Where the Warriors rank among the NBA’s 50 greatest teams of all timeadmin
Which team is the greatest of all time? To answer this question with more rigor than it’s typically debated in sports bars, in 2015 I ranked every group since minutes played were tracked in 1951-52 (sorry to the 1949-50 Minneapolis Lakers) based on their performance in both the regular season and playoffs.
Three years after, it’s time for an upgrade with a brand new No. 1, plus a lot of other newcomers to the list thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors dominating the contest in their respective conferences.
For champions, I took the average of the stage differential during the regular season and their stage differential in the playoffs in addition to the point differential of their opponents. That tells us just how many points per game better than an average team each winner was, giving equal weight to the postseason as the regular season to reward the most significant games.
For non-champions, the beginning point is exactly the same, but their playoff differential was also adjusted by effectively giving them a five-point loss for each game they came up short of this title. That has little effect on teams such as the 2012-13 San Antonio Spurs, who lost in Game 7 of the Finals, but it harshly penalizes teams which wrapped up large victory margins early in the playoffs before falling short in the conference finals.
The previous adjustment deals with leaguewide quality of play. It’s no surprise that some of the best single-season team performances in NBA history arrived in the early 1970s, when the league had expanded quickly and also battled with the ABA for incoming draft selections. The redistribution of talent allowed stars to shine more brightly. For each season, I quantified how players watched their moments per game increase or reduce the subsequent season as compared to what we’d expect given their age. More minutes indicates that a weaker league, while fewer moments indicates one that’s gotten stronger.
Each season is ranked relative to 2017-18, from a high of 21 percent more powerful in 1965-66, the previous year the NBA had only nine teams, to a low of 10 percent poorer in 2004-05, the last time that the league enlarged. That adjustment is multiplied by the team’s average regular-season and playoff scores to give a final score greater than an average team this season.
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