Which team is your greatest of all time? To answer this question with much more rigor than it is normally debated in sports pubs, 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 decades later, it is time for an update with a brand new No. 1, and several other newcomers to the record thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors dominating the competition in their respective conventions.
For champions, I took the average of the stage differential during the regular season and their point differential in the playoffs plus the point differential of their opponents. That tells us just how many points each game better than an average team each champion was, giving equal weight to the postseason as the regular season to reward the most significant games.
For non-champions, the starting point is exactly the same, but their playoff differential was adjusted by effectively giving them a five-point loss for every game they came up short of the title. That has little effect on teams like the 2012-13 San Antonio Spurs, who lost in Game 7 of the Finals, but it harshly penalizes teams which wrapped up large success margins early in the playoffs before falling short in the conference finals.
The last adjustment deals with all leaguewide quality of play. It’s no surprise that some of the greatest single-season team performances in NBA history arrived from the early 1970s, when the league had expanded quickly and also battled with the ABA for incoming draft selections. The redistribution of gift allowed stars to glow even more brightly. For each season, I quantified how players saw their minutes per game increase or reduce the following season as compared to what we’d expect given their age. More minutes indicates a poorer league, while fewer moments indicates one that’s gotten more powerful.
Each season is rated relative to 2017-18, from a high of 21 percent more powerful in 1965-66, the last year the NBA had only nine teams, to a low of 10 percent weaker in 2004-05, the last time that the league expanded. That modification is multiplied from the group’s typical regular-season and playoff scores to provide a last score better than an average team this year.
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