NBA: Are the 2015-16 Spurs One of the 10 Greatest Teams Ever?

2015-16 Spurs - Greatest Teams Ever

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The biggest story of the NBA season has been the Golden State Warriors, and with good reason — Steph Curry is revolutionizing the point guard position before our eyes, leading the NBA in scoring at 30.7 points per game while shooting career highs in field goal percentage and three-point percentage and knocking down an NBA-record 5.1 three-pointers per game. But while the Warriors make their run at history and a 73-win season, there’s another team that’s been historically good, the San Antonio Spurs.

In any other year, there would be plenty of talk about the Spurs for what they are: one of the best teams in NBA history. That’s not even taking into account their status as the most successful American sports dynasty of the last 20 years, but simply just this team during this season. The Spurs are 50-9 and on pace to finish the year 69-13. That places them in elite company in the history of the league, which prompts us to look at the top 10 teams in NBA history, their regular season records, and how the post-season unfolded for them.

10. The 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks

Regular Season Record: 67-15
Playoff Result: Lost in the first round to the 42-40 “We Believe” Golden State Warriors

The Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki went on to eventually win the NBA title in 2010-11, but this season was a massive failure. They get the nod at the bottom of the list because, technically, they have one of the top-10 records in NBA regular-season history. But they went into the playoffs against a Warriors team that had finished 42-40 after being 11 games under .500 in early March, and clearly caught lightning in a bottle with a 27-year-old Baron Davis, a 21-year-old Monta Ellis, and a heaping dose of Don Nelson’s Nellie Ball.

9. The 1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers

Regular Season Record: 67-15
Playoff Result: NBA Champions

This was the first Lakers team in a run of three straight titles, built around a young Kobe Bryant and a peak Shaquille O’Neal, with quality veterans such as Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Ron Harper, A.C. Green, and Glen Rice. They were pushed to the limit twice in the playoffs; in the first-round by the Sacramento Kings and then again by the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals, before beating the Indiana Pacers in six games.

2015-16 Spurs - Greatest Teams Ever

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8. The 2014-15 Golden State Warriors

Regular Season Record: 67-15
Playoff Result: NBA Champions

The Warriors might move up to the top of their win-total class if history looks back at them as the first of a run of many NBA champions. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green emerged in 2014-15 as a three-headed monster, surprising many by winning with their long-ball style. Curry has continued to transform not only his game, but the game of basketball itself. The Warriors took down a banged up Cleveland Cavaliers team and LeBron James 4-2 in the NBA Finals.

7. The 1991-92 Chicago Bulls

Regular Season Record: 67-15
Playoff Result: NBA Champions

The Bulls get a nod above the Warriors and Lakers because this wasn’t the first of a string of championships but the second, which is often the hardest. After beating Magic Johnson’s Lakers in five games in 1991, Jordan’s Bulls came out and steamrolled the competition to a 67-15 record, which at the time was just two games behind the best record in league history and tied for fourth best ever. The New York Knicks took the Bulls to seven games in the second-round, but Chicago beat the Portland Trail Blazers 4-2 in the NBA Finals.

6. The 1985-86 Boston Celtics

Regular Season Record: 67-15
Playoff Result: NBA Champions

This team was peak Larry Bird and peak Boston Celtics. The names on this team read like an ‘80s all-star squad: Bird, Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, Danny Ainge, and Bill Walton. The Celtics powered their way to a league-best 67-15 record, swept the Bulls (led by a young Michael Jordan) in the first round, took care of Dominique Wilkins’ Hawks in five games, and swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals before taking care of Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.

2015-16 Spurs - Greatest Teams Ever

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5. The 1972-73 Boston Celtics

Regular Season Record: 68-14
Playoff Results: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals to the (57-25) New York Knicks.

This was quite the squad, with the Celtics coming up just one win short of the Lakers’ regular-season record, set the year before. They would also come up one win short of a trip to the NBA Finals, losing to the Knicks in seven games in large part because their leader and best player John Havlicek badly injured his shoulder and was limited to shooting left-handed.

4. The 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers

Regular Season Record: 68-13
Playoff Results: NBA Champions

This was arguably the first great NBA team, with a 30-year-old Wilt Chamberlain leading the 76ers to the title, his first in the NBA. Chamberlain averaged 24.1 points, 24.2 rebounds — not a typo — and 7.8 assists on a team that included Billy Cunningham, Hal Greer, and Chet Walker. Their record for wins in a season stood until it was broken by the next team on the list just five years later.

3. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers

Regular Season Record: 69-13
Playoff Results: NBA Champions

The Lakers set the record with 69 victories, and it held up for 25 years. A 35-year-old Chamberlain won his second championship alongside Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Elgin Baylor, and Pat Riley. They swept Bob Love, Jerry Sloan, and Norm Van Lier’s 57-win Bulls, beat the Milwaukee Bucks, and took the NBA Finals in five games over the same ’70s Knicks that would make trips to the Finals in three out of four seasons.

2. The 1996-97 Chicago Bulls

2015-16 Spurs - Greatest Teams Ever

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Regular Season Record: 69-13
Playoff Results: NBA Champions

The Bulls get the nod over the Lakers on this list because this team followed the historic 1995-96 squad that ran through the NBA in the regular season and won the championship. If that wasn’t exhausting enough, they followed it up by getting close to 70 wins again and beating quality opponents in the playoffs, knocking the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz out on their way to five championships in seven seasons. The Lakers of 1971-72 only won 48 games the season prior and were eliminated in the second round.

1. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls

Regular Season Record: 72-10
Playoff Results: NBA Champions

The best team in NBA history, these Bulls have a regular-season record that is at risk with the Golden State Warriors on a tear this season. They came off a second-round exit the year before, but they had Michael Jordan back from his first retirement for a full season, made the move to bring in Dennis Rodman, and got a healthy Ron Harper on board playing in the backcourt with Jordan. The Bulls beat the Seattle Supersonics, an underrated ’90s powerhouse that never won a championship.

We don’t know yet where the 2015-16 Spurs will finish on this list. There’s a decent chance that, barring an injury, they’ll find themselves somewhere. The Warriors will be on the list, too. You could even make the argument that, even if they don’t break the Bulls 72-win record, that by virtue of having to face one another in the playoffs, either team winning the NBA championship could make them the greatest team in NBA history.

Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com and Basketball-Reference.com.

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