When you open your sports page, take a look at the NBA standings. Notice anything strange? You should. To use a much-overused phrase… “There is a new sheriff in town.” In fact, four of the six teams leading their division have not won a divisional title this century!
The four teams, Atlanta, Golden State, Memphis and Portland, are not just leading their divisions as of February 5, but a few are “running away” with their first-place positions. In the Southeast Division, the Atlanta Hawks have a 10.5 game lead; in the Pacific Division, the Golden State Warriors have opened up a 7.5 game lead; in the Southwest Division, Memphis has a three-game lead; and in the Northwest Division, the Portland Trailblazers have a 8.5 game lead.
For Memphis, they have never won a divisional title since they came into the league in 1995-96. The Warriors, however, have had an even longer wait: They have not won a division crown since 1976. Atlanta could be looking at their first division title since 1994, while the Trailblazers have not won a title since 1999.
Following are the last times each NBA franchise has won a division title.
Never (came into the league in 1988-89): Charlotte
Never (came into the league in 1995-96): Memphis
1976: Golden State
1994: Atlanta, Houston
2001: Milwaukee, Philadelphia
2008: Detroit, New Orleans, Utah
2010: Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Orlando
2012: Boston, Chicago, L.A. Lakers
2013: N.Y. Knicks
2014: Indiana, L.A. Clippers, Miami, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Toronto
It’s also interesting to note that two other teams that have not won a division title since 2000, Houston and Washington, are currently positioned in second place in their respective divisions: the Wizards are second to Atlanta in the Southeast, while the Rockets are in second place behind Memphis.
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There’s a good chance the Heat will be one of the teams at the end of the season challenging for the title, but what about a team or two to keep an eye on for this season? Here’s a look at the teams that made the biggest improvement in winning percentage last season (and those who dropped the most).
Biggest gainers last year
1. Brookyn Nets +.265 (from .333 in 2011-12 to .598 last season)
2. Golden State Warriors +. 225 (from .348 in 2011-12 to .573 last season)
3. Charlotte Bobcats +.150 (from .106 in 2011-12 to .256 last season)
4. Denver Nuggets +. 119 (from .576 in 2011-12 to .695 last season)
3. New York Knicks + .114 (from 545 in 2011-12 to .659 last season)
Biggest drops in winning percentage
1. Orlando Magic -.317 (from .561 in 2011-12 to .244 last season)
2. Chicago Bulls -.209 (from ,758 in 2011-12 to .549 last season)
3. Phoenix Suns -.195 (from .500 in 2011-12 to .305 last season)
4. Philadelphia -.115 (from .530 in 2011-12 to .415 last season)
5. Boston Celtics -.085 (from .591 in 2011-12 to .506 last season)
While the Nets had the biggest gain in winning percentage last season, two teams increased their winning percentage for the fifth straight season last year. The Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder each increased their winning percentage again last year over 2011-12, giving them five straight seasons of an improved winning percentage. For the Grizzlies, they have gone from a .286 winning percentage in 2007-08 to .293, .488, .561, .621 and .683 last season. The Thunder have gone from .244 in 2007-08 to .280, .610, .671, .712 and .732 last season. The Los Angeles Clippers improved their winning percentage last year for the fourth straight season, while the Nets and Knicks last year improved their winning percentage for a third straight year.
Last season the Dallas Mavericks were the only NBA team to finish the season at .500 (they were 41-41). Sixteen teams were above .500 and 13 teams were below the .500 mark for the season. For the San Antonio Spurs, their winning percentage of .707 last year gave them 16 consecutive years with a record above .500, longest streak in the NBA. They are followed by Denver (10 straight seasons above .500), Los Angeles Lakers (8), Houston (7), Boston (6) and Atlanta and Miami with five.
In the sub.500 category, the Minnesota Timberwolves were only 31-51 last season (a winning percentage of .378) It was the eighth straight year under .500 for the ‘Wolves, longest current streak in the league. They are followed by Sacramento (7) and Detroit, Toronto and Washington each with five straight sub .500 seasons.
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