Basketball

The 25 most dominant basketball teams in history

Methodology: Each team’s rating is based on the sum of the standard deviation of its points per game average measured against the league or conference average plus the inverse of the standard deviation of its points per game prevention measured against the league or conference average. Conference average is used in seasons in which teams play an unbalanced schedule; league average is used for seasons when teams play a balanced schedule. The example below shows the scores for each team during the 2016-17 NBA Western Conference season. The average points scored per game was 106.37; the standard deviation 5.13. The average points allowed was 105.61; the standard deviation was 4.96:

2016-17                                                PPG       St. Dev. PPGA    Inv. SD. Score

Golden State Warriors                    115.9     1.86        104.3     0.26        2.12

San Antonio Spurs                           105.3    -0.21        98.1     1.51        1.30

Houston Rockets                              115.3     1.74        109.6    -0.80      0.94

Los Angeles Clippers                       108.7     0.45        104.4     0.24        0.69

Utah Jazz                                             100.7    -1.11        96.8     1.78       0.67

Oklahoma City Thunder                 106.6     0.04        105.8    -0.04      0.00

Memphis Grizzlies                           100.5    -1.14      100.0     1.13       -0.01

Denver Nuggets                                111.7     1.04       111.2    -1.13      -0.09

Portland Trail Blazers                      107.9     0.30      108.5    -0.58      -0.28

Minnesota Timberwolves             105.6    -0.15      106.7    -0.22      -0.37

New Orleans Pelicans                     104.3    -0.40      106.4    -0.16      -0.56

Dallas Mavericks                                 97.9   -1.65       100.8     0.97       -0.68

Sacramento Kings                            102.8    -0.70      106.7    -0.22      -0.92

Phoenix Suns                                     107.7     0.26       113.3    -1.55      -1.29

Los Angeles Lakers                          104.6    -0.35      111.5    -1.19      -1.54

               

 

Disclaimer: Our perceptions of the strength of teams (or individuals) can be colored by factors that are extraneous to their actual dominance: general familiarity, the presence or absence of attention-getting personalities, subjective opinions that become engrained over time, superiority in certain statistical categories being the most likely. This rating is based on an objective methodology, meaning that it is immune to influence from any of those criteria. That also means its findings may vary – in some cases substantially – from the historical consensus. As you scan this list, be prepared to have your presumptions of relative greatness challenged.

 

  1. 1985-86 Los Angeles Lakers (2.23)

Record: 62-20

Post-season: Beat San Antonio Spurs 3-0 in first round; beat Dallas Mavericks 4-2 in conference semi-finals; lost to Houston Rockets 4-1 in conference finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Magic Johnson 5.2; 2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 4.3; 3. James Worthy 3.7; 4. Michael Cooper 2.0; 5. Kurt Rambis 1.6.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 117.3 (1st); allowed 109.5 (3rd).

Hall of Famers (4): Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (center), Magic Johnson (guard), James Worthy (forward), Pat Riley (coach).

In a paragraph: The Lakers won 24 of their first 27 games and took their division by 22 games. Abdul-Jabbar averaged 23.4 points per game and Johnson combined 18.8 ppg with 12.6 assists per game.

 

  1. 2011-12 Chicago Bulls (2.24)

Record: 50-16.

Post-season: Lost to Philadelphia 76ers 4-2 in first round.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Joakim Noah 3.8; 2. Derrick Rose 2.4; 3. Luol Deng 2.2; 4. Carlos Boozer 2.0; 5. Kyle Korver 1.7.

Points per game differential: Scored 96.3 (6th); allowed 88.2 (1st).

Hall of Famers: None eligible.

In a paragraph: The Bulls’ first-round upset loss to the 76ers was, statistically anyway, a major upset, and was greatly influenced by a disabling injury to star guard Derrick Rose. The Bulls dominated defensively, allowing just 88.2 points per game, the fewest in eight seasons.

 

  1. 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks (2.26)

Record: 60-22.

Post-season:  Beat Brooklyn Nets 4-2 in first round; beat Washington Wizards 4-2 in conference semi-finals; lost to Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0 in conference finals.

Top 5 players by VORP:  1. Paul Millsap 4.9; 2. Al Horford 4.1; 3. Thabo Sefolosha 1.4; 4. Jeff Teague 1.3; 5. Kent Bazemore 1.2.

