The Best and Worst Franchises in the NBA

The Best Franchise in the NBA: San Antonio Spurs

- 4 NBA Championships (since 1999)

- 11 Division Titles (since 1999)

- 17 consecutive playoff appearances

- Above .500 in 24 of last 25 seasons.

The Spurs are always a factor deep into the playoffs, they consistently win 55+ games a season, and are led by one of the NBA’s all-time greatest coaches… but you’ll very rarely see them as someone’s preseason pick to win the title. The Spurs don’t have the pizzazz, the big-free agent signing, or the guy that will drop 35+ on any given night. San Antonio has made the most out of the draft, has kept its core intact, and has kept the same man in charge for the last 18 years.  By comparison, the second-longest tenured coach in the NBA right now is Erik Speolstra, who was hired by the Heat 6 years ago.

Tim Duncan, 3-time Finals MVP and 14x All-Star

The team’s general manager is R.C. Buford, who was hired as head scout for the team in 1994 by then-GM Greg Popovich. Two years later, Popovich fired Spurs head coach Bob Hill and named himself coach. Injuries decimated the Spurs roster that season and they won only 20 games. The silver lining of that situation was a #1 pick in the NBA draft, which they used on a lanky power forward out of Wake Forest – Tim Duncan. The only other time the Spurs had a #1 pick was in 1987, which was used to draft Hall of Famer David Robinson. Popovich also had hugely successful drafts after taking over as head coach, picking up Tony Parker with the 28th pick of the 2001 draft, as well as Manu Ginobili with the second-to-last pick in 1999. Buford became general manager in 2002, and continued the Spurs penchant for drafting foreign players. The best move thus far since Buford took over was likely the draft-day trade for Kawhi Leonard, who has become one of the up-and-coming stars in the NBA.

The Spurs were mere seconds away from a fifth NBA title last season, and they will go into the 2014 playoffs as the #1 seed in the Western Conference. Label the Spurs boring, call them old, say they won’t do it again – and then watch them win another 60+ games. Duncan will go down as one of the game’s greatest players, Popovich as one of the game’s greatest coaches, and the entire team as one of the NBA’s best dynasties, and it’s because the made the most out of every opportunity. The same can’t be said for the next ball club I’ll discuss.

The Worst Franchise in the NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves

- Losing record each of the last 8 seasons

- Averaged only 22 wins from 2007-2013

- Worst record in Western Conference in 2009-10 (15-67)

- Worst record in NBA in 2010-11 (17-65)

- Lost in first round of playoffs every year for 7 consecutive seasons (1997-2003)

The Timberwolves were once a solid team, reaching the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons culminating in a #1 seed in the 2004 playoffs. That season ended in a 4-2 loss in the Western Conference Finals to the Lakers, and Minnesota hasn’t been back to the playoffs since. A combination of terrible drafts, mismanagement of coaches, and a bevy of other bad choices by general manager David Kahn put the T’Wolves in the midst of a 10-year postseason dry spell – the fourth longest in NBA history and longest current active streak.

Minnesota’s best management move was in 1995, when they took high school big man Kevin Garnett with the #5 overall pick. Garnett went on to win an MVP in Minnesota, as well as countless of other accolades. The problem was that GM Kevin McHale couldn’t seem to find any pieces to put around him. McHale made a secret deal with free agent Joe Smith to circumvent salary cap rules, and the Wolves were subsequently stripped of their next five first-round draft picks (later reduced to three). While Minnesota found some success with Flip Saunders at the helm, McHale fired him during the 2005 season, which is the last time Minnesota had a winning record.

McHale’s backroom dealing damaged Minnesota for the long haul

Garnett, who at the time had spent more seasons with one team than any other active player (12), was eventually traded to the Celtics for five players and two draft picks. Garnett went on to win a championship with the Celtics and the T’Wolves continued to fall down the standings in the years to come. The only player Minnesota got back that was of any use was Al Jefferson, who was eventually traded to the Jazz.

