Utah Jazz start season 0-5, but do poor starts doom teams?

USA TODAY Sports

You may or may not have noticed, but the Utah Jazz are the only team without a win in the entire NBA right now. The 0-5 club is currently the 'worst' team in the league. I do not believe that the team is the worst in the league, it's just their record. And it's a record that, in this case, is partly influenced by a few factors:

  • Three of the Five teams are regarded as playoff contenders this year (Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and the Brooklyn Nets), and are just better teams that should beat the Jazz
  • The Jazz are starting five players who have never started before
  • The team lost so many players from the previous season
  • And right now five rotation players are currently injured, including the theoretical starting point guard
  • Every team we played (save for one) had the overt advantage at point guard so far, our thinnest position

These are factors, or excuses for the 0-5 mark. Maybe there are a few others, it's really non-academic at this point. What is academic is an investigation on if a poor start really sinks a team. For this investigation we'll look at teams that start the season either with a 1-4 record or a 0-5 record. And this investigation will look at EVERY TEAM in the league. Let's start first with the North West Division teams: the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, the Oklahoma City Thunder nee Seattle Super Sonics, and our Utah Jazz.

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Denver Nuggets:

The Nuggets have had "poor starts" 11 different times over the years.

Started Finished
Team Season W L % W L %
1 Denver Nuggets 1968 - 1969 1 - 4 20.0% 44 - 34 56.4%
2 Denver Nuggets 1969 - 1970 0 - 5 0.0% 51 - 33 60.7%
3 Denver Nuggets 1970 - 1971 1 - 4 20.0% 30 - 54 35.7%
4 Denver Nuggets 1971 - 1972 1 - 4 20.0% 34 - 50 40.5%
5 Denver Nuggets 1979 - 1980 0 - 5 0.0% 30 - 52 36.6%
6 Denver Nuggets 1990 - 1991 0 - 5 0.0% 20 - 62 24.4%
7 Denver Nuggets 1992 - 1993 1 - 4 20.0% 36 - 46 43.9%
8 Denver Nuggets 1995 - 1996 0 - 5 0.0% 35 - 47 42.7%
9 Denver Nuggets 1997 - 1998 0 - 5 0.0% 11 - 71 13.4%
10 Denver Nuggets 1998 - 1999 1 - 4 20.0% 14 - 36 28.0%
11 Denver Nuggets 2001 - 2002 1 - 4 20.0% 27 - 55 32.9%
Denver Nuggets Totals 6 - 49 10.9% 332 - 540 38.1%

Okay, some of this is kind of brutal, but the important thing to see is that their starts in poor years are really bad, but they recover quite enough by the end of the season. Part of this investigation will try to see if this is a common pattern. The cumulative average in these poor start years is 6 and 49, which is winning only 10.9% of the games, or over a 82 game season only 8.9. OUCH!

But that is not what happened. They turned it around like I said and recovered enough to end up going 332 and 540 in these poor start years, which is a winning % of 38.1%, and that translates to a 31.2 win season. That's decent. A few different breaks and you can challenge for the playoffs in a down conference yar.

.

Minnesota Timberwolves:

Minny has not be that strong of a franchise, but to their credit, they haven't been a franchise for very long either. They only have 9 "poor start" years.

Started Finished
Team Season W L % W L %
1 Minnesota Timberwolves 2010 - 2011 1 - 4 20.0% 17 - 65 20.7%
2 Minnesota Timberwolves 2009 - 2010 1 - 4 20.0% 15 - 67 18.3%
3 Minnesota Timberwolves 2008 - 2009 1 - 4 20.0% 24 - 58 29.3%
4 Minnesota Timberwolves 2007 - 2008 0 - 5 0.0% 22 - 60 26.8%
5 Minnesota Timberwolves 1995 - 1996 1 - 4 20.0% 26 - 56 31.7%
6 Minnesota Timberwolves 1994 - 1995 0 - 5 0.0% 21 - 61 25.6%
7 Minnesota Timberwolves 1993 - 1994 0 - 5 0.0% 20 - 62 24.4%
8 Minnesota Timberwolves 1991 - 1992 1 - 4 20.0% 15 - 67 18.3%
9 Minnesota Timberwolves 1989 - 1990 1 - 4 20.0% 22 - 60 26.8%
Minnesota Timberwolves Totals 6 - 39 13.3% 182 - 556 24.7%

Their recovery ability isn't that great, going from a 13.3 winning % to a 24.7 winning %. That's going from 10.9 wins in an 82 game season to 20.2 wins in am 82 game season. Not all teams can bounce back from bad starts. Minny has had poor luck with their coaches, injuries, or talent level . . . or more than one. Those three factors can really throw a wrench into a season, but even the perpetually unlucky wolves still mange to get into the 20s in the win column.