Point-per-game differential: Scored 102.8 (5th), allowed 99.2 (4th).

Hall of Famers: None eligible.

In a paragraph: With offensive and defensive ratings both nicely above average, the Hawks’ hallmark was balance. In mid-season, they reeled off 33 victories in 35 games, winning the Southeast by 14 games. The Hawks had six players with double figure scoring averages.

 

  1. 2015-16 Golden State Warriors (2.27)

Record: 73-9.

Post-season:  Beat Houston Rockets 4-1 in first round; beat Portland Trail Blazers 4-1 in conference semi-finals; beat Oklahoma City Thunder 4-3 in conference finals; lost to Cleveland Cavaliers 4-3 in NBA championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP:  1. Stephen Curry 9.8; 2. Draymond Green 5.5; Andrew Bogut 2.4; 4. Klay Thompson 1.8; 5. Andre Igoudala 1.6.

Point-per-game differential: Scored 114.9 (1st), allowed 104.1 (7th).

Hall of Famers: None eligible.

In a paragraph: With just nine losses, the Warriors’ .890 winning percentage is an all-time record for major American professional sports. They opened with a 24-game winning streak, stood 48-4 in mid-February, and never lost two in a row all season. Stephen Curry averaged 30.1 points per game.

 

  1. 1990-91 Chicago Bulls (2.30)

Record: 61-21.

Post-season:  Beat New York Knicks 3-0 in first round; beat Philadelphia 76ers 4-1 in conference semi-finals; beat Detroit Pistons 4-0 in conference finals; beat Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in NBA championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Michael Jordan 9.8; 2. Scottie Pippen 6.4; 3. Horace Grant 4.3; 4. John Paxton 0.4; 5. Will Perdue 0.3.

Point-per-game differential: Scored 110.0 (3rd), allowed 101.0 (2nd).

Hall of Famers (4): Michael Jordan (guard), Scottie Pippen (forward), Jerry Reinsdorf (owner), Jerry Krause (general manager).

In a paragraph: The start of the dynasty that took six championships in eight seasons, this team featured Michael Jordan (31.6) winning the fifth of his 10 scoring championships. Pippen (17.8 ppg) provided adequate scoring backup and Horace Grant (8.4 rebounds per game) covered the defensive side.

 

  1. 1996-97 Chicago Bulls (2.31)

Record: 69-13

Post-season:  Beat Washington Bullets 3-0 in first round; beat Atlanta Hawks 4-1 in conference semi-finals; beat Miami Heat 4-1 in conference finals; beat Utah Jazz 4-2 in NBA championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Michael Jordan 6.8; 2. Scottie Pippen 6.7; 3. Toni Kukoc 2.7; 4. Dennis Rodman 2.6; 5. Steve Kerr 2.1.

Point-per-game differential: Scored 103.1 (1st), allowed 92.3 (6th).

Hall of Famers (6): Michael Jordan (guard), Scottie Pippen (forward), Dennis Rodman (forward), Robert Parrish (center), Jerry Krause (general manager), Jerry Reinsdorf (owner).

In a paragraph: Jordan and Pippen combined for a fraction under 50 points per game, Jordan claiming his ninth scoring title. This Bulls iteration was offensively overpowering, generating 103.1 points per game while allowing just 92.3.

 

  1. 2015-16 San Antonio Spurs (2.34)

Record: 67-15

Post-season:  Beat Memphis Grizzlies 4-0 in first round; lost to Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2in conference semi-finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Kawhi Leonard 6.2; 2. Danny Green 2.5; 3. Tim Duncan 2.4; 4. LaMarcus Aldridge 2.2; 5. David West 1.9.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 103.5 (6th), allowed 92.9 (1st).

Hall of Famers: None eligible.

In a paragraph: Permitting just  92.9 points per game against a league average of 103.4 – a 2.39 defensive standard deviation —  the Spurs are the fifth best defensive team of all time. The front line of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan combined for 13.6 defensive win shares, basically forcing teams to operate outside.

 

  1. 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers (2.36)

Record: 57-25

Post-season: Beat Detroit Pistons 4-0 in first round; beat Atlanta Hawks 4-0 in conference semi-finals; beat Toronto Raptors 4-2 in conference finals; beat Golden State Warriors 4-3 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. LeBron James 7.6; 2. Kevin Love 2.8; 3. J.R.. Smith 2.0; 4. Tristan Thompson 2.0; 5. Kyrie Irving 1.5.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 104.3 (2nd), allowed 98.3 (2nd).

