Who are the best teams this decade? We use a pretty simple system of evaluating the NBA teams from the 1999-2000 season to the last one, 2008-2009. The points are given only for playoff appearances, regular season win-loss records don’t matter, unless we need a tie break. So here are how it goes –
6 points for finishing the season with the NBA title
4 points for the team losing in the Final
3 points for losing in the conference finals
2 points for losing in the conference semi finals
1 point for making the playoffs and getting knocked out in the first round.
There are no double scoring for one season, meaning a team that won the title will only get 6 points, and not all the rest of the points for reaching every stage in the playoffs. Two teams with the same number of points will be separated by their biggest achievement. Second tie break – The playoff win-loss record the teams achieved during the 10 year period. Third tie break – their overall regular season record during the 10 year period. Let’s go –
30 – Charlotte Bobcats – 0 points
The Bobcats are the youngest franchise in the NBA and have been in the league since 2004. They have yet to reach the playoffs but seem to be getting closer, finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference last season with 35 wins. With the East the way it is the past few years, 38 wins is usually enough to get you in. What they’ll remember from this decade? Nothing much, maybe Michael Jordan playing golf. Gerald Wallace is probably their best performer in the past years.
29 – Golden State Warriors – 2 points
This last decade was not a good one for the Warriors, who made the playoffs only once, in 2006-2007. They upset the no.1 seed then, the Dallas Mavericks in the first round but couldn’t stand with Utah in the Western Semi’s, losing 4-1. Funny thing, in 2007-2008 they had their best regular season since the 1993-1994 season, winning 48 games, but it wasn’t enough to get them into the playoffs. Besides for the 2007 playoffs, with Baron Davis leading the way, there isn’t a lot for Warrior fans to remember from this decade.
28 – Los Angeles Clippers – 2 points
Beat the Warriors in a tie break with a better play off record (Clippers have a 7-5 record, the Warriors 5-6). They reached the playoffs only once this decade, in the 2005-2006 season, losing in a great series to the Phoenix Suns in the Semi’s 4-3. There was a feeling something solid and good was built that year on the losing side of LA, but the last two years have been horrible of the Clippers and Mike Dunleavy, winning only 42 games.
27 – Memphis Grizzlies – 3 points
Memphis started this decade as Vancouver, but moved to Tennesee in 2001, which seemed like a good move as the team that Jerry West built reached the playoffs for the first time in the franchise history in 2004 (The Grizzlies started playing in the NBA in 1995). The Grizzlies, built and led by Pau Gasol reached the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, between 2004-2006, but lost in the first round every time. They were swept every time. Since then, Jerry West left, Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers, and the Grizzlies haven’t won more than 24 in the last three seasons.
26 – Atlanta Hawks – 3 points
The Hawks missed the playoffs in the first eight seasons of this decade after being a consistent playoff qualifier during the 80’s and the 90’s. Since Mike Woodson arrived, things slowly improved, and with Joe Johnson joining the team and the Hawks finally getting a Point guard in the form of an aging Mike Bibby, the Hawks reached the playoffs in 2008, taking the eventual Champions Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round. Last season they reached the semi’s, but got swept by Lebron and the Cavs. Atlanta seem to have good years coming, if they can keep their team together and add to it.
25- Oklahoma City Thunder – 4 points
The team formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics has been in Oklahoma for only one season, not reaching the playoffs. The Sonics, who were one of the best in the league during the 90’s didn’t have a great decade, making the playoffs only three times, losing in the first round twice (2000, 2002) and reaching the semi final once, in 2005. Clay Bennet, and not for good reasons will probably the most memorable figure from these past ten years, as the owner that moved the Sonics from Seattle.
24 – Washington Wizards – 5 points
The Wizards had a good thing going for them between 2005-2008, mostly because of Gilbert Arenas. Ever since he got the huge contract he’s been mostly injured, and the Wizards haven’t gotten very far. With a nice nucleus built around Arenas, Jamison and Butler, the Wizards reached the playoffs for four straight seasons, reaching the semi final once (2005) and three straight times lost in the first round – all to the Cavs.
23 – Chicago Bulls – 5 points
The Bulls also reached the playoffs four times and once gotten into the semi final but have a better record than the Wizrads. The “baby-bulls”, under Scott Skiles reached the playoffs three consecutive times between 2005-2007, and in 2007 swept the defending champions Miami Heat in the first round, before losing to the Detorit Pistons in the Semi Finals. Things broke down and Skiles left the team the next season, but Chicago got to the playoffs again this year, taking the Celtics to seven games in the first round, eventually losing 4-3 in a classic series.
22 – New York Knicks – 5 points
Horrible decade for a proud franchise like the Knicks, who made the playoffs three times this decade after making the playoffs each year during the 90’s, including two NBA Finals (1994,1999). They reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2000, losing to the Pacers and were knocked out by the Toronto Raptors in 2001 in the first round and were swept by the Nets in 2004 in the first round. That’s it, for a team that’s still hurting from the Isiah Thomas era.
