Category Archives: NBA history

Why OKC Misses Durant and Westbrook

The OKC Thunder display Friday highlighted why they miss Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook so much.  In a home loss to the Pistons Scott Brooks‘ team made one free throw.

Over 53 minutes and nearly one-hundred shot attempts only Steven Adams would make a foul shot for the home team.

See KD has led the NBA in made free throws for five years straight.  In addition Russ has been among the top-five league wide in each of his last three healthy seasons.  Getting to the foul line and converting has been the primary advantage for OKC during their five year run of success.

Sans their stars the Thunder have become the first team in at least three decades to make fewer than two foul shots in an overtime game.

Only the expansion Toronto Raptors featuring rookie Damon Stoudamire played an entire NBA game while not hitting a freebie.


Date          Tm  Opp       Result  MP  FGA FT FTA   
2014-11-14   OKC  DET L 89-96 (OT) 265   96  1   6  
2014-02-08   MEM  ATL      W 79-76 240   90  1   1 
2013-11-24   PHO  ORL     W 104-96 240   95  1   3 
2012-01-14   TOR  CHI      L 64-77 240   86  1   7 
2004-02-25   NJN  MIN      L 68-81 240   83  1   5 
1996-01-09   TOR  CHH      L 91-92 240   84  0   3 

NBA History: Best ‘Career’ Sixth Man

Miami Heat center Chris Andersen has never started more than three games in an NBA season.  Birdman has played in 69 playoff games coming off the bench in every one.  In his entire career Anderson has started ten games.   For a guy who has earned nearly $30 million dollars playing a dozen seasons in the NBA this is quite unique.

His career per 36 minute numbers are 11 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks with a 58% true shooting.  Throw in the ring he won with Miami last season and we are looking at a really good career.  Further, is it possible that Chris Andersen is the best sixth man in NBA history?

Thanks to we can attempt to answer this question.  Using ‘win shares’ as an estimate of career value let’s start with players who have accumulated over 30 career win shares.  This is a comprehensive list of nearly every substantial player in league history.  There are 626 players (and counting) at this level of production.

Unfortunately, we don’t have solid ‘games started’ data before 1980.  Of course most great players are starters so there are probably only a few key sixth men who were really good before the early ’80s.  To be accurate we will just include players who were primarily coming off the bench after 1980 in this study.

A few notable points:

  • Bobby Jones won the first sixth man of the year award in 1983 while playing for the NBA champion Philadelphia 76’ers.
  • Boston Celtics forward Kevin McHale took home the award in each of the next two seasons.
  • Only Detlef Schrempf and Ricky Pierce would ever win sixth man of the year multiple times after McHale.
  • McHale, Schrempf and Pierce would start over 250 games in their NBA career’s.

Back to the study.  Using 250 career games started as a cut-off we find forty-five players with 30+ win shares and less than 250 starts.  This criteria yields us with Michael Cooper, Vinnie Johnson and Kyle Korver as the best ‘career’ sixth-men.

Korver is going to finish with well over 250 starts so we should exclude him.  Cooper and Johnson are both great candidates for best of all-time.  The Microwave won two titles with the Detroit Pistons while not starting any games in their playoff runs.  He averaged 14 points/game off the bench in the ’89 playoffs for the Pistons.

Mike won at least three titles with the Lakers while not starting a game.  In the ’87 playoffs he averaged 13 points, 5 assists in 29 minutes while shooting 49% from three and making almost two three’s per game.  Plus Cooper played great defense against Larry Bird and Danny Ainge in the Lakers win in the NBA Finals.  We are probably looking at the greatest single year performance for a sixth man right here.

On the note of career value, the only players who started fewer games than Michael Cooper but still compiled over 30 win shares are:

Looking at the career value (including the playoffs) of these six players it’s hard to choose against Kerr.  Five championship rings and the career record for three-point percentage he’s got my vote.

Chris Andersen is probably the best minute-for-minute ‘career’ sixth man in NBA history.  He just won’t have the longevity of Kerr.

So it depends on how you want to define your terms but the finalists for greatest career sixth man are Michael Cooper, Steve Kerr and Chris Andersen.

Is the NBA Dynasty in L.A. or San Antonio?

