Bucks Diary

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ranking NBA Champions since 1974

Since we have reached the All-Star break, I went back in NBA history and examined every champion since the modern statistical era began in 1974 using Win Score per game and Opposition Win Score per game to see if I could find any patterns that would allow me to predict who is most likely to win the NBA championship this season and who has little chance. I did indeed find some clear patterns among the champions, and I will reveal them in my next post.

For this post, I combined the percentage difference of each champions Win Score and Opposition Win Score per game average from the NBA per game average and then ranked them from first to 35th. Here are my rankings. Here is my raw data. ("Team Win Score per game" is essentially a measure of the team's offensive efficiency while "Opponents Win Score per game" essentially captures the team's defensive efficiency.)

Bulls were the best

Not only did the second Jordan threepeat Bulls score highest, their Finals opponents in those years had Win Score averages that would have ranked, I believe, all 3 of them among the top 10 championship teams of the modern era had they prevailed. There is little doubt, then, that according to my formula, the Jordan Chicago Bulls of the late 90s were the strongest NBA champions of the modern era.

Another thing I found was that the Houston Rockets who won back to back championships in the mid 90s were unbelievably weak. In fact, the 1995 Rockets were the weakest champion in the modern era. That year their combined Win Score differential was zero. Given their relative weakness against average in both championship seasons, the Rockets almost have to be the weakest repeat champions in sports history.

Another interesting finding I made was that in the 1980s, offense, not defense won championships, particularly for the Showtime Lakers. Those Magic Lakers had just slightly above average Opposition Win Score averages, but incredibly high team Win Score averages. The Pistons reversed that formula to win 2 titles in the late 80s. Interestingly, they used nearly the same formula 15 years later to win another championship in 2004.

Another thing to note about the list is that each of the Spurs championship teams of this decade was exceptionally strong.

Finally, I think the Trailblazers left a couple of championships unclaimed in the late 70s. After Bill Walton hurt himself the year after their 1977 championship, a huge void was created and filled by two of the weakest champions in the modern statistical era: the 78 Bullets and the 79 Sonics. Each team was barely above average.

Footnote: On the original post you could not access my "raw data". I have now corrected the problem. Sorry.


At February 16, 2008 at 12:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

really interesting. just wanted to let you know people enjoy it.

i remember noticing the 92 and 93 bulls were both listed as 1993 on the chart, one was near the top and the other near the bottom. i guessed the 92 bulls were supposed to be the higher one, because 91 was up there too? i only noticed because it was fun going through year by year. i don't mention it to be a prick, that was some interesting, professional-quality shit.

At February 16, 2008 at 5:23 AM, Blogger TCW said...

Thanks for the comment. And good catch on my typo. The 93 Bulls are the lowest, and 92 should be where the higher 93 Bulls are listed.

Jordan was no dummy. Twice he got out just as the arc was descending. (Relatively speaking).

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At July 28, 2008 at 7:44 AM, Anonymous Brandon said...

Interesting list. It would appear that your rankings don't really include the overall level of the league, which does ebb and flow. With your methodology, a better title might be "NBA Champion League Dominance". That would indicate that the rankings really show the level at which the champion played relative to the rest of the league.

Anecdotally, the thing that caught my eye was the fact that the early-mid 90's Bulls take 4 of the top 9 spost, yet the team that won in the intervening years (94 & 95 Rockets) were near the bottom. A clear indication that the Bulls were dominant in a league that was sub-par.

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