21 – Toronto Raptors – 6 points
A team that started out in 1995 began it’s playoff history only in 2000 and have made it five times to the post season this decade, four times getting knocked out in the first round and only once, in 2001, making it to the Eastern semi finals. It looked like the Raptors were re-building something nice in 2007, making the playoffs in 2007-2008, but last year they seemed to go back a step, winning only 33 games.
20 – Houston Rockets – 6 points
Twice the NBA Champions in the 90’s (1994-1995), the last decade wasn’t very good with the Rockets. Despite Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady on the team, the Rockets never made it past the Conference Semi Final. They lost in the first round four times, and reached the semi final just a couple of months ago, losing to the Lakers in seven games, after Yao Ming got injured during the series. If his injury is serious as now it seems to be, Houston may go back to the 2000-2003 years, when they missed the playoffs.
19 – Minnesota Timberwolves – 7 points
Ten years ago, when Kevin Garnett was a young star, Minnesota were a popular team. Not hugely popular, but Garnett tops and ‘Wolves hats weren’t such a rarity. The Timberwolves made the playoffs five times this decade, being knocked out in the first round four times (2000-2003) and making one deep run, reaching the conference finals in 2004, losing to the Lakers in six games. Since then, Minny haven’t made the playoffs once, and Garnett is long gone.
18 – Milwaukee Bucks – 7 points
Back when Ray Allen was a Buck, this team wasn’t so bad. Milwaukee were a game away from reaching the NBA finals back in 2001, before losing in game 7 of the conference finals to Allen Iverson and the 76ers, but besides that there were four more first round exits, the last one in 2006 against Detroit. Since then they haven’t won more than 34 games in a season.
17 – Portland Trail Blazers – 7 points
Back in 2000, the Blazers were one of the best teams in the league, winning 59 games that season, taking the Los Angeles to a game 7 in the Western Finals and even led by 20 points in that game before collapsing and losing that game. The Blazers, or the “Jail Blazers” during that period reached three more consecutive playoffs, only to be knocked out in the first round. They reached the playoff again only this year, losing to Houston in the first round but the future looks bright for the Blazers.
16 – Denver Nuggets – 8 points
When Carmelo Anthony came to the Nuggets he immediately transformed this team into a regular member of the playoffs. In 2004 the Nuggets reached the playoffs for the first time this decade and have reached it every year since, but only in 2009 were they able to get past the first round despite having Allen Iverson for a couple of seasons. Maybe Chauncey Billups was the right ingredient, as the Nuggets reached the conference finals, losing to the Lakers in six games.
15 – New Orleans Hornets – 10 points
The team were still the Charlotte Hornets until 2002, but they’ve made the playoffs in both cities. Charlotte reached the conference semi final twice and the first round once, and since the New Orleans move the team has reached the playoffs four times but getting passed the first round only once, in 2008.
14 – Orlando Magic – 10 points
The Magic reached the playoffs three times between 2001-2003, with Tracy McGrady on the team, but couldn’t get past the first round. It took them four seasons to return to the post season, and have improved each season – first round exit (2007), losing in the semi final in 2008 and of course the NBA finals this year, losing to the Lakers in five games. Now that Vince Carter has joined the team, maybe a title is heading to Disney World in 2010?
13 – Utah Jazz – 11 points
The aging Stockton and Karl Malone were able to carry the team to the playoffs between 2000-2003, getting to the semi final in 2000. After Stockton retired and Malone left to the Lakers, the Jazz had three seasons without reaching the post season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1983. The last three seasons saw the Jazz return to the playoffs, but taking a step back each season – Conference finals in 2007, semi finals in 2008 and a first round exit in 2009.
12 – Cleveland Cavaliers – 11 points
The Cavs this decade can be divided into pre Lebron (2000-2003) and with Lebron (2004-2009). Well, even with Lebron they missed the playoffs in 2004 and 2005. Since then, it’s been two conference semi final exits, one conference final (2009) and one NBA final, a first in the Cavs history, in 2007. The Cavs lost to the Spurs in a sweep. Many in Cleveland fear the no title next year means no Lebron after 2010.
11 – Sacramento Kings – 12 points
Don’t let last season’s 17 win record make you forget that the Kings were one of the best teams in the league in the first half of the decade. They reached the playoffs seven times in a row between 2000-2006, losing in game seven of the conference finals against the Lakers in 2002 and reaching the conference semi final three more times. It’ll probably take some time before the Webber-Stojakovic-Divac-Bibby days return.
