Everyone Needs To Stop Thinking About The 1972-1973 Sixers

For those who don’t know, the 72-73 Sixers are the team that currently holds the record for worst record in league history.

Lost among all the negative articles about the Nets and their record breaking loss is one from Basketball Prospectus’ Kevin Pelton.  It probably wasn’t talked about much because it actually takes a positive tone when talking about this year’s record breaking team.  Well, as positive as you can be when talking about an 0-18 team.

Pelton explains that the Nets record breaking start can be explained away, at least partially, by the injuries:

In New Jersey’s case, we can trace some of the difference between their projection and reality to the injuries. With players forced to take on larger role, their shooting percentages have inevitably suffered. Nonetheless, the magnitude of the difference suggests some Nets are simply performing worse than they will the rest of the season. Harris, for example, is certain to improve on his current 39.2 percent on accuracy on two-point shots, while Lee (36.6 percent on twos) has also struggled much more than expected, probably because he’s dealing with his groin injury.

Don’t underestimate what this means to New Jersey’s bottom line. Adding 117 points to the Nets’ total improves their point differential all the way to -4.8, which would be better than six other NBA teams.

The poor shooting has undermined the fact that Lawrence Frank had New Jersey playing good basketball before he was fired on Sunday. The Nets came into Wednesday’s game ranked 14th in the NBA in Defensive Rating (they then managed to waste one of their better offensive efforts of the season by allowing 49 points in the second quarter to the Mavericks). New Jersey is dead last on offense, and making dubious history in this regard as well. Including the game against Dallas, the Nets have been 12.5 percent worse than league average in terms of points per 100 possessions, which would be the worst offense since the ABA-NBA merger.

Say what you will about Devin being a shoot first point guard, but one thing is for sure, when he is on the court teams need to account for him, and that makes it much easier for the Nets’ lesser players to get easy looks.

With guys coming back from injuries, Pelton explains, the Nets offense should come back to expected levels.  The level that allowed SCHOENE, Basketball Prospectus’ projection system, provide mean prediction of 29.5 wins.

Besides giving an explanation for the streak, Pelton explains that one of the key things Pelton notes is that despite the start, the Nets have a good chance at getting their fair share of wins the rest of the way:

First, let’s try to establish what a streak like this really says about a team. Dean Oliver considered the issue in a chapter of his seminal Basketball on Paper devoted to winning and losing streaks. Oliver showed that a team with a 20-game losing streak at any point in an NBA season has a 19 percent shot of finishing the year with 21 wins or more. So while an 18-game streak is certainly a bad sign, it’s hardly proof the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers‘ 9-73 record is in grave jeopardy.

I actually have the book that Pelton talks about here, and I grabbed it from my desk, and reread the chapter he references.  The chart that Pelton talks about says that teams who have 20 game losing streaks has a 28% chance of finishing with 8-13 wins.  Which means that they Nets have a 72% chance of winning 13+ wins.

Dean Oliver is…well…the dean when it comes to using advanced statistics, but if that isn’t enough for you, lets look at the schedule moving forward, since it is, without question easier moving forward.  Looking back at my schedule breakdown, I had the Nets going 5-13 through their first 18 games.  Take into consideration that the Kings are much improved and that we caught the Pacers when they were rolling (I had projected both of those as wins), so that goes to 3 wins right there.  I still had this team going for 30 wins.  So far this season the Nets have already played Boston, Orlando twice, Dallas, LA, Denver, and Miami.  All real good teams.  Look at their next couple of games:

  1. vs. Charlotte
  2. @ New York
  3. @ Chicago
  4. vs. Golden State

You could say the Nets will come away with 3 wins in that stretch, and they take their record from 0-18 to 3-19.  It still isn’t good, but that should be enough to get them going to the point where they won’t be challenging for the record late.

This is a well thought out and well written article.  If you are a Nets’ fan on the edge of the cliff, you need to go out of your way to read it, it will help back you up off of it.