s prize franchises there wasn’t a whole lot this Kings franchise could have done. However, in the 1998 NBA Draft, Sacramento passed on future star Paul Pierce and instead selected Jason Williams. Although Williams would eventually net the Kings Mike Bibby, you can’t help but feel that Webber and Paul Pierce would have formed a pretty nasty 1-2 punch.
8. 1992-1995 New York Knicks – 57.33 wins per year
- Head Coach – Pat Riley
- Key Players – Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, Charles Smith, Anthony Mason
- Playoff Results – 1992-93 – Lost Eastern Conference Finals to Chicago (6 games). 1993-1994 – Lost NBA Finals to Houston (7 games). 1994-95 – Lost in 2nd round to Indiana (7 games).
- Key Stat – Ranked 1st, 1st, and 2nd in points allowed per game in the 3 season run.
- Peak Point – They may have the least average wins per year of any team on this list but they were the closest of anyone to actually winning it all. The Knicks reached Game 7 of the 1994 Finals only to fall the the Rockets 90-84. What wasn’t exactly helpful for New York was the shockingly poor 2 for 18 performance from John Starks in the game. In one of the more historically poor performances in NBA Finals history, Starks nearly single-handedly stripped the Knicks of a chance to win it all.
- The Background – This team was good at two things: (1) Defense and (2) Fighting. Although Riley was the coach of the Showtime Lakers of the 80’s he quickly instituted a rough and tumble defensive mindset in these Knicks when he came out of his one year retirement in 1991. In just one season, Riley took the Knicks from giving up an average of 103.2 points per game (in ’90-91) to 97.7 points per game and 2nd in the league in that category. It may not have been the prettiest brand of basketball but Anthony Mason or Charles Oakley would knock just about anyone upside the head to get an advantage, while Ewing and Starks provided the scoring where it was needed. Starks, who was also a pretty excellent defender in his own right, likely doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his abilities due to the egg of all eggs he laid in that Game 7. I can’t say I ever enjoyed watching a Knicks game from this era, but they could win and they were tough.
- The Downfall – The following season Pat Riley left the Knicks for Miami, leaving New York in the hands of Don Nelson. As was his nature, Nelson wanted to push an up-tempo style and pressed management to trade Patrick Ewing in order to clear cap space in an attempt to sign Shaquille O’Neal. Suffice it to say, Nelson lasted all of 59 games. Jeff Van Gundy took over and finished the ’96-97 season but could not lead the Knicks past Riley’s Heat in the 2nd round. By the next season the Knicks had added Allan Houston along with Larry Johnson and were functionally a different team. However Ewing had aged and although they reached the ’99 NBA Finals, the new Knick teams never were quite as good the ’92-95 versions.
- What Might Have Been Moment – In the 1992 NBA Draft the Knicks selected capable shooting guard Hubert Davis. Davis was a solid contributor for the Knicks, providing just over 10 points per game in both his 2nd and 3rd years. However, the Knicks selected Davis when another shooting guard, Latrell Sprewell, was still available. Sprewell, who became a Knick in 1998, was a 20 point per game scorer by the ’93-94 season. As a team that could have used an athletic scorer, I’m sure the Knicks would have enjoyed his presence quite a bit.
That is the list as ordered by wins per year. As for which team I believe was best? I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide for themselves. There is definitely quite a bit to choose from there. The Jazz may have been the most balanced, but the Seven Seconds or Less Suns were the most fun. The Knicks may have been the closest to the actual title (Game 7 of the Finals), but were they actually better than the Mavs who would have need two more wins to take the crown. A few interesting revelations/points from this list:
- Of the 24 total cracks at the title represented here (3 for each team, 8 teams) – 8 attempts were in seasons during which Michael Jordan’s Bulls took home the title.
- 15 of those attempts were lost to the eventual NBA Champion. Only one team, the ’92-95 Suns, lost to the eventual champion each of their three attempts.
- I had forgotten how truly awesome some of these teams were. I would have never figured that Dallas would have had the most wins per year of any non-title winner of the last 20 years.
- If the Suns had a healthy Amare in the ’05-06 season they likely win 60 games that season also and may just be tops on this list.
- I was very surprised at the dearth of Eastern Conference teams who stacked up from a numbers standpoint. Indiana of the mid-90’s and Miami of the late 90’s were two of my first searches, yet neither had enough to merit inclusion.
Last Place. 1992-1994 Dallas Mavericks – 15.33 wins per year
- Head Coach – Richie Adubato, Gar Heard (9-44 in 1992-93), Quinn Buckner.
- Key Players – Derek Harper, Fat Lever, Jamal Mashburn (1 season), Jimmy Jackson (2 seasons),
- Playoff Results – Ha.
- Key Stat – Finished just 45 games behind the Rockets for the Midwest Division crown in ’93-94. Finished dead-last in the NBA in scoring twice in the three season stretch (2nd to last the other year).
- Peak Point – Sitting at 8-68 with 6 games remaining in the ’92-93 season, the Mavericks needed to win 2 games to avoid tying the ’72-73 76ers for the worst record of all-time. The gritty Mavs pulled together for a stunning 3-3 finish to not only clear the 76ers but put a couple game cushion in place.
- The Background – They were really really bad. They had bad players, bad ownership (Ross Perot Jr.), and a bad facility (Reunion Arena). The playoff runs of the mid-80’s couldn’t have seemed further away as the Mavs managed to win less than 30 games 8 of a possible 9 seasons during the 1990’s.
- The Downfall – I suppose the downfall would mean “the upswing” with regards to these Mavs. Thus, the upswing was the purchase of the team by billionaire Mark Cuban. Cuban rapidly turned this team into a winner and into the team that tops this list.
- What Might Have Been – Maybe if Cuban had bought another team the Mavericks would still be fun to kick around.
Enjoy the list. Debate it, send me emails telling me I’m an idiot (email@example.com), do whatever you want with it.