Biggest Fluke Seasons in NBA History

In sports, there’s always a flash in a pan – and the NBA isn’t immune to such an occurrence. Every once in a while, a player would capture the imagination of basketball fans for one year…only to fail at replicating that same success again. These five players seemed primed to be the next big thing for one season, only to come crashing back down to earth afterward.

Jerry Stackhouse, Detroit Pistons (2000-01)

While Jerry Stackhouse was a fine player for the New Jersey Nets, it was safe to say that nobody expected him to have the kind of season he had in the 2001 season. Stackhouse, a first-time All-Star in 2000, would follow up next season by averaging 29.8 points per game, which was second in the league behind Allen Iverson‘s 31.1. His shooting went up, shooting the ball over 24 times per game; he had only shot the ball 17.6 times per game the season prior. Perhaps the biggest outlier in Stackhouse’s ’01 season was his shooting percentage – only shooting .402% from the field.

Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings (2009-10)

Averaging 20.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 5.8 APG on 458% shooting in his rookie year, Tyreke Evans looked to be a sure thing. The shooting guard was named to the NBA All-Rookie team, and even won the Rookie of the Year award. Sadly, Evans could never elevate from his rookie year, as he went on to average 15.1 points per game for the rest of his career. While he was still a very solid player, he would constantly deal with injuries, having never played a full NBA season. Evans remained as a solid bench piece for multiple teams, before being banned from the NBA for violating the Anti-Drug policy.

Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets (2008-09)

Devin Harris was traded to the New Jersey Nets in the middle of the 2007-08 season, just as was getting into the groove of being a starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks. It was in his full first season with the Nets that Harris took his game to a whole other level, upping his point per game total from 14.8 the season prior to 21.3. While Harris didn’t have a magnificent three-ball – only shooting .291 percent from three – his numbers were still good enough to earn him an All-Star nomination. However, it would be the only time Harris would receive such an honor as he failed to average over 20 points per game for the rest of his career.

Dana Barros, Philadelphia 76ers (1994-95)

Playing mostly as a backup point guard to Gary Payton with the Seattle Super Sonics, Dana Barros was traded to the Charlotte Hornets before the 1993-94 season, before being traded to the 76ers two days later. After enjoying a fine season in his first year as a starter, Barros started to take off in his second year in Philly, scoring 20.6 points per game while posting career-highs in assists (7.5 per game), rebounds (3.3 per game), field goal percentage (49 percent), and three-point percentage. He was named an All-Star that season and even won the Most Improved Player award. Barros would sign with the Boston Celtics in 1995, where he failed to replicate the success he found in 1995 in his four seasons in Boston.

Michael Adams, Denver Nuggets (1990-91)

By all accounts, the 1991 Nuggets weren’t a great team – they had the worst record in the NBA that year with 20-62, along with the worst defense. But the one key positive from the Nuggets was their high-powered offense, which was led by point guard Michael Adams. Adams exploded onto the scene in the1991 NBA season, averaging 26.1 points and 10.5 assists per game. There were a few key outliers in Adams’ breakout season, however; despite having an efficient field goal percentage of .453, Adams’ field goal percentage and three-point percentage were both below .400 and .300, respectively. Adams was named an All-Star the next season and played a few more seasons afterward, but he never came anywhere close to the season he had in 1991.


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3 thoughts on “Biggest Fluke Seasons in NBA History

  1. I guess I think of “fluke” seasons as a year in which a player who wasn’t very good before or after he had a terrific season. All the players you listed were fine players, and you have merely isolated their very BEST season. Here’s 2 men I think should be excluded from this list, and then 2 that should be ON the list.

    Dana Barros
    He played over 30 minutes per game in only 2 seasons – his first two in Philadelphia, 31.1 and 40.5. Per 36 minutes in his career, he averaged 16.4 PPG. Neither of these seasons were really outliers, he just got to play full time for the first time. In each of his first 12 seasons, he averaged at least 14.4 points per 36 minutes, and it was only that low ONCE. The other 11 years he averaged well over 15.

    Michael Adams
    This small player had 2 other years in which he averaged over 18 PPG. He is arguably the 2nd best player under 6 feet tall to ever play in the NBA (behind HOFer Calvin Murphy). Adams averaged double figures in PPG for 7 straight seasons. His “fluke” season happened for only one reason – Paul Westhead. The Nuggets were a run-and-gun team for the entire season, leading the NBA in points scored, averaging almost 120 per game. The league average was 106.3, and only 6 other teams (out of 27) averaged more than 110.

    Unfortunately, they gave up ***130.8*** PPG, and won only 20 games. Only two other teams allowed more than 110 per game, and they were also high scoring teams – Reggie Miller, Detlef Schrempf, and Chuck Person in Indiana, and the “Run TMC” Golden State Warriors. Both teams made the playoffs, but the Pacers lost in the 1st round, and GS lost in the 2nd round.

