As the 2016-17 NBA season winds down, teams are starting to jockey for playoff spots. Those bound for the playoffs are trying to improve their position, while those sitting on the outside of the playoff picture at this time of the season are looking to make a final run to secure a post-season spot.
Is making the NBA playoffs important for teams? My guess is that most fans and team personnel would answer with a resounding, “Yes!”
But what if your team made the playoffs and was immediately eliminated in the first round? Does that matter? Would it have been better to not even make the playoffs if your team was going to get eliminated right away?
Maybe not real easy questions to answer. But let’s take a look at the first-round elimination in the NBA, especially since 2000. Specifically, let’s look at how often each team has been eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs since 2000.
The Denver Nuggets have made the playoffs 10 times since 2000. But they have been eliminated in the first round in nine of those seasons, most of any team this century. The only year they got past the first round was in 2009 when they made it to the Western Conference Finals. That nine out of ten times (90%) is the highest percentage of any team eliminated in the first round since 2000. The Milwaukee Bucks have made the playoffs eight times since 2000, but they have been eliminated in the first round in seven of those eight seasons, a 87.5% rate, second highest in the league.
Here’s a look at the number of times each team has been eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs since 2000. (The number listed in parenthesis is the number of season they made the playoffs since 2000.)
9: Denver (10)
8: Dallas (15)
7: Houston (9), Milwaukee (8), Portland (10)
6: Chicago (10), Indiana (12), Memphis (9), Orlando (9), Toronto (8)
5: Boston (12), New Orleans (6), Philadelphia (9), Utah (9)
4: Atlanta (9), Charlotte (6), Miami (13), Minnesota (5), New York Knicks (6), San Antonio (17)
3: Brooklyn (9), Detroit (10), L.A. Lakers (13), Oklahoma City (9), Phoenix (8), Sacramento (7), Washington (6)
2: L.A. Clippers (6)
1: Golden State (5)
0: Cleveland (7)
As you probably noticed from the numbers above, the San Antonio Spurs are the only team to make the playoffs every year this century followed by Dallas with 15 of the 17 seasons. At the other end are the Minnesota Timberwolves, and surprisingly, the Golden State Warriors, who have been in the NBA upper echelon over the past few seasons.
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The NBA playoffs begin this weekend. While most teams will depend on veteran players to lead them through the post-season, there are a few rookies who may have an impact on this year’s playoffs.
Of the 1o rookies who scored the most points in 2014-15, four will likely see action in the NBA playoffs: Nikola Mirotic (Chicago), Bojan Bogdanovic (Brooklyn), Marcus Smart (Boston) and K.J. McDaniels (Houston). Mirotic scored 833 points in his first year in the league, second most among rookies (Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins led NBA rookies with 1,387 points). Bogdanovic scored 700, good enough for seventh most among rookies; Smart had 523 points, ninth among rookies, and McDaniels, who was traded mid-season to Houston, tallied 487 points, finishing 10th among first-year players.
An interesting side note is that Milwaukee’s prize rookie, Jabari Parker, injured after playing only 25 games in his rookie season, will not be in the Milwaukee line-up as they face the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. He scored 308 points in 25 games and probably would have reached the 1,000-point mark in his rookie season had he not been injured.
Over the past NBA seasons, there have been a few rookies who have made a significant impact in the playoffs. The most notable is probably Magic Johnson who helped lead the L.A. Lakers to the title in 1979-80 in his first year in the league. Here is a look at the NBA rookies who have scored the most points in the playoffs in their first season.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (352, Milwaukee, 1969-70)
Alvan Adams (341, Phoenix, 1975-76)
Elgin Baylor (331, Minneapolis Lakers, 1958-59)
George Mikan (303, Minneapolis Lakers, 1948-49)
Jack Sikma (301, Seattle, 1977-78)
Wilt Chamberlain (299, Philadelphia Warriors, 1959-60)
Magic Johnson (293, L.A. Lakers, 1979-80)
Jerry West (275, L.A. Lakers, 1960-61)
Jamaal Wilkes (255, Golden State Warriors, 1974-75)
Richard Dumas (251, Phoenix, 1992-93)
The following players scored between 200-249 points in the playoffs in their rookie season: Ricky Sobers David Robinson, Tom Meschery, Dwyane Wade, Dick Garrett, Tom Heinsohn, Manu Ginobili, Joe Fulks, Andrew Toney, Marques Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Anthony Roberts, Sam Cassell, Lou Hudson.
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Following are the teams that have had the longest time since missing the playoffs in two consecutive seasons.
Team, Last time they missed playoffs in two consecutive seasons
San Antonio Never
Los Angeles Lakers 1975-76
Note: The Detroit Pistons missed the playoffs last season, the first time they missed the NBA playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1994-95.