Feb 11 2013 11:48AM

Volatile Market

It's a topsy-turvy world we live in and there is no better example of that than the NBA, where traditional powers have plummeted down the standings in recent seasons, while former doormats are now contenders.

Go figure.

Half of the NBA's top eight teams in the 21st Century have seen their winning percentages drop by 100 percentage points or more in this 2012-13 season, while five of the bottom eight have seen an increase of 100 percentage points or more.

Here's a breakdown.

Top 8 Teams With Stock Way Down: Mavericks (down 213 percentage points), Lakers (down 181), Suns (down 249), Pistons (down 159).

Bottom 8 Teams With Stock Way Up: Warriors (up 193 percentage points), Clippers (up 277), Grizzlies (up 215), Hawks (up 227), Knicks (up 210).

Why is this happening?

The reasons vary from team to team, but it is probably safe to say that some of the perennial contenders (Mavs, Suns and Pistons) have cut back on payroll to create free-agent, salary-cap space, while also bracing for the more punitive luxury taxes coming on in the 2013-14 season.

And it is also safe to say some of the former doormats (Warriors, Clippers and Grizzlies) are spending much more money than they traditionally did, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement reached in December 2011.

So with those generalities in mind, let's look at each organization and see precisely why its stock is up this season ... or why it is not.

Teams are listed with their 21st Century record, 2012-13 record and their top three 21st Century plus-minus leaders.


Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
No team has maintained their excellence like the Spurs. It helps when the core of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have remained intact.

1. SAN ANTONIO SPURS (777-325, .705) ... Stock Up (40-12, .769): No organization in sports wins like the Spurs, who have been blessed to have the same star trio for 11-plus seasons, while importing continuous overseas talent at bargain prices
21C Big 3: Tim Duncan (+6440), Tony Parker (+4501), Manu Ginobili (+4091).

2. DALLAS MAVERICKS (718-382, .653) ... Stock Way Down (22-28, .440): The cost of winning in the modern NBA has never been more clearly illustrated than looking at the Dallas Mavericks, champions just two seasons ago. It would have cost owner Mark Cuban at least a $135 million payroll to keep his 2011 NBA championship team together through 2013-14, due to the more punitive luxury tax. So it's understandable why he pared it down to $60 million this season, so that he can trim it in half again next season, thus giving the Dirk Nowitzki-led Mavs at least $30 million to spend this summer in free agency.
21C Big 3: Dirk Nowitzki (+5652), Jason Terry (+2485), Josh Howard (+2031).

3. LOS ANGELES LAKERS (709-393, .643)... Stock Way Down (24-28, .462): The Lakers have shown they can win without Shaq but haven't tasted victory Champagne without Phil Jackson. They are 99-101 without him (.495) and 610-292 with him (.676)
21C Big 3: Kobe Bryant (+4089), Derek Fisher (+2665), Lamar Odom (+2066).

4. PHOENIX SUNS (635-467, .576) ... Stock Way Down (17-35, .327): It's no surprise the Suns have collapsed in their first season without two-time MVP Steve Nash. Phoenix fans are just hoping they'll be able to reload in the Summer of 2013 when the team has two potential lottery picks and enough cap room to sign a max player
21C Big 3: Steve Nash (+3375), Shawn Marion (+2065), Amar'e Stoudemire (+1775).

5. UTAH JAZZ (617-485, .560) ... Stock Down (28-24, .538): The Jazz are overloaded with bigs and are expected to raise their stock by trading one of those bigs for a starting point guard and/or a starting small forward
21C Big 3: Andrei Kirilenko (+1561), Paul Millsap (+1168), Deron Williams (+1016).


Chris Trotman/Getty Images Sport
As long as LeBron stays in South Beach, the Heat will remain a hot stock.

6. MIAMI HEAT (603-495, .549) ... Stock Way Up (34-14, .708): Everybody knows this became the hottest stock in the League when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in the Summer of 2010. Imagine Apple merging with Google and that's the runaway stock that the Heat have become. And as long as they stay together, this stock will stay way up (all three can become free agents in the Summer of 2014)
21C Big 3: Dwyane Wade (+2596), LeBron James (+1455), Chris Bosh (+1206).

7. BOSTON CELTICS (602-498, .547) ... Stock Down (27-23, .540): In the next week-and-a-half, we will discover if the Celtics go into rebuilding mode. Paul Pierce may (or may not) be traded. Same is true of Kevin Garnett, though he has to give his permission due to his no-trade contract
21C Big 3: Paul Pierce (+2798), Kevin Garnett (+2411), Ray Allen (+2212).

