Monday, February 17, 2020

Best NBA Teams Since 1979

So here's what I did.  I went to, and looked up the offensive and defensive ratings for each team to win the NBA title since 1979.  (For me, the 1979-80 season is the beginning of the modern NBA.)  Then I subtracted the defensive rating from the offensive rating.  Here's an example, using the 2002 Lakers.

The 2002 Lakers had an offensive rating of 109.4, meaning that they scored 109.4 points per 100 possessions.  Their defensive rating was 101.7, meaning that they allowed 101.7 points per 100 possessions.  If you subtract their defensive rating from their offensive rating, you get a score of 7.7, which is slightly above average for an NBA Champion.  (The 2019 Raptors had a rating of 6.0.)

Using this method, here are the 10 best teams to win the NBA title since the 1978-79 season:

1.  1995-96 Chicago Bulls:  13.4
2.  1996-97 Chicago Bulls:  12.0
3.  2016-17 Golden State Warriors:  11.6
4.  2007-08 Boston Celtics:  11.3
5.  1991-92 Chicago Bulls:  11.0
6.  2014-15 Golden State Warriors:  10.2
7.  1990-91 Chicago Bulls:  9.4
8.  2006-07 San Antonio Spurs:  9.3
9.  1985-86 Boston Celtics:  9.2
T10.  1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers:  9.1
T10.  1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers:  9.1

Six of the top seven teams feature Michael Jordan or Stephen Curry, which certainly matches my memory.  The biggest surprise to me was the 2007-08 Celtics, but that was a strong team that led the league in defense, and almost won another title in 2010.  The others on the list all come from well-known dynasties.


  1. I think of that Boston team as being critical because of the big three concept.

  2. They had a record of 66-16 in the regular season. That's the third-most wins of any Celtics team in NBA history -- only the 1973 Celtics and the 1986 Celtics won more games. I had no idea that they were that good.

    1. I wasn't watching much NBA at that time beyond the Bullets, but I knew the Celtics were kind of down in the dumps, and I always enjoy the periods when Boston isn't very good in the NBA. And then suddenly I hear that they are in first place, and I find out that they now have miraculously acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

      It kind of reminded me of being a child and being thankful that John Havlicek, Paul Silas and Charlie Scott had retired and the Celtics were in decline and having a hard time cobbling together a new identity--and suddenly they miraculously allowed to draft Larry Bird a year ahead of when he was actually getting out of college.

      I always figured Anthony Davis was going to be the next miraculous acquisition for the Celtics, but I had that wrong--the Lakers miraculously got him. I guess the Celtics' next miracle is going to have to be Zion Williamson if he is, indeed, healthy enough and/or the guys for Milwaukee and Dallas.

    2. Typing all of that is such a bummer. I've been thinking about how the NBA seems the least rigged of all the big three sports and that I should probably start paying attention to it. But, of course, it's got to be getting ready to be rigged back in favor of Boston, Los Angeles and the Knicks pretty soon. Maybe I will try to get more into the NHL; at least I don't know enough about hockey to recognize the rigging that might be happening.

    3. It's hard to argue that they've done much to help the Knicks in the last 20 years.

    4. This is true, but I imagine they are about to get Patrick Ewinged given that the TV ratings are so far down.

  3. According to basketball-reference, Paul Pierce is the third-greatest Celtic player of all time -- he ranks just ahead of John Havlicek, and behind only Larry Bird and Bill Russell. Again, I had no idea.

    1. He's one of my all-time-favorite Washington Wizards, for sure.

  4. The 2015-16 Warriors, who lost to LeBron and the Cavs in seven games, finished with a rating of 10.7. So they would rank sixth on this list if they had won the title.