How Do Really Bad Teams Fare The Year After?

With the New York Knicks coming off a dismal 17 win season, it’s hard to predict where the team will land by the end of 2016. I’ve seen estimates from the mid-20s to low 40s. So I’ve decided to look at similar team seasons to the Knicks, or teams in the modern era that have won between 14 and 19 games (in a full season) to help predict where New York will land.

In the season after, only 3 of the 43 teams had a winning percentage of .500 or more, which makes up 7% of the group. Lowering the bar further only 20% of the teams finished above 35 wins, and just 30% of the teams finished above 30 wins. The average team won only 23 games in year 2. So from the raw numbers there isn’t much to be optimistic about.

How 14-19 win teams did the year after.
How 14-19 win teams did the year after.

On the other hand, this list has a fair amount of expansion and expansion-ish teams. For instance, Vancouver’s has three seasons in a row from their initial start. So the data might be skewed against New York, which will start the season with a better roster than any of those expansion teams could have put together.

I’d rather not start cherry picking the data to try to get to a more accurate or preferable number. Instead I’d rather look at the three most successful franchises and see how they rebounded in order to see if there are similarities to this year’s Knicks.

2013-14 MIL: 15 wins to 41 wins

The most recent example of chump to champ are the 2014 Bucks. They are fascinating in the respect that the team turnaround was largely done with the same core players. Of the 8 players that received 1,000 minutes in 2014, 7 of them received 1,000 in 2015. In both seasons the offense ranked 26th in the league. So how did Fonzie’s crew turn it around in 2015?

D-fense!

Under a new coach, Jason Kidd, Milwaukee became the 4th ranked defense in 2015. It’s a remarkable turnaround, and hints at the worth a good (and/or a bad) coach on a franchise. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare in 2016, and if this was just a Mr. Potatohead temporary adjustment.

2007-08 MIA: 15 wins to 43 wins

If there is any team that New Yorkers should model their dreams after, this is the one. The Heat had a decent roster upgrade from 2008 to 2009. Only Wade, Haslem, and Cook played 1,000 minutes for both teams. Miami added two rookie starters: guard Mario Chalmers and forward Michael Beasley. Additionally the team acquired Shawn Marion late in 2008, and he played a bigger role for the team in 2009.

The Heat had 2 other factors that helped. First was the improving health of their superstar. Dwayne Wade missed 31 games in 2008, but only skipped 2 games in 2009. Second was that they replaced their coach, moving from Pat Riley to Erik Spoelstra.

2002-03 DEN: 17 wins to 43 wins

If you’re simple minded and attribute a team’s worth of work to only one individual, then this is the team you want pin your hopes on. Because in the pea-brained minds of the Stephen A. Smiths of the world, a developing Carmelo Anthony lifted this team out of the gutter. And that Carmelo is still imbued with this magic power, that he’ll be able to do it this year as well.

In reality this was a team with a young core (Melo 19yrs, Nene 21yrs), surrounded by some solid veterans (Andre Miller, Marcus Camby), which added another solid player in his prime (K-Mart), and changed coaches George Karl (32-8). A lot of factors contributed to the Nuggets to pin the team’s turnaround to just a single player.

I’d like to point out at this time, that each of these teams jettisoned their coach, which is one factor I believe the Knicks have working against them. Perhaps Derek Fisher is a fine leader that needed a year to get his feet wet. However it doesn’t seem that Kidd or Spoelstra had to go through growing pains before leading their team to a prosperous season.

In summary most teams don’t perform well. Judging from the data, it’s most likely that the Knicks will be in the 25-30 win range. If we adjust up because we feel the data is skewed by expansion teams, then 30-35 is an optimistic window. However if New Yorkers are pining for 41+ wins, then perhaps Fisher is the catalyst to make that happen. Either by becoming a much better leader or by yielding to a head coach that can get the job done.

50 replies on “How Do Really Bad Teams Fare The Year After?”

