Back in early May, I conducted a poll asking our readers to vote on who should be inducted into the inaugural Fantasy Basketball Hall of Fame class, and you responded very well, registering almost 1,000 votes. According to the rules of the HoF (based on the Baseball Hall of Fame process), a player had to be named on 75% of ballots to be inducted, which left us with two players (2 point guards, actually): Kevin Johnson, and Tim Hardaway. KJ was honored in July, so now it’s time for the original king of the killer crossover…
Timothy Duane “Tim Bug” Hardaway
Position: Point Guard
Height: 6-0 ▪ Weight: 175 lbs.
Born: September 1, 1966 in Chicago, Illinois
High School: Carver in Chicago, Illinois
College: University of Texas at El Paso
Draft: Selected by the Golden State Warriors in the 1st round (14th pick, 14th overall) of the 1989 NBA draft.
With the 2010-11 season warming up, let’s finish up our ranking of the 31 best NCAA teams from 1980-2010:
10. Louisville Cardinals (+14.76 SRS)
Louisville has somewhat quietly amassed a dominant resume over the past 3 decades. With 2 national titles and 4 Final Fours, the Cardinals were probably the best program of the 1980s, while their “down” years of the 1990s consisted of 8 NCAA berths & 208 wins. And in the 2000s, Rick Pitino took them to a Final Four in 2005, seamlessly transitioning from the Crum era with 220 victories of his own. Pick any year since 1980, and chances are The Ville was one of the better college basketball teams in the country.
9. Syracuse Orange (+15.41 SRS)
Record: 755-279 (.730)
Prominent Coaches: Jim Boeheim
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (2003)
Under Jim Boeheim, the Orangemen won more games than all but four schools since 1980. He took a solid program and turned it into a perennial contender, produced a number of NBA prospects, won 14 Big East regular-season or tournament titles, and finally filled the gap in his resume when Carmelo Anthony carried ‘Cuse to their elusive NCAA crown in 2003. Simply put, no Big East team has been better over the past 30 years.
With the 2010-11 NCAA basketball season technically commencing this week, let’s return to these rankings…
15. Connecticut Huskies (+14.16 SRS)
Record: 682-312 (.686)
Prominent Coaches: Jim Calhoun
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (1999, 2004)
Two national titles in the last 12 years makes up for a mediocre first half of the 1980s under Dom Perno, as the leadership of Calhoun has transformed Storrs into an unlikely national hoops hotbed. And to think that it all started with Scott Burrell & Tate George…
“Trying to compare the Heat to anything that has ever come before is an exercise in futility. You have the best player in the league, who happens to LOVE to pass teamed up with the second-or-third best player, who also is pretty fond of passing to the open man. They may both have had similar styles, but they ended up in those styles due to their teams’ set-ups. How LeBron will act now that he can people to pass to who are good in their own right cannot be predicted with the information we have.
There’s never been anything like it before. Every Heat game is going to be worth watching, especially against the crappy teams, because you don’t know what sort of thing they’ll bring out when they’re way ahead. It wouldn’t surprise me if they have regular season games where Miller shoots 20 3s and scores 30+ points, just because they think it’d be fun to do. This Heat team goes way beyond special into the realm of surreal.”
That reminded me of a Chase Stuart post at PFR in October 2007:
Last Friday, I posted about teams that formed as potent a slashing combo as the new LeBron James–Dwyane Wade duo in Miami, and found that in an incredibly small sample of similar cases (3, to be exact), at least one — if not both — of the players had to change their playing style to accommodate their new circumstance. A lot of people asked about the general effect of the new team member on the offense, though, so today I wanted to quickly follow up and look at whether the driving tendency of the added player correlated to the amount of offensive improvement the team saw.
One common observation about the new-look Miami Heat goes something like this:
- Dwyane Wade is a great perimeter player who makes his living attacking the basket. He’s unstoppable when he drives into the lane, but not as good when you force him to shoot a jump shot.
- LeBron James is also a great perimeter player who makes his living attacking the basket. He, too, is unstoppable when he drives into the lane, but not as good when you force him to shoot a jump shot.
- Won’t this redundancy in skills make the Heat easier to defend?
If only we could quantify this dilemma, find similar situations in the past where two hard-driving teammates joined forces, and see if their offenses were as potent as expected…
Oh, wait, we can.
Enter good old Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA). Because the majority of fouls are assessed on interior shooting attempts and/or aggressive offensive plays, FTR is actually a pretty good indicator of where a player likes to operate from on offense. Players like Glen Rice and Dennis Scott were known for their low FTRs because they took a ton of perimeter jumpers, shots on which a foul would land you in the serious doghouse. And at the other end of the spectrum there’s Reggie Evans, whose legendary FTRs tell the story of a player who rarely attempts a shot outside of point-blank range. Obviously there are some players who are exceptions to this rule, but the majority of players’ inside-outside tendencies can be described simply by looking at FTA/FGA.