San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan Gregg Popovich
A Real Dynasty (Getty Images)


Tim Duncan has spent seventeen years in San Antonio.  During this time the Spurs have won 70.6% of their regular season games.

The Pop-Duncan combo has averaged 58 wins per year over almost two decades.  To put this in perspective only two teams won this many games in the 2014 NBA season (Thunder and Spurs).

Since the 1998 season the only other franchises who won 60% of their games are the Lakers and Mavericks.  Even with the assistance of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and Jerry West L.A. won an average of 52 games/year.

Magic’s Little Known Triple-Double Achievement

We have been told that no one has averaged a triple-double in the NBA since Oscar Robertson*.  “The Big O” went for 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds per night exactly fifty years ago.

Did you know that Magic Johnson did average a triple-double over his first four playoff seasons.  From 1980-1983 he played 48 playoff games and posted a line of 17.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists.

The Los Angeles Lakers won their first two of five Magic-era titles over this span.

*note that Jason Kidd averaged 15-11-11 in twelve playoff games for the ’07 Nets

The Spurs Possession Advantage

One big advantage for the Spurs during this playoffs has been their possession differential.  Over the last two series San Antonio has done a great job at holding onto the ball and forcing turnovers.  The Spurs forced Portland and Oklahoma City into an average of 15 turnovers per game.

The Western Conference champs gave the ball away an average of only 11 times/game vs. the Blazers and Thunder.  When you win the possession battle your team can afford a few missed shots and still win the game.

The key to the Spurs “D” has been great wing play.  Four of their guys are averaging over 2.5% steal rate.  Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard are combining for 3.5 steals per game in the playoffs.

Turning the attention to the offensive side of the ball the secret has been The Big Fundamental.  Tim Duncan has only turned the ball over 14 times in 18 games this playoff season.  This is by far the lowest rate of his playoff career.

In fact among high usage players Duncan is averaging the lowest turnover rate in NBA playoff history.  In the nearly four decades that turnovers have been tracked Duncan is tied with the ’03 version of Peja Stojakovic for the least turnovers in a playoff season.

The complete list from

Rk            Player  Season  Tm    G FGA AST TOV TOV%
1         Tim  Duncan 2013-14 SAS   18 234  34  14  5.0
2    Peja  Stojakovic 2002-03 SAC   12 202  30  12  5.0
3          Raja  Bell 2005-06 PHO   17 165  37  10  5.2
4       Ricky  Pierce 1988-89 MIL    9 141  25   9  5.3
5      Alex  English* 1987-88 DEN   11 255  48  16  5.5
6        Joe  Dumars* 1990-91 DET   15 245  62  17  5.6
7     Terry  Cummings 1986-87 MIL   12 215  28  15  5.6
8       Shawn  Marion 2005-06 PHO   20 333  31  22  5.7
9      Jerome  Kersey 1990-91 POR   16 226  49  17  5.9
10    Reggie  Miller* 1999-00 IND   22 385  60  28  6.0
11      Reggie  Lewis 1991-92 BOS   10 218  39  16  6.1
12    Michael  Finley 2006-07 SAS   20 178  22  13  6.2
13   Kiki  Vandeweghe 1982-83 DEN    8 160  32  12  6.2
14      Derek  Fisher 2000-01 LAL   16 159  48  12  6.5
15     Kerry  Kittles 2001-02 NJN   20 216  45  17  6.7
16   Michael  Jordan* 1997-98 CHI   21 526  74  45  6.7

*minimum 140 Field Goal Attempts + 20 Assists in the playoff season

NBA Playoffs: High Scoring Games by a Visitor

Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge went over forty points in back-to-back playoff road games against the Rockets this week.

Did you know that each of the last ten forty point playoff performances in the NBA playoffs were achieved by a visiting player.  During this streak the only other player to go over forty twice in one playoff season was LeBron James in 2012.

Kobe Bryant has the most recent forty point game by a home player in the NBA playoffs (43 points v. Denver in 2012).


NBA History: LeBron v. Larry Legend

I was surprised to see that after yesterday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats LeBron James has outscored Larry Bird in their playoff careers.

In 25 fewer games played LBJ has scored one more point than Bird.  LeBron also has a higher true shooting percentage (57% vs. 55% for Larry).

James is still one ring shy of Larry Legend but he has proven to already been his peer when it comes to scoring & shooting.