Ah yes..seems as if the thinking on Fish is in line with what I’ve been saying. I believe he’s the biggest x factor on the team. We have an all world scorer who rebounds very well from his customary SF spot, heady role players who are better fits around him, and 2 exciting rookies who seem to have the basketball acumen to contribute early. That’s a good start to the road back to respectability. The key is Fish putting those players in the best position to succeed. The team will probably improve defensively, while staying around the same level on offense mainly because of the lack of shooters. The triangle will look better on the team, but we just don’t have enough shooters to move the needle on offense.

The Knicks are probably in a better position to improve than the average “bad” team because they added a #4 pick, added several starters in free agency, and were also missing their best player for half the season last year. Most bad teams don’t have that many possible upsides for the following year. All that said, I think they will get into the mid to upper 30s. Quite a few teams in the east could be better this year also if they have better luck on the injury front.

Interesting work, Mike, thanks! I think that barring a rash of injuries, especially to Melo, Lopez or Afflalo, the Knicks are certainly going to be significantly better, but win totals are very hard to predict.

First, the only returning players who had 1000+ minutes last year are Anthony, Galloway, Calderon and Lance (who shouldn’t get 1000 minutes this year unless things go really badly.) Not a single player had 2000+ minutes.

Second, Anthony had a poor year, probably because he hurt his knee in game 2. Calderon also had a very bad year mainly due to injury.

Third, only 3 players had a WS48 of over .100 (none over .135) and none of them played 1000+ minutes or are still with the team. (Amare, Shved, Cole.) The top 4 minutes-getters all had WS48’s that were under .050. It is almost a certainty that this will not be the case in 2015-16.

So I feel that 30-35 wins is a reasonable starting point for predictions. The likelihood of winning less than 20 games is pretty low, as is winning over 41 games. But there is so much uncertainty that predictions will mean nothing until preseason.

Also, as to Fisher, even though last year was a disaster, I like what I saw out of him in terms of demeanor. He never looked depressed or beaten down, never turned on his players, and started to break away from the strict triangle system in an attempt to adjust to current-day NBA realities. He seems like a resilient guy and a hard worker, as his coaching the SL team suggested. I don’t think he’s Jason Kidd, who, despite being an Isiah-level a-hole, has a top-5 of all time basketball mind. But I do think that he will be a much better coach this year and has a much better hand to play.

@2 good points, strat. The NBA overall should be significantly stronger this year. Lots of good players were drafted in the last 5-6 years, and some good players are coming back from injuries last year…Melo, Durant, George, and even Jabari Parker. I doubt that any teams with less than 40 wins makes the playoffs in the East.

the league and the east in particular should be stronger but i do think we can compete for that 8th seed esp if we ourselves get some good health luck…

i have us between 38-40 wins… and it’s not a complete stretch to get to potentially 44 wins if melo, lopez and the rooks play well and often….

all these questionable signings for the end of the roster only really matter if and when someone from our rotation goes down for a significant time… or if fisher decides to play thomas/amundsen/williams/vujacic ahead of grant and porzingis… if any of that happens then i could very easily see us in the 32 win range…

In reality this was a team with a young core (Porzingis, Grant), surrounded by some solid veterans (Melo, Lopez), which added another solid player in his prime (????)

sounds like somebody could write this line about this Knicks several years down the road. Like Denver’s development, it likely depends on how good that young core becomes. There are also some other positives too look at in some of these comparisons (hoping that pre training camp optimism doesn’t get me banned) . Like Milwaukee it seems like the franchise has put an emphasis on defense, especially the complimentary players. Like Miami, we can hope for improved health. I would say 35-40 wins is realistic with a fight for the 7th – 8th seed.

Phil Files

“Like Q, Melo is a leader by example, not by exhorting his teammates. He’s also very into the triangle, and with a better supporting cast he has every chance to be the MJ and Kobe of our offense.”

Boy……Traid Melo.