While the Garnett deal is the most high-profile trade Minnesota ever made , it’s the moves the Timberwolves front office has made over the last five years that were the most damaging. David Kahn was hired in 2009, and in his first draft used the first three of Minnesota’s four first-round picks on point guards. Ricky Rubio was picked #5 overall, but decided to continue playing in Spain for the next two years. Jonny Flynn was selected #6 overall and played in Minnesota for only two seasons before being traded to Houston, and now currently plays in Australia. The point guard that was picked immediately after Rubio and Flynn:  Stephen Curry.

The bad draft picks continued with drafting Wesley Johnson #4 overall in 2010, who played for the Wolves for only two seasons before being traded to the Suns. The next year, Minnesota drafted Derrick Williams out of Arizona with the #2 overall pick. Williams was also traded after two seasons. With all the bad decisions on draft day, the worst move still might be refusing to offer Kevin Love a max-year deal.  Love, one of Minnesota’s few success stories, has become one of the best players in the NBA. Kahn refused to extend Love’s deal to five years, instead giving the max deal to Rubio. Now Love will likely leave for greener pastures at the end of the 2014-15 season, likely leaving Minnesota to fall back down into the cellar of the Western Conference.

Today Minnesota sits one win away from its first .500 season since 2005. Rick Adelman has done a decent job as head coach, but with both he and Love likely departing soon, the Wolves might have missed their small window at a playoff run. If Love does head off to bigger and better things after next season, Minnesota might just break that 14-year postseason drought record after all.

Oh, and Darko Miličić.

Don’t Miss a Thing

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Tuesday, 7 PM @ Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK 

KD is a favorite for NBA MVP this season.

Current 2nd and 3rd in the Western Conference, this is an intriguing match up. A win could move someone into 1st place, and the way Kevin Durant has been playing, most bets might be on the Thunder. KD threw up 54 points last week, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Damain Lillard might be even better than the Durant-Westbrook combo.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Wednesday, 7 PM @ Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Crosby leads the league in points, and it’s not even close

The Penguins sit in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, while the Habs are in fourth. A big win in Pittsburgh could give the Canadiens the confidence they need to start climbing that ladder to secure home ice advantage in the playoffs. Montreal is strong defensively and kill 85.6% of power plays, so Crosby and Malkin will have their hands full.

Australian Open Men’s Single Semifinals
Friday, 2:30 AM @ Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Oh, the possibilities.

The Australian Open. While we aren’t quite sure who will be playing in the semifinals quite yet, you can bet it will be at least one of these two legends. All but one of the top eight seeds have made the quarterfinals, and with a Rafa-Roger semifinal possibly looming, it’s worth making up early for (or going to, if you’re lucky enough to live in Australia).

Michigan vs. Michigan State
Saturday, 7 PM @ Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI

No love lost in this matchup

In the only game of the weekend featuring two ranked teams, the #21 Wolverines are looking to knock off #3 Michigan State on their home court. Last year the Spartans demolished their rivals 75-52 at the Breslin Center, but then lost a nail-biter in Ann Arbor 58-57.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
Sunday, 1 PM @ American Airlines Arena, Miami FL

The shot that cost the Spurs their 5th title

The Spurs lost a heartbreaking 2013 NBA Finals to the Heat, and this will be the first time the two meet since Game 7.  San Antonio is in first place once again, while the Heat trail only the Pacers in the East. You can bet the American Airlines Arena will be packed to capacity, and the Spurs would love nothing more than to silence the Miami fans.

The Week in TicketCity Search – An Indirect Return

TicketCity Week in Search

Week of
June 10th
Previous
Week
Event
Searched
1 2 One Direction
2 1 Mumford & Sons
3 3 Luke Bryan
4 9 College World Series
5 7 San Antonio Spurs
6 6 Justin Bieber
7 10 Bruno Mars
8 5 Beyoncé
9 - Texas Rangers
10 - Taylor Swift

1D patiently bided their time before finally returning to the top of the countdown. Their ascendancy is somewhat bittersweet, since the former champ, Mumford & Sons had to take an unexpected hiatus due to a medical condition affecting bassist Ted Dwane. Their remaining US tour dates in June have been cancelled, and they won’t make Bonnaroo, replaced by Jack Johnson in the Saturday headliner slot.

Currently the group plans to return at the Glastonbury Festival.

Luke Bryan settles into the third spot, and the rest of the top five checks in with some championship sports. The Spurs aren’t letting the Heat sweep, and the CWS is just about to start. The first game is this weekend, and almost two weeks of the best in college baseball follows at TD Ameritrade Park.