So that should be the starting point in examining the issue of hard-driving teammates. The next step is to compare everyone’s FTR to some universal standard, and to do that I borrowed this method from PFR’s Doug Drinen. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but it basically compares everyone to the league average; 100 is average, numbers greater than 100 mean the player attacks the rim more than the average player, and numbers under 100 mean the player is less aggressive than the average player. The theory is that if we just look at these “FTR Index” numbers for perimeter players (PG, SG, SF), we can find players who drove to the basket the most, which best describes LeBron and D-Wade’s playing style.
Several times in the past, I’ve looked at what I called “Team Continuity” — that is, the amount of minutes/possessions/etc. that a team gave to players who had been on their roster the year before. Today, I want to extend the concept to the NBA as a whole and examine league continuity, specifically the 5-year periods since the merger in which the league had the biggest influx of new talent.
In sports, expectations can be a funny thing. While in the end no amount of losing is truly tolerated, some coaches can get away with sub-.500 seasons while others can be fired despite a reasonable amount of success, all because of front office expectations for the team. Take a football example — Marty Schottenheimer, for instance. Schottenheimer was fired by the Browns in 1989 despite a 40-23 record (with 4 playoff appearances) in the previous 4 seasons, simply because Cleveland could never quite get over the hump in the postseason. Fast-forward 18 years, and Schottenheimer was canned by the Chargers for the very same reason, despite 3 straight winning seasons and a 14-2 record in 2006. In each case, the team was no more successful under Schottenheimer’s replacement (perhaps revealing that management’s expectations were too high in the first place), but that’s of little consolation to the unemployed coach who, for the most part, did his job well.
So with this phenomenon in mind, here are ten NBA coaches for whom winning simply wasn’t enough — namely, the top 10 W-L seasons by coaches who were fired the following offseason:
20. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (+12.87 SRS)
Perhaps better known for what their alums do after leaving the program (Billy Packer, Muggsy Bogues, Tim Duncan, Chris Paul, etc.), Wake nonetheless has maintained a near-perennial NCAA Tournament presence (and a frequent top-4 ACC team) over the past 3+ decades. Carl Tacy’s teams were very good (AP top-20 three times) in the first half of the eighties, and following a short, mediocre stint under Bob Staak from 86-89, Dave Odom took the reins and oversaw one of the most successful periods in school history (including the recruitment of the greatest Deacon of all, Tim Duncan). Under Odom, WF had 7 consecutive NCAA berths, but the last in that run was the most disappointing — after climbing as high as #2 in the AP poll, Wake was unceremoniously bounced by Stanford in the 2nd round, ending Duncan’s collegiate career. After Odom left for South Carolina in 2001, the late Skip Prosser continued a winning tradition with 4 straight Tourney appearances and the development of Paul, before tragically passing away in 2007. Today, the Deacs hope to rebound from Dino Gaudio‘s up-and-down tenure with the hiring of Jeff Bzdelik in 2010.
See also: Part I
25. Ohio State Buckeyes (+12.29 SRS)
Prominent Coaches: Eldon Miller, Jim O’Brien, Thad Matta
Best NCAA Finish: Lost National Final (2007)
Columbus, OH will always be a football town first and foremost, but the Bucks’ basketball team has also been deceptively competitive over the past 31 years. Under Eldon Miller & future Maryland coach Gary Williams in the 1980s, Ohio St. was frequently among the top 30 teams in the country, though they could never quite recapture the form of their 1980 team (Herb Williams, Kelvin Ransey, & Clark Kellogg led OSU to the Regional Semis & the 4th-best SRS in the country). That changed during the early years of Randy Ayers‘ tenure, when they went 53-10 in ’91 + ’92 en route to 2 Big Ten crowns and a Final Four near-miss in 1992. But after 1992 UPI POY Jim Jackson left school, OSU slipped badly, bottoming out at 6-22 in 1995. Ayers was then replaced by Jim O’Brien, who resuscitated the program and took them to a Final Four in just his 2nd year at the helm. From ’99-02, O’Brien’s Buckeyes had their most successful 4-year run since the early 1960s, although revelations about recruiting misdeeds cost him his job and forced the Buckeyes to vacate more than 3 years worth of results. Luckily, though, former Xavier coach Thad Matta was hired to pick up the pieces and he has simply led OSU to the best 6-year run in their history, solidifying their place on this list with 4 NCAA berths in the last 5 years (including a Championship Game appearance in ’07).