Also

“Perhaps the worst part of Timmy’s game is his ugly defense” LOL

Most bad teams are young, so if things go well, guys make summer jumps and the team can get a lot better. The Knicks aren’t young compared to most other bad teams. Rookies are almost unilaterally below average players, so even the young Knicks are unlikely to make a real impact.

If Melo is healthy and playing at 13/14 level, 30+ wins is reasonable, but if 35-40 wins is “things go really well but nothing crazy good happens”, then 20-25 wins is “things go bad but nothing crazy bad happens.” If Melo plays like his worst season of the last decade (WS/48 of 0.105 in 08/09) and Calderon ages like a normal human, you’re looking at only one player who you could argue is even an average starter. And which is more likely for Melo coming off an injury and now 31 years old, that he matches his best season or that he matches his worst?

What’s impressive about the Phil Files is that it’s obviously revisionist but he still manages to get a bunch of shit wrong.

George Karl didnt coach Melo in his rookie season, he took over the following season.

What’s impressive about the Phil Files is that it’s obviously revisionist but he still manages to get a bunch of shit wrong.

Is this one of the things Phil is still wrong about?

“A big physical problem for Cole was being so top-heavy that he couldn’t move his feet quickly enough to avoid getting beaten on screen-rolls. Every team needs a big body, but Cole’s NBA niche is probably being a fourth or fifth big man in a three-man rotation.

Someone who shall go nameless was pilloried up and down here for saying precisely the same thing, except…. maybe he used the term glacial when referring to CA’s foot speed or lack thereof.

I think Phil was being brutally honest in the Phil Files. Calling THjr’s defense ugly is an understatement. He also didn’t hold back punches on Bargnani, calling him a “malingerer” and calling him an “enigma”. I’m glad that Phil saw what we saw.

Some good stuff, but then again I don’t think Phil is using anything that wasn’t available past his playing days.

Jason Smith, PF

The more he played, the better he played. Early in the season Jason didn’t have enough power in his legs to get his turn-around-jumper off, but as he played, his legs got stronger and his [jumper] was effective. He also developed his shot from beyond the arc, so he’s a real plus as a stretch 4. We’ve given him a program to develop his core strength and we really like him. Whether he returns or not once again depends on his market value.”

Ugh.

Derek Fisher, coach

Fish did a terrific job. He was positive and supportive for his players as he made the difficult transition from the floor to the command seat. His handling of matchups and clock management got better and better. But I think the most important thing that Fish accomplished was motivating his players to always play hard, even when games were out of reach in the first quarter. I know he’s going to be an outstanding coach for us.

Double Ugh.

I think I’m going to go back and re-read the Moneyball chapter where the scouts ignore the stats and instead talk about a guy’s big rear.

“The more he played, the better he played.

Yeah, that was probably the biggest area where he was just flat out wrong. But lots of other head-scratching comments. I still don’t get the Acy/Melo remark.

Did he seriously compare Melo’s leadership abilities to Quincy Acy? Huh?

i think it was the order of players reviewed that caused the comparison. It was in ABC order and ACY was first.

“His constant effort is what made him one of our leaders by example.” Re: Acy

Did he seriously compare Melo’s leadership abilities to Quincy Acy? Huh?

You guys are unbelievable in your hatred for Jackson because he doesn’t bow to your altar. He did compare Acy’s leadership method to Melo’s. He said they both work hard and lead by example and don’t exhort their team mates on.

Most large organizations prefer lead by example guys to rah-rah guys.

And of course Phil has 13 pelts on his CV unlike Morey and the Moneyball crew in Oakland.

Phil, Morey and Billy Beane have all put together 0 title winning teams. Take that nerds!

