How good have the Bobcats been as an expansion franchise?

If you ask most commentators or fans of the NBA, the Bobcats are the worst team in the history of the league.

Those that say this often do little research to come to this conclusion; they base this off of what they have heard. With the 7-win season being the only thing most people know about the Bobcats, this is somewhat understandable. Also, our All-time winning percentage coming into this year (0.358) is the lowest of all franchises. But these data are not the whole story of our franchise.

I pose that this echo chamber has created a false meme of the Bobcats being the worst franchise in the league. I have always known us as an improving, hustling, all-out effort, defensive team. I never saw us simply as losers. Despite our drafts, we got better every year en route to the playoffs. Eventually the brass blew up the team, but as part of a strategy. Our all-time winning % is not reflective of what the franchise has achieved.

The idea that we are the worst franchise is bunk. This is based off the qualifier that we are an expansion team in only our 9th year and comparing us to teams with 50 years of records is not the best comparison.

However, if you look at the franchise records for every NBA team, the Bobcats are not close to being in consideration for the worst record over a 7-year span. I chose 7 years becasuse that is when we blew up the team. Since 1978, teams that have had a worse 7-year win% than 0.387 - Mem, Van, Mia, Min x 2, Atl, Njn, Chi, Cle x 2, Dal, Den x 2, GSW, Ind, LAC x 4, Mil, NYK, Phi, Sac x 4, Wash x 4. No years are counted twice and I accounted for strike shortened seasons.

Selecting worst season streaks does show something interesting, but if we are to compare ourselves to other franchises, the measure should be how we compare to the other 7 expansion teams in the modern era. Building an NBA team in a small market via an expansion draft is tough. Look at the players available in the expansion draft of 2001 and you’ll see we made about as well as we could have considering financial limitations. Primarily, the selection of Gerald Wallace was fantastic. Here are links to the draft results and available players:

I will not argue that the Bobcats have always drafted well since. Poor choices, especially in hindsight have happened throughout our history. I would say the past 2 drafts, however have been fantastic, but that is my opinion.

So, how do we stack up amongst 7 expansion teams brought into the league since 1989? It isn’t a good measure to compare all time record, but how have we done in the first 7 seasons? I’m not counting the 7-win season in these numbers because it was a purposeful tank year in a lockout-shortened season. As of now, we have the All-Time lowest franchise win % due to the 7-win season. How well were we doing before we blew up the team?

We are not the best franchise, but we are definitely not the worst by a long shot. Of the 3 expansion teams that fared better than us over the first 7 years, (Magic, Hornets, Raptors), 2 won the Draft Lottery to be in the top 3 picks at least once. Orlando won twice, and the Hornets won twice. The Raptors and Bobcats won once apiece (Morrison). The franchises pretty much take a decade to hit their stride. Those that won the lottery started early.

Here are some metrics to look at:

  • All-time franchise winning % (AT%)
  • Franchise winning % after 7 years (7yr%)
  • Year of first playoff appearance (Play)
  • Year of first winning season (Win)
  • Win totals for first 7 years *means strike shortened year (Tot)

Vancouver Grizzlies (Entered 1996, 18 seasons)

AT% - 0.365

7yr% - 0.229

Play – 9 years

Win – 9 years

Tot – 15, 14, 19, 8*, 22, 23, 23, 28

Minnesota Timberwolves (Entered 1990, 24 seasons)

AT% - 0.398

7yr% - 0.265

Play – 8 years

Win – 9 years

Tot – 22, 29, 15, 19, 20, 21, 26

Miami Heat (Entered 1989, 25 seasons)

AT% - 0.503

7yr% - 0.357

Play – 4 years

Win – 6 years

Tot – 15, 18, 24, 38, 36, 42, 32

Charlotte Bobcats (Entered 2005, 9 seasons)

AT% - 0.358

7yr% - 0.387

Play – 6 years

Win – 6 years

Tot – 18, 26, 33, 32, 35, 44, 34

Charlotte Hornets (Entered 1989, 25 seasons)

AT% - 0.486

7yr% - 0.402

Play – 5 years

Win – 5 years

Tot – 20, 19, 26, 31, 44, 41, 50

Toronto Raptors (Entered 1996, 18 seasons)

AT% - 0.406

7yr% - 0.413

Play – 5 years

Win – 5 years

Tot – 21, 30, 16, 23*, 45, 47, 42

Orlando Magic (Entered 1990, 24 seasons)

AT% - 0.522

7yr% - 0.484

Play – 5 years

Win – 5 years

Tot – 18, 31, 21, 41, 50, 57, 60

What stands out?

  1. Despite our horrid drafting, we reached the playoffs the 2nd fastest (tied with Charlotte, Toronto and Orlando). Miami reached the playoffs in 4 years but had a losing record.
  2. We had our first winning record in year 6, tied for 4th with Miami.
  3. Our winning percentage after 7 ears was 0.387. Not stellar, but ranked 4th amongst the expansion franchises.
  4. The Bobcats and Heat are the only two franchises to consistently improve over the first 6 years. Other teams that improved dramatically did so following the influx of star draftees.

Other factors to note:

    • · Orlando won the 1st pick in back-to-back draft lotteries in years 4 and 5 of their franchise. They drafted Shaq and traded Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway (Imagine if they’d kept Webber!).
    • · Toronto drafted Tracy McGrady and traded for Vince Carter (wonderful picks) in years 3 and 4.
    • · Miami made the playoffs with a 38 win season in year 4, something to be proud of.
    • · The Charlotte Hornets won the lottery in year 4 (Larry Johnson) and got the 2nd pick in year 5 (Alonzo Mourning) en route to their playoff appearance in year 5.

  • With this information in mind, does this change your impression of the franchise? Have we been given a fair shake in the media?
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