    Other “fluke seasons” on the Nuggets team that year:
    Orlando Woolridge
    averaged 25.1 PPG AND 6.8 Reb per game. His next highest seasons were 22.9 and 5.6

    Reggie Williams
    averaged 16.1. His career scoring avg to that point was 9.2.

    Chris Jackson
    scored 14.1 as a 21 year old rookie. What makes it “fluky” is it was in 22.5 minutes per games. That works out 22.5 per 36 minutes, by far the best of his career, and outstanding for a rookie. He changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.

    Blair Rasmussen
    kicked in 12.5 PPG and set his career high in rebounds at 9.7. His 2nd best season in rebounds was 7.3, and his career avg was 5.7. He also had career high in blocks and steals.

    Todd Lichti (yes, I said TODD LICHTI)
    averaged 14.0 PPG !!!!! His career avg was 7.9, and his 2nd best season avg was 8.0. He made 19 3-pointers during his 5 year career, 14 of them in that single season.

    Hell, Joe Wolf
    averaged over 7 PPG for only the 2nd time in HIS career, and averaged 5.4 rebounds! Big Joe pulled down 3.3 for his career.

    And last but not least, Jerome Lane
    posted 7.5 PPG, while ripping down 9.3 rebounds per game. He never came close to a season like that ever again.

    In other words, several guys had “fluke” seasons for this team, so it’s a bit unfair to single out Michael Adams. He had other very good seasons, he just never again played on a team that employed a video game strategy. When you examine today’s NBA, though, this team looks a lot like many of them.

    The Nuggets led the league in FG attempts and makes, 3 point shots attempted, offensive rebounds and total rebounds.
    BUT… they were 27th in FG%, and 24th in 3 pt FG%. They were fun to watch, but got their butts kicked over 75% of the time.

    I enjoyed your article, but I would like to have seen you point out the circumstances that led to these “fluke” seasons. It was actually the Nuggets as an organization who had a fluke season, the players simply piled up the stats to go along with it.

    Interestingly, Adams left for free agency that offseason, and Denver scored 20 points a game FEWER the following year, diving from 119.9 to 99.7. They also improved immensely on defense, surrendering 107.6, in no small part due to the arrival of a rookie named Dikembe Mutombo. Reggie Williams became their leading scorer at 18.2 PPG, while Dikembe was 2nd with a career-high 16.6 PPG. That might qualify as a “fluke season,” as Mt Mutombo never averaged more than 13.8 PPG in a year for the rest of his career. It was also the point scoring apex of Williams’ career.

    The other flukesters?
    Lichti dropped to 6.6, Jackson to 10.3, Walter Davis dipped from 18.7 to 9.9, Wolf 3.8, and Lane played only 9 games, averaging 3.1. Rasmussen was traded to Atlanta for a bag of peanuts, and scored 9 points and almost 5 rebounds for the Hawks. Atlanta won 38 games and missed the playoffs, while Denver won a measly 24 games.

    Here’s two guys who had, in my opinion, more of a fluke season than Adams or Barros:

    Don May
    His 1970-’71 season should have made your list, instead of these two. He averaged 20.2 PPG that year, but never reached double figures in any other season. He played 7 seasons, scoring 1535 points in ’70-’71, and 1804 in the other 6… combined. He also set career highs in rebounds and assists, at the same rate as he did in points scored.

    Kurt Rambis
    The long time Lakers enforcer had a fluke season in ’88-’89. It’s the only season he ever averaged double figures in PPG, and his 11.1 scoring average is more than double his lifetime 5.2, and that’s just the start. He averaged 9.4 rebounds, but never averaged more than 7.1 in any other campaign, and his career average was 5.6. He averaged 2.1 assists. His next highest was 1.8 the following season. He averaged 1.1 for his career. Even when you look at per 36 minutes averages, his stats rank at or near the top of his best seasons ever, especially the points. He never came close to scoring at the rate he did in ’88-’89. And it wasn’t because of some gimmicky offense, either. Charlotte was 22nd in offense in their inaugural season. Kurt fought hard to get those 11 points every game. And they were a weak rebounding team, as Kurt was the only player who grabbed more than 6 per contest. He also led the team in blocks per game, and was 2nd in steals per game.

    So, Rambis may not have the huge scoring numbers these other guys did in their “fluke season,” but 1988-’89 marked a year when Kurt was not just a guy who did the “dirty work” of taking charges and diving on the floor. He was counted on for his defense, as well as putting the ball in the hoop. After years of watching Kareem, Magic, Worthy, Byron Scott, and everyone else on the Lakers roster score and score without passing the ball to Kurt, he was actually a viable offensive option. And he boosted all his other stats, for good measure.

    1. Who are you? Your reply is 1 million times better, more factual and interesting than the article. Start a sports blog or some thingy.

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