Last night the Toronto Raptors defeated the Indiana Pacers -- not the hardest thing to do in the world. After all, the Utah Jazz swept them this year. But the regular season is one thing and the NBA Playoffs are another. While it is true that more teams make the playoffs than not (16 vs. 14) it's not a given that a team will make them year to year. Harder still is actually advancing when you get there. As a Jazz fan I've seen a lot of 1st round exits in my life. I'm not in a rush to see many more. But as a Jazz fan I have to be happy to know that I'm not the only person who feels this way. Raptors fans were right up there -- having either not made the playoffs, or not getting out of the first round in 15 years in a row. Last night's win put Toronto in the 2nd round for the first time since the 2000-2001 season.
As a point of reference for how long ago that was, well, John Stockton and Karl Malone were still playing, the Twin Towers were still up, and the 47 win Raptors were led by Vince Carter, Alvin Williams, Antonio Davis, Charles Oakley, and Chris Childs? Man, that team was so strange. But I vividly remember the Raptors beating the Knicks and advancing, I watched it on a 14" CRT TV screen. Times have changed. But playoff futility has not for a number of teams. Let's look into it...
Raptors knocking that big red 15 off of their backs must feel great. The Hornets got a shot to get rid of that 14 from theirs, but failed against the Miami Heat. That sucks for them. But that is nothing compared to the 15 that the Bucks now have as a target. Beyond them, Detroit has a surprising 8, and the Magic with 6 indicate that you can be an NBA Finals team in the last decade, and then fall pretty hard after.
We don't have to look that far, just in the mirror to see how true that can be.
Adding it up, the teams that are now all out have an average 2nd round drought value of 5.45 years. For the teams that didn't make the playoffs out East that value is only 4.57 years (thanks in part to the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards). The real futility comes from the teams that had yet another 1st round out, BOS/CHA/IND/DET has an average score of 7.0 years since the last time they got to the 2nd round.
There wasn't a big success story in the Western Conference for a team getting a 2nd round monkey off of their backs. The top is strong, and has been strong for a very long time. As there is a direct relationship here, the bottom is very weak.
Somehow the futility out West is a little harder. The average futility mark for the teams that didn't make the playoffs this year, or the 2nd round, is 5.73 years. The teams that did make the playoffs but lost in the first round (LAC/DAL/MEM/HOU) only had one team in peril (DAL), the other three had only missed it out by a year. Thus, their average is only 2.00 years since the last time their fans had four home games to cheer for in the post season. Where the wheels fall off are with the West lotto teams. There's a trail of tears from New Orleans to Minnesota to Sacramento.
The "Three years and waiting" Club:
There are fourteen (funny, that's the same number as lotto teams) teams that haven't gotten to the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs in the past three seasons, or worse. The futility high-water mark spans decades for a few of these teams.
|6||New Orleans Pelicans||8|
|13||Los Angeles Lakers||4|
|14||New York Knicks||3|
Thankfully the Jazz are right in the middle of it. It's still not GOOD to go over half a decade without getting at least four playoff wins. But it could be worse.