Following the Golden State Warriors’ historic regular season, which featured an NBA-record 73 wins, their masterful campaign ended in disappointment via a seven-game series loss to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Members of the NBA community might have considered the 2015-16 Dubs the greatest basketball team ever had they won it all. But where do Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Co. rank historically after losing the season’s final series?
PointAfter, a sports data visualization site that’s part of Graphiq, set out to not only answer that question, but also to create a cohesive ranking of the best NBA team seasons of all time. To be considered, teams needed to either win the title, or amass a winning percentage of .600 or better in addition to reaching the NBA Finals. That narrowed our scope to 114 teams.
From there, we ranked teams based on a combination of the following four factors:
1. Regular Season Winning Percentage — How consistent a team was throughout the year in terms of racking up wins and avoiding losses.
2. Playoff Winning Percentage — How dominant a team was throughout the postseason by avoiding drawn-out series (and, in many cases, ultimately winning the title).
3. Net Rating — Measures a team’s effectiveness in terms of how many points they outscored opponents by on a per-100-possessions basis. We chose to focus solely on net rating and not offensive and defensive rating because, in the end, it doesn’t really matter if a team isn’t as great defensively if they’re truly transcendent on offense, or vice versa. Each team’s net rating is more telling.
4. Simple Rating System — Abbreviated as SRS, the Simple Rating System is a rating by Basketball Reference that accounts for strength of schedule and average point differential throughout the season.
We multiplied both winning percentage numbers by 100 to get a whole number, multiplied net rating and SRS by 10 to get a number closer to 100, then added all four scores together to create a Season Score. Teams were ranked by this new metric, which we rounded to the nearest hundredth place.
So, what NBA teams throughout the annals of league lore reign supreme? Who holds the title of being considered the best NBA roster of all time?
We’ll start with a trio of Boston Celtics teams who laced up the sneakers more than 50 years ago.