Bieber manages to hold onto the sixth spot, currently his best performance in weeks. Bruno Mars has a bit of a surge, up from last place. Beyoncé moves in the opposite direction, ending down at #8, while Taylor Swift takes over last place from Bruno.

So, since I posted Mumford & Sons last week, this is going to have to happen. I’m sure by now you’ve jammed out to “What Makes You Beautiful”, so here is a different song by One Direction, one I’m old by Wikipedia was very popular in New Zealand:

The Week in TicketCity Search – Setting Up Shop At Number 1

TicketCity Week in Search

Week of
June 3rd
Previous
Week
Event
Searched
1 6 Mumford & Sons
2 2 One Direction
3 3 Luke Bryan
4 1 George Strait
5 8 Beyoncé
6 7 Justin Bieber
7 - San Antonio Spurs
8 9 Justin Timberlake
9 - College World Series
10 10 Bruno Mars

This week welcomes a lot of returning faces and a single shuffle in the top 3. On the strength of some last-minute searches, George Strait still managed to land the #4 spot, but it’s Mumford & Sons that replace him at the top. This is the English folk rock quartet’s first time at #1. Their show this weekend at the Austin360 Amphitheater is probably helping out a bit there.

Five other guys from the same archipelago hang tight in second place, as does Luke Bryan, who remains in third. Rounding out the top five is Beyoncé, who will be reaching our shores later this month. Buzz for her tour has been pretty solid for months now, so it should be a strong contender for top three once it actually kicks off.

Justin Beiber makes his best showing in a while, climbing up to the sixth spot. The Spurs, who had to wait a little longer than most expected to figure out who they’d be facing in the NBA Finals, follow the Beebs. The (eventual) results were as most expected, so will the Spurs be up to denying LeBron another championship?

The other sporting event on the countdown this week is the College World Series, which begins June 15th at the now only relatively new TD Ameritrade Park. The contest for the top prize in college baseball lasts through the rest of the month, ending on the 25th or 26th.

Here’s the week’s #1 with “I Will Wait.” I like “Little Lion Man” better, but it’s got a dirty word in the chorus. To quote one Ralph Parker, “THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words…”

The Week in TicketCity Search – You’ll Catch Up In That Direction

TicketCity Week in Search

Week of
May. 28th
Previous
Week
Event
Searched
1 - One Direction
2 - Justin Bieber
3 - ACL Fest
4 - Euro 2012
5 - San Antonio Spurs
6 - Texas Rangers
7 - Miami Heat
8 - Jimmy Buffet
9 - Jason Aldean
10 - Belmont Stakes

Well, now it’s a fight. When last we left this little pop soap opera, the esteemed Mr. Bieber had been trailing One Direction for weeks. The Bieber partisans had put up impressive numbers considering he hadn’t actually released any tour dates. Now the Believe Tour is on the books for this Fall, and interest skyrocketed. Just not quite enough to dethrone the boys of One Direction this week. Mind, the gap between #1 and #2 has changed from “brutal trouncing” to single digits.

Despite not announcing headlining performances from either Justin Bieber or One Direction, the ACL Festival secures #3. That rather wide gap now separates it from second place, though. Fans will simply have to “make do” with the likes of Florence + The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, The Black Keys, Jack White and many others.

The Euro Cup, 2012 edition, lands in #4. Outside of the World Cup, this is one of international soccer’s biggest events. Hosted this year in Poland and Ukraine, 16 of the top European teams will compete, including Spain, who won the last Euro Cup and the last World Cup.

At #5 and #7, Spurs and Heat remind us the NBA finals are still in progress. These two are the favorites to meet in the Finals, though Boston and OKC still have a say in the matter.

Rounding things out in the bottom five we see the return of Jimmy Buffet and Jason Aldean this week. Buffet is on tour right now, and Aldean is part of the big Country Megaticket shows this summer with Luke Bryan.

Finally there’s a greater than usual interest in this year’s Belmont Stakes as enthusiasts buzz about the possibility of new Triple Crown winner. I’ll Have Another has won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and is set to race at Belmont. There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed captured it in 1978. If I’ll Have Another wins, it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the lucky spectators.