.

Oklahoma City Thunder:

In the history of the Seattle / OKC franchise they've had poor starts only 9 times. That's not bad, because they've been around since before Bill Walton discovered drugs. (This piece of wit would make more sense if Walton played in Seattle but he did not. I'm not going to make a Shawn Kemp and drugs joke)

Started Finished
Team Season W L % W L %
1 Seattle Super Sonics 1967 - 1968 1 - 4 20.0% 23 - 59 28.0%
2 Seattle Super Sonics 1968 - 1967 1 - 4 20.0% 30 - 52 36.6%
3 Seattle Super Sonics 1969 - 1970 0 - 5 0.0% 36 - 46 43.9%
4 Seattle Super Sonics 1977 - 1978 1 - 4 20.0% 47 - 35 57.3%
5 Seattle Super Sonics 2000 - 2001 1 - 4 20.0% 44 - 38 53.7%
6 Seattle Super Sonics 2005 - 2006 1 - 4 20.0% 35 - 47 42.7%
7 Seattle Super Sonics 2006 - 2007 0 - 5 0.0% 31 - 51 37.8%
8 Seattle Super Sonics 2007 - 2008 0 - 5 0.0% 20 - 62 24.4%
9 Oklahoma City Thunder 2008 - 2009 0 - 5 0.0% 23 - 59 28.0%
Oklahoma City Thunder Totals 5 - 40 11.1% 289 - 449 39.2%

Here the bounce back is very similar to what we saw from the Nuggets. The team is winning only 11.1% of their games, but finish the season winning 39.2% of them, which is going from winning 9.1 games a year to winning 32.1. Oh, and yeah, see all those years in a row of losing a lot? Those years started off with poor starts. Bad starts happen to teams at times, guys. We've just been really, really spoiled all these years because we've maintained being a "good" franchise. The Thunder here show us that sometimes in order to be "great" you have to be bad first, going from good to great seems harder.

.

Portland Trail Blazers:

Speaking of teams that occasionally are great, but more than not just good . . . these guys have only had poor starts 6 times in their many years as a club.

Started Finished
Team Season W L % W L %
1 Portland Trail Blazers 1971 - 1972 1 - 4 20.0% 18 - 64 22.0%
2 Portland Trail Blazers 1972 - 1973 1 - 4 20.0% 21 - 61 25.6%
3 Portland Trail Blazers 1975 - 1976 1 - 4 20.0% 37 - 45 45.1%
4 Portland Trail Blazers 1978 - 1979 1 - 4 20.0% 45 - 37 54.9%
5 Portland Trail Blazers 1982 - 1983 1 - 4 20.0% 46 - 36 56.1%
6 Portland Trail Blazers 1986 - 1987 1 - 4 20.0% 49 - 33 59.8%
Portland Trail Blazers Totals 6 - 24 20.0% 216 - 276 43.9%

When they're bad, they aren't the worst -- Blazers have NEVER started the season 0-5. And they bounce back the MOST! They end up winning nearly 44% of their games, which translates to a 36 win season. That's not a playoff run year, but it shows that the club has the potential to get there, and is really close.

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The Mighty Utah Jazz:

And now we come to our Jazz, in the middle of a 0-5 poor start . . . we've only had 5 other poor start years before. So this IS kind of new to us.

