The goal of this project is to figure out which teams were the worst to make the playoffs in the last 10 NBA seasons. To measure this I had to first decide on what constituted “bad” playoff teams. I figured that the best baseline measure was winning percentage and that the line of demarcation between a five seed and a four seed was around the .545 mark. Any team below that mark, and also finishing fifth or worse in the conference would be eligible for the data pool. The fifth seed and worse designation were not arbitrary as the Eastern Conference teams at times struggled to break .540 even at the fourth seed.
Conversely, the Western Conference had seasons(!!) where the playoff field featured only teams a winning percentage of .610 or higher. In order to limit the field to teams that likely were not considered “elite”, I made the decision to only take the worst seeded team from any conference that featured only teams that finished above .545. These teams represent control groups for the scoring system described below based on important team and individual stats.
Each team who qualified was examined and cataloged based on the following criteria: winning percentage, overall plus/minus, offensive rating, and defensive rating. In addition to examining the team stats, the best player was determined based upon the following: average points per game, average rebounds per game, average assists per game, traditional shooting slashes, games started, and overall plus/minus. The Best Player, or BP, was a distinction was important because it would later effect scoring relative to the production of other players within the pool and not against the league at-large. Additionally, teams could be scored on whether or not the team had an individual player selected for that season’s all-star game.
Upon collecting the counting stats stated above, each team was ranked from worst-to-best and given a score based on where they placed. The higher the placing, the higher the score and the higher the score the worse the team. The highest maximum score for any one category was 150 points based on the goal of achieving 15 total teams. While the other five teams were not the focus, the goal was to parse out any anomalies that may have appeared. By the end, the scores ranged from 20-830 with BP real plus/minus often directly correlating to the team’s final score.
No 2. 2011 – 2012 Philadelphia 76ers
Winning %: .530 Offensive Rtg:103.9 Defensive Rtg: 99.2 Overall +/-: 4.1
Best Player: Andre Iguodala
Total Points: 810
The ‘11-’12 Philadelphia 76ers were a team that had as bizarre of a season as could have happened. In the shortened season Andre Iguodala played 63 of 66 games and sat at or near the top of all leaderboards for the team’s counting stats. However, this was a team that equal parts owned the third best defensive rating in the league and a bottom third offensive rating. With one of the worst BP lines in the grouping, the Sixers were doomed if this version of Iguodala was to be their best player. Even more interesting is that, for a team that featured many vets, journeyman, and an all-star they scored remarkably high and yet had minimal injuries. Over half the team played at least two-thirds of the seasons but almost none of them managed to make a legitimate impact on their own.
At face value, it would seem that this team is oddly misplaced featuring a +.500 record with an all-star on the roster. However, a closer look reveals that the team did not feature any one player who would be able to consistently put them over the top. Indeed just one season later the Sixers would commit to their hotly debated tanking program which has landed them in the second round of the playoffs this season.
However, six seasons ago their approach was more crowdsourced which left them ultimately lacking in overall finishing power. In fact had the season been stretched to its 82 game norm, they may not have made the playoffs finishing just four games over .500. With a roster lacking high-end talent and preparing to bleed what talent they had, the Sixers were fortunate to only see one game of Derrick Rose and get to game seven with the aging Celtics.
No 1. 2012 – 2013 Milwaukee Bucks
Winning %: .463 Offensive Rtg:103.6 Defensive Rtg: 105.2 Overall +/-: -1.6
Best Player: Brandon Jennings
Total Points: 830
Finally, the worst team playoff team in the last ten seasons, per the metrics, are the ‘12 – ‘13 Bucks. To illustrate just how bad this team was there was a debate about which player should be considered their BP: Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. Ultimately Brandon Jennings received this dubious honor mostly because his net rating checked out a little better. However, with a rating of -3.6, Jennings was far from “good” and posted by far the worst shooting slashes of any BP. Ellis did shoot better and even logged more steals, but his net rating finished -5.0 which is astounding. This team did nothing exceptionally well and largely was a doormat for most any other competent team.
With multiple(!) three, four, and five-game losing streaks, the Bucks struggled to find any consistency the entire season. No winning streak went longer than four games and the Bucks won only four of their final thirteen games. This team had no business making the playoffs this season and were the only team below .500 to make it. Overall they were just a sacrificial lamb for the Miami Heat that season but also are also the best case study for reseeding the playoffs. In a reseeding, the Bucks would have finished as the 19th best team in the league and would have been an easy out for just about any other team in the field.