Other Bad NBA Teams Should Take a Page From the Wolves

| by David Berri

A few days ago the Minnesota Timberwolves told their fans that they will probably not be contending for a title in 2011. Most people – except for Michael Beasley – would tend to agree with the T-Wolves. So although we are surprised by the honesty, we are not surprised with this assessment.

Such honesty, though, leads one to ask: Who else in the NBA should offer a similar confession? The beginning of an answer was offered by Arturo Galletti, who is currently working on a forecast for the 2010-11 season

This past week he offered a very preliminary view. Essentially, he ranked each team according to how the team’s veteran players performed last year. In other words, he ignored rookies and injuries.  He also did not consider how minutes could be allocated or how age might impact performance (and please read his post carefully for all of the details behind what Arturo did).

So the following table is not really a forecast of next season. But it does give someone an idea of which teams have any chance to contend. And of course, that also means we now have some idea which teams might want to follow Minnesota’s example.

The key column is in the middle (Adjusted Wins – Minutes and Available Wins). According to this view, only three teams – Philadelphia, the LA Clippers, and the Washington Wizards – rank below the T-Wolves. Again, rookies are not considered and the Clippers do have Blake Griffin. Nevertheless, one rookie is not going to transform this team into a title contender. So an “honest assessment” should be forthcoming from these franchises as well.

One could also add to this list the Knicks, Pistons, Raptors, and Pacers. These teams are not favorites to land in the playoffs. And you can’t win a title if you can’t make the playoffs.

Beyond this list we have teams that have better odds of making the playoffs. Of course, just making the playoffs isn’t good enough.  In other words, every team that makes the playoffs isn’t a title contender.

But if we start noting the non-title contenders in the playoffs, then we might start expecting “honest assessments” from virtually every team in the Association. After all, Miami is the clear favorite to win the 2011 title. And right now, the list of teams that might prevent LeBron and company from being happy next summer is fairly short.  From Arturo’s list, we might place the following teams on that list: Portland, LA Lakers, Orlando, and maybe Boston. We might also consider Chicago, Dallas, and San Antonio. After these teams, though, Arturo’s first look is less optimistic.

It is very important to remember that this is a first glance at these teams, and much has been left out of the analysis. But I do think we can see that even in September, Minnesota is not the only team that can promise their fans that a championship parade will not interfere with city traffic next summer. 

And that is what makes basketball very different from the other major sports.  In the other sports, fans can believe until the games start being played. In basketball, we know (again, except for Michael Beasley) that the season for some teams is over before it begins. Yes, it is sort of sad.  But I think that is an honest assessment.

- DJ