10 – Philadelphia 76ers – 12 points
The 90’s were very bad for the Sixers, especially after Barkley got traded to Phoenix in 1992. But after Allen Iverson got picked in 1996, things started changing. The Sixers reached the conference semi final in 2000 and in Iverson’s MVP season in 2001 the team reached the NBA finals, losing to the Lakers 4-1. Since then they have reached the playoffs 5 more times, but got past the first round only once, in 2003, losing in the semi final to the Pistons.
9 – Phoenix Suns – 13 points
The highest ranked team that didn’t reach the NBA finals this decade. The Suns however reached two conference finals, with D’antoni coaching and Nash running the team on the court in 2005 and 2006, once losing to the Spurs and once to the Mavericks. The team reached the conference semi final twice more in 2000 and 2007, including a huge upset over the Spurs, the defending champs back then, in the first round in 2000. They lost in the first round three more times.
8 – Indiana Pacers – 13 points
Another team that reached the playoffs seven times during the decade but the famous incident with the fans in Detroit in 2004 pretty much made everything fall apart slowly. The Pacers reached the NBA finals in 2000, losing to the Lakers in six games. In 2004 they had the best record in the league but lost in the conference finals to the eventual NBA champions, the Detroit Pistons, in a very intense and rough series in six games. That series led to the Auburn Hills brawl in 2004 with Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’neal and Ben Wallace starring in it. The Pacers reached the semi finals that year, losing to Detroit again and lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2006 but haven’t been there the past three seasons, but haven’t completely gone to the bottom, not winning less the 35 times a year.
7 – New Jersey Nets – 15 points
The Nets had Jason Kidd until the 2008 trade that sent him to Dallas for most of the decade, and with him they reached the playoffs for six straight seasons between 2002-2007, including the NBA finals twice (2002 against the Lakers and 2003 against the Spurs), got to the semi finals three more times and had one first round exit.
6 – Boston Celtics – 15 points
Boston reached the playoffs six times during the decade, but never left a real impression except for 2002, when they reached the conference finals and lost to the Indiana Pacers with Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker carrying them. Oh yeah, they won the title in 2008, with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joining Pierce when it seemed the future of the franchise was dark and grim. The Celtics were knocked out in the semi final twice (2003, 2009) and twice in the first round (2004, 2005, both to Indiana).
5 – Miami Heat – 16 points
Like Denver and Cleveland, the 2003 draft changed everything for the Heat. Dwayne Wade, although not as hyped as Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony became one of the biggest stars in the league and with Shaq joining him in 2004, the Heat one their first and only league title in 2006. O’neal has since left, but Miami after a very bad year in 2008 are looking like things are starting to build nicely around Wade again, reaching the playoffs in 2009 but lost to the Hawks in the first round. Miami also reached the conference finals in 2005, lost in the semi finals twice and two more times in the first round.
4 – Dallas Mavericks – 18 points
The Mavericks haven’t missed the playoffs in the last nine years, peaking in 2006, losing in the finals to Miami. Dallas led 2-0 in that series, but (with a little help from the refs) completely collapsed, losing four straight games. The next year they were on the bad side of one of the greatest upsets in playoff history, being the number one seed but lost 4-2 to the Golden State Warriors in the first round, and lost in the first round in 2008 to the Hornets, costing Avery Johnson his job. The Mavericks, with Dirk Nowitzki (2007 MVP) leading the team throughout the decade lost in the conference finals in 2003, lost twice in the semi final four times, including to the Nuggets in 2009.
3 – Detroit Pistons – 26 points
The best eastern team of the decade and also the first team for the East to win the NBA title this decade (2004), beating the Los Angeles Lakers in a huge upset in five games. The Pistons missed the playoffs only once (2001), reached the NBA finals also in 2005 but lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games. They reached the conference finals four more times, the semi final once and lost in the first round twice. It seems that Joe Dumars will now need to re build the team again, with his Ben Wallace – Rasheed – Hamilton – Billups core falling apart in recent years.
2 – San Antonio Spurs – 32 points
Three NBA championship (2003, 2005, 2007) and the only team to reach the playoffs every year between 2000-2009. The Spurs maybe weren’t the most exciting team in history, but they were good, and consistently good. With Tim Duncan carrying the team on his back with and after David Robinson, with Tony Parker and Ginobili on his side and Greg Popovich on the bench, the Spurs never won less than 53 games in each season and were probably the most stable team this decade. It’ll be interesting to see how long can Popovich keep them on or near the top of the NBA.
1 -Los Angeles Lakers – 36 points
Four NBA titles (2000-2002, 2009), two more NBA finals (2004, 2008) and only one season without the playoffs. One Shaquille O’neal in his prime, at his “most dominant ever” phase, Kobe Bryant in all kind of phases but also as the best player in the league phase, which he’s still in apparently or at least close to that, Phil Jackson coaching the team during all their finals visit, and one Jack Nicholson who’s always there.