Reading Phil files, I always find myself struck by the commentary about bodies. I know it is sport and bodies matter, but I find it jarring, however silly, the comments about bodies and their shape and how that affects play.
Shane Larkin has “tiny” hands.
Ricky Ledo “has rounded shoulders that give him a slight hunch, which affects his balance and how big and robust he can play.”
Cole is top-heavy.
I find it fascinating that tall broad-shouldered guys, guys who look like they have right-angle shoulders at the neck and pointty shoulder tips, are a better build in basketball. Jackson, McHale, Patrick, with broad, high shoulders are far more difficult to defend and get around.

You guys are unbelievable in your hatred for Jackson because he doesn’t bow to your altar. He did compare Acy’s leadership method to Melo’s. He said they both work hard and lead by example and don’t exhort their team mates on.

Most large organizations prefer lead by example guys to rah-rah guys.

And of course Phil has 13 pelts on his CV unlike Morey and the Moneyball crew in Oakland.

I don’t hate Jackson. I’d just rather have a GM that uses modern analysis than not. And Jackson may succeed, despite this flaw, and that would be excellent.

On the other hand I don’t have to agree with everything he says. He said some smart things and some dumb things in the paper, on twitter, etc.. I will take issue with the dumb things, because to borrow your phrase, I won’t be bowing at his alter.

@21

Phil has a good naked eye for basketball, but when a player isn’t good, I think he has to come up with a reason why. So then he chooses a player’s physicality. I don’t think he actually thinks being “top heavy” or whatever is bad for a player. It’s not like Jackson knows that 83% of “top heavy” players are bad at X. He’ll watch a player, think the player is bad, and then use this analysis to come up with a reason afterward.

It’s after the fact analysis.

I will take issue with the dumb things, because to borrow your phrase, I won’t be bowing at his alter.

My objection isn’t with not bowing to the greatness that is Phil, but rather the incessant nit picking trivial stuff by the Greek chorus. For example, today, a number of you were in a state of high dudgeon over him comparing Acy to Melo in leadership style. I was a perfectly innocuous comment (and likely true) to all but the crew that just can’t wait to leap on the old guy who has been amazingly successful.

You guys also have a funny definition of what “dumb” is. Not playing the great Cole was “dumb” because his advanced stats say he is an above average NBA player. Guess what…. the advanced stats ate completely wrong on Cole…. he is not very good.

Phil was “dumb” not signing N’dour to a partially guaranteed multi year contract…. well all 30 gm’s didn’t think he was worth the +/-800k for a second round pick…. all 30!

Now Phil is “dumb” for comparing leadership styles…. Jesus.

Phil has a good naked eye for basketball, but when a player isn’t good, I think he has to come up with a reason why. So then he chooses a player’s physicality. I don’t think he actually thinks being “top heavy” or whatever is bad for a player. It’s not like Jackson knows that 83% of “top heavy” players are bad at X. He’ll watch a player, think the player is bad, and then use this analysis to come up with a reason afterward.

It’s after the fact analysis.

Yeah, you really do see that in a lot of these evaluations. That’s an excellent observation. Re-reading them with that in mind makes a lot of sense.

nit picking trivial stuff by the Greek chorus. For example, today, a number of you were in a state of high dudgeon over him comparing Acy to Melo in leadership style.

It was a chorus of exactly one person. One. One person questioned Phil’s statement re:Acy and Melo. One.

And not everybody loved Cole when he was here, or thought he was more than a 3rd string center. Just a few vocal posters (and only one who bowed to the Cole altar, and that was facetiously, I’m quite sure). Yet you post like there is a monolithic groupthink here, rather than a community of hundreds of strangers who come here strictly to post their personal opinions about a basketball team. I just don’t get it.

MFC, 08-09 was not the worst season of the decade for Melo. That was his best defensive season, and his ethic on that end was what that deep playoff run was built on.

Melo’s worst season as an NBA player, IMO, was in 07-08 with Iverson. Coincidentally, the year he had his best TS.

That was the off-season Karl and Denver’s FO attempted to trade Melo, it was also the most trans-formative off-season of his career.