8. DETROIT PISTONS (599-503, .544) ... Stock Way Down (20-32, .385): With the acquisition of Jose Calderon's expiring contract, the Pistons have set themselves up in Summer 2013 to become major free-agent players. Let's hope GM Joe Dumars does a better job than Summer 2009 when he wasted his cap space, signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to overpaid contracts
21C Big 3: Chauncey Billups (+2435), Richard Hamilton (+1972), Rasheed Wallace (+1956).

9. HOUSTON ROCKETS (587-516, .532) ... Stock Down (28-25, .528): Rockets GM Daryl Morey has $7 million worth of cap room to play with in a blockbuster February 21 trading-deadline move. Or he can wait until Summer 2013 and use potentially $18 million worth of space to sign a max player
21C Big 3: Yao Ming (+1483), Tracy McGrady (+1090), Shane Battier (+1048).

10. INDIANA PACERS (582-519, .529) ... Stock Up (31-20, .608): The Pacers are in great fiscal shape, not in danger of going over the luxury tax, despite having an up-and-coming team with two big-contract players (Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger)
21C Big 3: Metta World Peace (+1058), Reggie Miller (+932), Jermaine O'Neal (+852).

11. DENVER NUGGETS (578-524, .525) ... Stock Way Up (33-19, .635): The Nuggets have enough young talent and depth to lure a February 21 blockbuster trade with a number of options. In the meantime, they have achieved the same level of success as they did when Carmelo Anthony was on the payroll ... 21C Big 3: Carmelo Anthony (+1226), Nene (+1172), J.R. Smith (+1169).

12. ORLANDO MAGIC (577-524, .524) ... Stock Way Down (15-36, .294): Magic GM Rob Hennigan has chosen to rebuild the Magic in the form of the Thunder, where he worked under genius GM Sam Presti. Orlando will land a lottery pick this year and Hennigan will probably hold off spending his cap space, so that he can potentially land another lottery pick in 2013-14
21C Big 3: Dwight Howard (+2266), Rashard Lewis (+1378), Hedo Turkoglu (+1376).

13. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (575-526, .522) ... Stock Down (25-26, .490): The Blazers scrapped most money-making veterans last season (Brandon Roy, Gerald Wallace, Marcus Camby, Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton) and surprisingly have been able to achieve similar results. Expect further improvement next season when the Blazers can spend free-agent money to give All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge some more big-man help
21C Big 3: LaMarcus Aldridge (+1137), Rasheed Wallace (+992), Brandon Roy (+668).

14. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (563-538, .511) ... Stock Way Up (39-12, .765): Kevin Durant, who has a low +376 21st Century plus-minus score because he took a big hit in the losing Thunder seasons, is now the best young leader in the game, giving GM Sam Presti his centerpiece to build around. Durant is a league-leading +465 this season alone. After the James Harden trade in October 2012, the Thunder now have fiscal sanity, future draft picks to build around and a championship contender for years to come
21C Big 3: Russell Westbrook (+883), James Harden (+758), Serge Ibaka (+642).

15. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (551-548, .501) ... Stock Down (22-27, .449): The Andrew Bynum experiment may fail, and if so, Philly can still recover. Remember, the Sixers could just spend that max money on someone else this summer, if they are not comfortable with Bynum's injury history
21C Big 3: Allen Iverson (+673), Thaddeus Young (+630), Aaron McKie (+624).

16. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (548-553, .498) ... Stock Way Down (17-34, .333): The Hornets' stock is way down, but everybody foresees a good future with Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez locked up under contract
21C Big 3: Chris Paul (+867), Baron Davis (+716), Peja Stojakovic (+650).

17. SACRAMENTO KINGS (546-556, .495) ... Stock Way Down (19-33, .365): Expect this stock to plummet further this season, with the team likely moving to Seattle. That said, look for a future improvement, because any change in management would be a major improvement, based on recent seasons
21C Big 3: Doug Christie (+1866), Peja Stojakovic (+1603), Vlade Divac (+1575).

18. MILWAUKEE BUCKS (513-586, .467) ... Stock Up (25-24, .510): The Bucks have too many good bigs and too few good smalls. Until they make a move, they will continue to hover around .500
21C Big 3: Ray Allen (+463), Tim Thomas (+331), Scott Williams (+313).

19. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (512-587, .466) ... Stock Way Down (16-35, .314): The Cavs can make the 2014 NBA Playoffs if only they decide to spend some free-agent money to surround Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and the injured Anderson Varejao with another talented player
21C Big 3: LeBron James (+3320), Anderson Varejao (+1178), Delonte West (+846).

