The Nuggets are simply the worst offensive team everPosted: Tuesday January 07, 2003 1:04 AM
By John Hollinger, CNNSI.com
How bad an offensive team are the Nuggets this year? Let us count the ways:
But this year's Nuggets average 80.8. They're not even within screaming distance of the other worst scoring teams of all time -- including the horrendous post-Jordan Bulls -- much less anywhere close to teams that actually were decent.
Prior to that, no team shot below 40 percent since the Boston Celtics shot 39.8 in 1960-61. Ironically, the Celtics won the title that year, one of three times in the '60s they won a championship despite finishing last in field-goal percentage -- the only times in NBA history that has happened. But I digress...
At least they can thank Wilt Chamberlain for keeping them out of the record books on this count. Wilt's 1967-68 Philadelphia team owns the mark at 63.5 percent, led by the Dipper's 38 percent mark.
However, Denver's bad aim, combined with its inability to get to the line in the first place (only the Knicks, Sonics and Heat have fewer attempts), has the Nuggets averaging just 14.7 made free throws per game. The Celtics of 1998-99 currently own the mark for fewest made free throws in a season at 14.9 per game, meaning the record-book publishers can likely get another spot warm for the Nuggets.
OK, so the Nuggets can't shoot from the field, and they can't shoot once they get to the line. But at least they can avoid mistakes. Anyone can do that, right?
Actually, wrong. The Nuggets have the most turnovers in the NBA this season at 18.5 per game. They're on pace to commit more than 1,500 turnovers this season. That would be the most since the 1999-2000 Bulls committed 1,557. At least they won't set a record in this category -- they'll have to settle for running away with the league lead.
Summing it up
Taking it as a whole, the Nuggets are last in scoring, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and turnovers. In three of those categories, the Nuggets are so bad they're setting records. In fact, this year's Nuggets are so bad that they compare poorly even when put beside the other worst offensive teams in league history.
To illustrate this best, let's compare the Nuggets to the worst teams of the past 15 years. I intentionally chose recent teams becuase everyone remembers just how awful these clubs were.
We'll stack the Nuggets against them using at tool I call Offensive Efficiency, which estimates how many points a team scores for each 100 possessions -- which is about how many a team has in an NBA game.
(All you stat-heads: To compute a team's Offensive Efficiency, take its free-throw attempts and multiply by 0.44. Add field-goal attempts and turnovers, and subtract offensive rebounds. Take total points and divide by this number, and multiply the result by 100.)
Since the NBA has become progressively lower scoring over the past 15 years, we'll compare each team to the league average in Offensive Efficiency that season. For example, the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks had an Offensive Efficiency of 96.3 in a year when the league average was 105.1, so they would be 8.8 points below average.
The envelope please:
The conclusion, then, isn't just that the Nuggets are the worst offensive team in history. It's that they're the Tiger Woods of bad offenses, blowing away the competition in a manner heretofore unseen -- and hopefully, not seen again.
John Hollinger covers the NBA for CNNSI.com and is the author of Pro Basketball Prospectus.