Mike, you’re suggesting that Phil Jackson doesn’t use modern statistical analysis because he doesn’t cite WP or WS?

Could it be that most GM’s don’t reference “modern advanced statistics” because what they are using is proprietary?

I mean, it’s not as though Dean Oliver hasn’t said as much on this board before.

And not everybody loved Cole when he was here, or thought he was more than a 3rd string center.

I think with Cole what many (most?) people were saying wasn’t necessarily that he was good, just that he was worth a shot, which I still believe he was. He was a former lottery pick who really hadn’t ever gotten much of a chance in the NBA (it’s not like he played a ton last year…and that was about half his total NBA minutes), but whose per minute numbers in that extremely limited sample were pretty reasonable. And the guys the Knicks were playing ahead of him had proved again and again that they weren’t good.

As it turned out the people saying they didn’t think he was good at all were proven pretty much correct. But I don’t think that makes the “give him a shot” side of the argument wrong. It was still worth giving him the minutes to find out what he was, even though it turned out he really wasn’t that good.

Mike, you’re suggesting that Phil Jackson doesn’t use modern statistical analysis because he doesn’t cite WP or WS?

Mike rarely cites WP or WS. I’m surprised you haven’t realized that. He is more of a PER guy who uses /36 stats to gauge productivity.

Like Bob Neptune, you seem to associate this board in general with opinions that only several of the contributors have posted about.

Some interesting evaluations. I think where this board clashes with Phil is largely the fact that Phil is at heart a player and a coach, as opposed to some of the more modern analytical GM’s. For many of us, it’s easier to learn statistical analysis as a hobby (or it might be your job, I don’t know), but I dare say it’s harder for the vast majority of us to relate to some of the things Phil says because we aren’t coming from an involvement in elite basketball outside of watching the game and taking an interest in the sport. I don’t think there is anything wrong with either approach, but I am not really prepared to dismiss everything Phil says when evaluating the players (i.e. body types, physical attributes etc.), as chances are there is some validity to what he is saying. Whether it’s 100% is of course up for debate which is why we are here ha ha.

I did like reading his evaluation on Jose though. It was interesting to read about his chemistry with Melo, which will be a huge factor in the upcoming season.

@27 +1
Donnie Walsh, I agree with you. We are hardly of one mind. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you put two of us in a room, you’ld get three opinions 😉 Proof is that we argue … a lot.

Cole was and is awesome. Hopefully he’ll get his ring next season and secure his legacy

You know what? I wouldn’t mind it if Phil brought Toure Murry into camp and let him battle it out for that last guard spot.

You guys also have a funny definition of what “dumb” is. Not playing the great Cole was “dumb” because his advanced stats say he is an above average NBA player. Guess what…. the advanced stats ate completely wrong on Cole…. he is not very good.

Phil was “dumb” not signing N’dour to a partially guaranteed multi year contract…. well all 30 gm’s didn’t think he was worth the +/-800k for a second round pick…. all 30!

I think @31 has much about my feelings of Cole. Even if you’re under the assumption that Cole Aldrich was a bad player, it’s not like the Knicks had other options. Jason Smith was second on the team in minutes. Did we really need to give him more minutes? If the team is willing to play a bad center, why not try a bad one with good per minute stats?

And let’s take Ndour for what it was. It wasn’t that no one wanted him, it’s that the Knicks wanted him AND got outbid on him. Instead they’ll sign a player that performed less, both statistically and by the naked eye.

Mike, you’re suggesting that Phil Jackson doesn’t use modern statistical analysis because he doesn’t cite WP or WS?

Could it be that most GM’s don’t reference “modern advanced statistics” because what they are using is proprietary?

I’m not talking about WP or WS or PER. GMs and coaches talk about stats all the time, just never seem to talk about ones that are widely available. I’m talking about something as simple as eFG% and TS%. Or per minute stats. Those aren’t proprietary, so why not mention them?

