Not The Worst Ever

 —  April 17, 2005

With just three games left in the season, counting today’s likely loss to Dallas (how much fun will this game be to watch with both Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant questionable?), The Daily News’ Steve Dilbeck started the first of many Laker season wrap ups and report cards (including starting here on Thursday).

His assessment: This is the worst Laker team ever. Is it really? If you look at the numbers, does this team rate out worse than every other Laker team in history?

It’s certainly right up there. But when you look at the numbers the worst Los Angeles Laker team is the 74-75 team.

When I went looking for the worst team, I narrowed the field down using two criteria — having less than 40 wins and missing the playoffs. That alone left us with just three Los Angeles Laker teams (and one from Minneapolis, the 57-58 squad): this 2004-05 squad (currently 34-45), the 93-94 team (33-49) and the 74-75 team (30-52). Let’s break them down.

We’ll start on offense, the one area this season’s team has not been bad. The current Lakers have an offensive efficiency of 104.9 (points per 100 possessions), ranking them 8th in the NBA this year. The 93-94 team had a rating of 101.4, which had them 19th in the league (out of 27 teams). The 74-75 squad had a rating of just 93.4, but you have to keep in mind the league average that season was just 95.1. (Teams averaged a lot more possessions per game back then, the Lakers averaged 109 per game that season and the league average was 107.2. For comparison, the Lakers are averaging 93.8 possessions per game this season and the league median is 93.85 — and that’s up from last season.) All that said, the 74-75 squad was 15th out of 18 teams in the league in offensive rating.

As for shooting, this year’s Lakers are shooting a solid 48.5% (eFG%), which ranks them 11th in the league. The 93-94 squad, with Vlade Divac leading the way, shot worse at 46.5%. The Gail Goodrich-led 74-75 team shot 45%, however that is straight shooting percentage, no three-point line then. (You can’t really compare shooting percentages now and then because of the three pointer — this year’s Laker team is shooting just 43.8% with traditional shooting percentage, but they’ve taken 1,763 three pointers, the vast majority of which would not have been taken that far away without the line).

Defense was bad on all these teams. This year’s version of the Lakers has a defesive efficiency rating of 107.6 (again, points per 100 possessions), which has them 29th, or next to last in the league. The 93-94 team had a rating of 106, which was 19th in the league. The 74-75 team was the worst defensive team in the NBA that year, with an efficency of 97.4.

We can use another measure over time, RPI. This year’s Laker team has an RPI of .491, 19th in the league. The 93-94 squad was .471, 18th that season. The 74-75 team, .463, second to last in the league/

So to recap, the 74-75 team was last in the league defensively and third from the bottom of the league in offense. Something else that should be familiar to current Lakers fans — that 74-75 team didn’t take care of the ball well, losing the nightly turnover battle by an average of 2.2, and they couldn’t keep teams off the offensive glass, allowing opponents to grab 34% of their missed shots (and we thought the 2004-05 Lakers were bad at 29%).

Sadly, this year’s edition of the Lakers can be part of the “worst Laker team ever” conversation. But they don’t win the title.

(As a side note, this piece would not have been possible without the great basketball-reference site.)

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By the way, I hope the best for Kobe and his wife. As someone who was watching some of the last season’s NBA finals games from his wife’s labor room (she said it was okay, she said it would help distract her from the pain, but the game was pretty painful itself), I get just how scary a pregnancy can be. While my wife’s pregnancy was not near as difficult as what Kobe and his wife are going through, it had moments where I have never been more frightened, true life-threateneing moments.

Take your time, be with your wife Kobe. Be a family, that’s what is important. Don’t listen to what others tell you and come back when you’re ready. (By the way, any bets on who the first idiot talk radio guy is who says “Kobe should be playing” is?)