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Postby rlee » Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:20 am

by Fran Blinebury

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday when the Heat were a team with one All-Star struggling to keep their heads above water in the playoffs.
Well, actually it was.
Then, barely 11 months ago, LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade on stage at American Airlines Arena for that smoke and laser light show. Which brings to mind a few other NBA teams that have made the rapid ascent from middling to championship contender.
1975 Golden State Warriors — In the previous season, the Warriors with Hall of Famer Rick Barry were a 44-38 team that didn’t qualify for the playoffs in the 17-team league. The addition of rookies Jamaal Wilkes and Phil Smith and a splendid season and playoff run by Barry sent the Warriors on their way to what was considered the greatest upset in the history of The Finals. Not only did the Warriors beat the favored Washington Bullets, but swept them 4-0.
1977 Portland Trail Blazers — In the first six seasons of the franchise’s existence in the Pacific Northwest, the Blazers had never even reached the playoffs. Then a team with third-year center Bill Walton got a huge boost when Maurice Lucas joined the team at the merger with the ABA and Jack Ramsay took over as coach. Lucas was the team’s leading scorer and second-best rebounder. They added rookie guard Johnny Davis to a backcourt with second-year pro (and current Hang Time Grizzlies coach) Lionel Hollins and were poetry in motion moving the ball all the way to the championship and Blazermania was born.
1977 Philadelphia 76ers — The heavily-favored Sixers were the victims of the Blazers in The Finals. But the addition of Julius Erving from the ABA lifted the franchise to new heights. It had only been four seasons since the Sixers set an NBA-worst mark of 9-73 and in the previous season they lost in the first round of the playoffs. With Dr. J leading the way, the Sixers would reach The Finals four times in seven seasons and won it all in 1983.
1980 L.A. Lakers — Yes, the Lakers had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Yes, they were a playoff team. But when a rookie named Magic Johnson arrived in Hollywood, everything changed – the Lakers, the NBA, the game of basketball. It was the start of the golden age of the league as the Lakers went from 47-35 and third in the Pacific the previous season to winning the first of five championships in the ‘80s. And it all began with Magic’s legendary 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals in the Game 6 clincher at Philly.
1980 Boston Celtics — While Magic was performing his tricks in L.A., a rookie named Larry Bird was working similar miracles on the opposite coast. The Celtics were 29-53 and last in the Atlantic Division the year before he arrived. In Bird’s rookie season they went 61-21 and in Year 2 won the first of three championships in the decade.
1995 Orlando Magic — Call it Lottery Magic. First Orlando hit the jackpot for Shaquille O’Neal in 1993 and then struck it rich by winning again in 1994 and turning that pick into a deal for Penny Hardaway. By June of 1995, the Magic were the beasts of the Eastern Conference and advance to The Finals against the Houston Rockets.
2002 New Jersey Nets — Ever since they were forced to sell Julius Erving to Philadelphia on the eve of the first post-merger season in 1976, the Nets franchise seemed to be cursed. But the trade that brought Jason Kidd to the Meadowlands changed everything. Kidd was the point guard, the scorer, the All-Star, the leader that the franchise had so desperately needed and when he teamed up with a young Kenyon Martin and a rookie Richard Jefferson. After finishing just 26-56 the previous season, Kidd took the Nets on a rocket ride that produced back-to-back trips to The Finals.
2007-08 Boston Celtics — Just three seasons into his NBA career, Paul Pierce reached the Eastern Conference finals with Antoine Walker and a cast of young talent. That was the closest he’d come to a title until 2007-08, when Celtics president Danny Ainge followed up a miserable 24-58 Celtics campaign in 2006-07 with cache of blockbuster moves. First, he dealt Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and a 2008 second-round draft pick to Seattle for All-Star Ray Allen and rookie Glen Davis. Three days later, he traded Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair and a 2009 1st round draft pick to Minnesota for former MVP Kevin Garnett. He also traded for Rajon Rondo on Draft day, added defensive stopper James Posey and sharpshooter Eddie House in the offseason and landed veterans P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell at midseason. It all culminated with a 66-16 season as the Celtics defeated the Lakers in The Finals — Pierce was named Finals MVP — as Boston nabbed its 17th title
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Postby Mike Goodman » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:24 pm

What's the biggest improvement by a team without significant personnel additions?
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Postby Robert Bradley » Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:56 am

depends what you consider to be significant.

the 2007-08 Heat went 15-67, then added Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers and went 43-29.

the 1987-88 Suns went 28-54, then added Tom Chambers and went 55-27.

the NBA teams that showed more improvement added superstars (David Robinson to SAS in '88, Larry Bird to BOS in '79, Tim Duncan to SAS in '97, Steve Nash to PHO in '04, Lew Alcindor to MIL in '69).
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Postby Mike Goodman » Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:25 am

Robert Bradley wrote:the 2007-08 Heat went 15-67, then added Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers and went 43-39...

That's a good one. DWade also missed a bunch of games in '08; but upon looking it up, they were almost as bad when he played (10-41) as when he didn't (5-26).
They had Shaq for 33 games, and they were 9-24 in those.
They got 15 games out of Shawn Marion and went 3-12.
Haslem also missed 33 games.

In '09 they also picked up Jermaine O'Neal; but they went 13-14 from then on.
The improvement from 15 wins to 43 wins was about 8 points per game, in scoring differential.

I guess that in '08 they got about 21% of their minutes from above-average players, and about as many from players who would hardly play at all for a good team. And Wade was not himself, even when he was available.
In '09, they got 40% of their minutes from above-avg players, just 16% from weak players. Wade was a superstar again.
In a nutshell, 3000 minutes from full-strength D Wade is much better than 3000 from Ricky Davis.
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Postby Mike Goodman » Wed Sep 28, 2011 1:06 pm

Robert Bradley wrote:the 1987-88 Suns went 28-54, then added Tom Chambers and went 55-27.

Another good one. Chambers wasn't the type of player expected to add anything like 27 wins to a team.

That 1988 team had a number of players who had been or would be very good; but they were all playing well below their maximums. Only Larry Nance was any kind of a star, and he was there for 7.5% of their total player-minutes.
About 52% of minutes went to above-average players, some being marginally so: Hornacek, Eddie Johnson, Humphries; also the mercurial Walter Davis and the rookie Kevin Johnson.
Some 11% of minutes went to quite unproductive players: J Bailey, B Thompson, Sanders, J Cook, Crite, B Martin.

In 1989, both KJ and Chambers were at all-star level, totaling 31% of team minutes. EJ also became a sudden star at age 29.
Total above-avg minutes were 65%. Improving players: Horny, Gilliam, West, and Corbin. Majerle was a 25 mpg rookie.
Only 4-5% of minutes were from really weak players: Lang, Kerr, Hodges, Dunn, Nealy.
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