Second if teams did use these and/or other stats secretly, then why do some teams continually sign players that don’t do well statistically? Jason Smith got $4.5M from Orlando! The guy had the worst +/- on one of the worst teams in the league last year. The defense was 7.1 points worse with him on the floor. His per-minute stats and shooting efficiency are awful. What are they looking at statistically?

(My guess: minutes played & points per game, if that.)

http://www.82games.com/1415/1415NYK.HTM

NBATV had back-to-back Knick games tonight (Game 6 vs Indiana in 1994 and Game 3 vs Chicago in 1996) which lead to this Bill Simmons tweet which got him alot of responses:

If the mid-90s Knicks came out of a time machine and played Oak-Ewing-Mase at same time against 2015 contenders, it would NOT go well.

He’s pretty much right, though, no? How could you run Mase out there as a 3 now? He ended his career as a 5, which is what he’d be – a small ball 5. Oakley likely would have been pushed back and made to shoot threes. He had a great long two – nowadays they’d push him behind the arc on offense.

Anyhow, Ewing and either of those two guys could easily still play together in the current NBA as a 4 and a 5 (with the smaller guy also being the back-up 5). But yeah, not all three.

But that trio struggled offensively back then too, their strengths back then would be play the same today, defense and especially rebounding. We’ve talked about this before Brian but one team I would love to have seen play today was the 1999-2000 Knicks. Especially with JVG much more into analytics today. They did in some ways play like today’s NBA with LJ as the stretch 4 and the 3 guard lineups with Spree/Houston and whoever played PG. Ewing/Camby/Kurt Thomas as the bigs would play well in today’s NBA too, especially the young Camby who at times defended the opposing SG/SF (I remember one game JVG put him on McGrady in the 4th quarter and he completely shut him down).

There’s no place in the modern space and pace NBA for three terrific players in the same front court because of reasons

If they brought mid 90s refs and defensive rules to the game, I think it would be a pretty good matchup. Even then, Memphis would start that lineup and do pretty well, right?

Bottom line: Bill Simmons is a super-smug, irreverent Celts homer prick with a bully pulpit. Like many provocative media figures, he says just enough really smart shit to provide an audience for his agenda du jour.

@40 I think the statement is ludicrous. Ewing, Oak and Mase did not grow up taking threes from the time they were little kids, like the players of today did regardless of position. You think that Draymond Green would be launching 3’s back in the ’90s? Great players adjust to the nature of the game. I’m sure that these 3 great defensive players would be able to adjust to the refs. Third, Look at the front line that was up 2-1 in the finals: LeBron, Mozgov, Thompson or LeBron, Thompson, Smith, even with LeBron shooting 31% from 3. The Cavs lost more due to their backcourt than their front line. The Knicks of the ’90s lost more due to their backcourt than their front line. Starks, bless his heart, was no match for Jordan, and would be no match for Curry or Thompson.

Bottom line: Bill Simmons is a super-smug, irreverent Celts homer prick with a bully pulpit.

Exactly. I’m sure in his fantasies, McHale, Parrish, and Bird adjust fine to the modern NBA.

Exactly. I’m sure in his fantasies, McHale, Parrish, and Bird adjust fine to the modern NBA.

There were a few Knicks playoff games on NBA TV last night. McHale, Parrish, and Bird with Joe Klein first big off the bench!

There’s no place in the modern space and pace NBA for three terrific players in the same front court because of reasons

LOL

I think more than adjusting to the opposition you make the opposition adjust to you. K’s could never beat MJ or Hakeem but I’d say that starting lineup would be competing for high playoff seeding in today’s NBA. As to the specifics of the discussion, Mase in his prime could play the point, I think he certainly could have done a representative job guarding it. He was quick as hell. Meanwhile, it’s probably not THAT important, if you give up a perimeter bucket or two, because those teams would have mauled most of today’s small ball lineups down low and they were all good FT shooters so you couldn’t just hack.

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