20. CHICAGO BULLS (500-600, .455) ... Stock Way Up (30-20, .600): Tom Thibodeau has rescued the Bulls from despair this century, but even he will need Derrick Rose to return to MVP form, if Chicago is going to have a chance of overtaking the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Playoffs
21C Big 3: Luol Deng (+1478), Derrick Rose (+632), Kyle Korver (+630).

21. BROOKLYN NETS (492-609, .447) ... Stock Way Up (29-22, .569): The Nets are now a big-spending team, pouring $96 million this season into players and luxury-tax fines. Consequently, the Nets have improved in the standings. Next year, though, the ramifications of those spending ways will come home to roost in the form of more-punitive luxury-tax penalties
21C Big 3: Jason Kidd (+1672), Jason Collins (+939), Kerry Kittles (+693).

22. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (487-611, .444) ... Stock Down (18-30, .375): It is unfortunate that we have not been able to see how good this T-Wolves team can be, with Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio all missing numerous games with injuries
21C Big 3: Kevin Garnett (+1791, Wally Szczerbiak (+919), Sam Cassell (+665).


Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
After a decade of losses, the Knicks are picking themselves up.

23. NEW YORK KNICKS (487-612, .443) ...Stock Way Up (32-17, .653): Unlike the GM Isaiah Thomas days, the Knicks have been--for the most part--smart spenders, acquiring key veterans at bargain prices last summer
21C Big 3: Carmelo Anthony (+391), Tyson Chandler (+374), Steve Novak (+352).

24. TORONTO RAPTORS (476-625, .432) ... Stock Down (19-32, .373): The Raptors have pushed all their chips in on a roster consisting of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas. Is that a playoff team this year? Probably not. But the Raps should rise to their 21st Century record at least
21C Big 3: Anthony Parker (+392), Jamario Moon (+293), Vince Carter (+247).

25. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (467-633, .425) ... Stock Way Up (32-18, .640): In time, everyone will recognize that trading Gay's $18 million contract next year for Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince and $8-million-to-$20 million in post-luxury-tax savings is well worth it
21C Big 3: Shane Battier (+564), Zach Randolph (+548), Marc Gasol (+334).

26. ATLANTA HAWKS (466-633, .424) ... Stock Way Up (27-22, .551): GM Danny Ferry's first act was franchise-saving, trading Joe Johnson's bloated 4-year, $89 million contract to the Brooklyn Nets. By doing that, he not only has kept Atlanta in the playoff hunt, but has turned the Hawks into major free-agent players in Summer 2013 ... 21C Big 3: Mike Bibby (+566), Al Horford (+538), Joe Johnson (+271).


Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport
The 1-2 punch of Paul and Griffin have turned things around in short order for the Clippers.

27. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (443-660, .402) ... Stock Way Up (36-17, .679): First the Clips hit the Blake Griffin jackpot then doubled down by landing Chris Paul in a trade. Now the best team in Los Angeles has a shot to become a perennial Top 5 squad, once CP3 signs on the dotted line this summer
21C Big 3: Chris Paul (+579), Blake Griffin (+426), Caron Butler (+414).

28. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (434-667, .395) ... Stock Way Up (30-21, .588): New ownership and management recognized the importance of filling out a star-studded starting lineup, complemented with a deep bench. By spending up to the $70 million luxury-tax line, the Dubs finally put their money where their mouth is. And the positive results are proof that it is working
21C Big 3: Baron Davis (+604), Ekpe Udoh (+255), Stephen Jackson (+174).

29. WASHINGTON WIZARDS (420-679, .382) ... Stock Way Down (14-35, .286): The Wizards have shown they are a much better team with Wall back in the lineup (9-8), which is huge when you consider they were 5-27 without him. So even though the team's stock is way down this year, Wall's presence is a good reason to buy low here
21C Big 3: Brendan Haywood (+259), Nene (+138), Gilbert Arenas (+108).

30. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS (240-450, .348) ... Stock Way Down (11-39, .220): Bobcats GM Rich Cho wants to rebuild via lottery picks. He already has two good cornerstones in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker. He'll get another chip in the 2013 NBA lottery
21C Big 3: Raja Bell (+89), Flip Murray (+75), Theo Ratliff (+36).

Source: Basketball-Reference ... 21st Century Big 3 Plus-Minus stats are from 2000-01 through 2012-13 seasons (individual plus-minus numbers from 1999-2000 season not available).