Started Finished
Team Season W L % W L %
1 Utah Jazz 1974 - 1975 0 - 5 0.0% 23 - 57 28.8%
2 Utah Jazz 1979 - 1980 1 - 4 20.0% 24 - 58 29.3%
3 Utah Jazz 1982 - 1983 1 - 4 20.0% 30 - 52 36.6%
4 Utah Jazz 2001 - 2002 1 - 4 20.0% 44 - 38 53.7%
5 Utah Jazz 2002 - 2003 1 - 4 20.0% 47 - 35 57.3%
6 Utah Jazz 2013 - 2014 0 - 5 0.0% 0 - 5 0.0%
Utah Jazz Totals 4 - 26 13.3% 168 - 245 40.7%

The bounce back isn't as high as the Blazers, but it's second best. The team ends up winning 40.7% of their games in poor start regular seasons. That's good enough for 33.4 games won out of 82, and if this team ends up doing that I think a lot of fans would be happy with that. So, by the numbers, we see that the Jazz do bounce back from bad starts when they do start poorly. Of course, these are historical facts, and not future projections.

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The Division side by side:

Started Finished
Team Season W L % W L %
1 Denver Nuggets Totals 6 - 49 10.9% 332 - 540 38.1%
2 Minnesota Timberwolves Totals 6 - 39 13.3% 182 - 556 24.7%
3 Oklahoma City Thunder Totals 5 - 40 11.1% 289 - 449 39.2%
4 Portland Trail Blazers Totals 6 - 24 20.0% 216 - 276 43.9%
5 Utah Jazz Totals 4 - 26 13.3% 168 - 245 40.7%
Division Totals 27 - 178 18.5% 1187 - 2066 38.7%

As a division if you add it all up the teams bounce back from winning 18.5% of their games in poor start years to winning 38.7% of their games after all 82 have been tallied up. That's going from a projected 15.1 wins / 82 to winning 31.8 games. That's not bad. And it's something to keep an eye out for. In particular, the Jazz are on the "bouncier" side of things in our division.

But . . . the quality of these teams are based upon starting 1-4 or 0-5. What happens to those specifically cursed teams that start 0-5?

.

The BLEEDING!

Some teams lose 5 games to start the season. Some times it's a bad schedule, injuries, player of coaching changes, bad luck, or just a case of being a bad team.

Started Finished
Team Season W L % W L %
1 Denver Nuggets 1969 - 1970 0 - 5 0.0% 51 - 33 60.7%
2 Seattle Super Sonics 1969 - 1970 0 - 5 0.0% 36 - 46 43.9%
3 Utah Jazz 1974 - 1975 0 - 5 0.0% 23 - 57 28.8%
4 Denver Nuggets 1979 - 1980 0 - 5 0.0% 30 - 52 36.6%
5 Denver Nuggets 1990 - 1991 0 - 5 0.0% 20 - 62 24.4%
6 Minnesota Timberwolves 1993 - 1994 0 - 5 0.0% 20 - 62 24.4%
7 Minnesota Timberwolves 1994 - 1995 0 - 5 0.0% 21 - 61 25.6%
8 Denver Nuggets 1995 - 1996 0 - 5 0.0% 35 - 47 42.7%
9 Denver Nuggets 1997 - 1998 0 - 5 0.0% 11 - 71 13.4%
10 Seattle Super Sonics 2006 - 2007 0 - 5 0.0% 31 - 51 37.8%
11 Seattle Super Sonics 2007 - 2008 0 - 5 0.0% 20 - 62 24.4%
12 Minnesota Timberwolves 2007 - 2008 0 - 5 0.0% 22 - 60 26.8%
13 Oklahoma City Thunder 2008 - 2009 0 - 5 0.0% 23 - 59 28.0%
14 Utah Jazz 2013 - 2014 0 - 5 0.0% 0 - 5 0.0%
Division Totals 0 - 70 0.0% 343 - 728 32.0%

These clubs "bounce" enough to get back to winning 32.0% of their games instead of 0%. That is only 26.3 wins a year though, which is full-on Lottoville, USA; but not with the benefit of getting a lot of ping pong balls. Time will tell how our team bounces -- are we just 0-5 because of the schedule, or injuries? Or are we just a bad team this year?

I know we'll bounce back from this poor start. Team needs to get healthy, play better on offense, and start winning some games. I will continue to investigate this for each division (research for the Atlantic Division is already done), and circle back to plot the normative league history bounce back from poor starts. It's more fun to do your own research, and discover frames of reference to better help understand what so many other franchises have already gone through. The 76ers, Nets, and Knicks have more than double the bad start seasons than we've had. Starting this slow is very new to Jazz fans.

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