Hall of Famers: None eligible.

In a paragraph: The Cavs were all about LeBron James, acquired one season earlier as a free agent. He averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists.

 

  1. 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers (2.360)

Record: 65-17

Post-season: Beat Denver Nuggets 3-0 in first round; beat Golden State Warriors 4-1 in conference semi-finals; beat Seattle Supersonics 4-0 in conference finals; beat Boston Celtics 4-2 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Magic Johnson 7.4; 2. James Worthy 3.1; 3. Byron Scott 2.2 ; 4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 2.2; 5. A.C. Green 2.1.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 117.8 (2nd), allowed 108.5 (3rd).

Hall of Famers  (4): Magic Johnson (guard), James Worthy (forward), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (center), Pat Riley (coach).

In a paragraph: With seven double-figure scorers, the Lakers could beat you from anywhere. Johnson averaged 23.9 ppg and added 12.2 assists per game in winning his first of three MVP awards.

 

  1. 2014-15 Golden State Warriors (2.37)

Record: 67-15

Post-season: Beat New Orleans Pelicans 4-0 in first round; beat Memphis Grizzlies 4-2 in conference semi-finals; beat Houston Rockets 4-1 in conference finals; beat Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Stephen Curry 7.9; 2. Draymond Green 4.4; 3. Klay Thompson 2.9; 4. Andrew Bogut 2.4; 5. Andre Iguodola 1.9.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 110.0 (1st), allowed 99.9 (6th).

Hall of Famers: None eligible.

In a paragraph: Stephen Curry won his first of two MVP awards for a 23.8 ppg scoring average. Klay Thompson added 21.8 ppg in support. Those were two reasons why at 110 points per game, the Warriors easily led the NBA in scoring; they also led in assists.

 

  1. 1991-92 Chicago Bulls (2.38)

Record: 67-15

Post-season: Beat Miami Heat 3-0  in first round; beat New York Knicks 4-3 in conference semi-finals; beat Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2 in conference finals; beat Portland Trail Blazers 4-2 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Michael Jordan 8.3; 2. Scottie Pippen 6.8; 3. Horace Grant 6.7; 4. Cliff Levingston 0.8; 5. Will Perdue 0.5.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 109.9 (2nd), allowed 99.5 (3rd).

Hall of Famers (4): Michael Jordan (guard), Scottie Pippen (forward), Jerry Krause (general manager, Jerry Reinsdorf (owner).

In a paragraph: Jordan averaged 30.1 and Pippen added 21.0. Jordan’s MVP award was the third of five he would eventually win. As usual Grant covered the boards, averaging 10 rebounds per game.

 

  1. 1986-87 Atlanta Hawks (2.39)

Record: 57-25

Post-season: Beat Indiana Pacers 3-1 in first round; lost 4-1 to Detroit Pistons in conference semi-finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Dominique Wilkins 5.2; 2. Doc Rivers 4.4; 3. Kevin Willis 2.2; 4. Tree Rollins 1.8; 5. Cliff Levingston 1.7.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 110.4 (4th), allowed 102.8 (1st).

Hall of Famers  (1): Dominique Wilkins (forward).

In a paragraph: The Hawks combined a strong offense with the NBA Eastern Conference’s best defense, holding teams five points below the league scoring average. The legendary Dominique Wilkins had one of his best offensive seasons, scoring 29.0 ppg, but the secret weapon was probably the front line. Center Tree Rollins averaged two blocks per game and forward Kevin Willis averaged 10.5 rebounds.

 

  1. 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers (2.43)

Record: 67-17

Post-season:  Beat Cincinnati Royals 3-1 in conference semi-finals; beat Boston Celtics 4-1 in conference finals; beat San Francisco Warriors 4-2 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by Win shares: 1. Wilt Chamberlain 21.9; 2. Chet Walker 10.1; 3. Hal Greer 7.6; 4. Billy Cunningham 6.8; 5. Luke Jackson 4.2.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 125.2 (1st), allowed 115.8 (3rd).

Hall of Famers (2): Wilt Chamberlain (center), Hal Greer (guard), Chet Walker (forward), Billy Cunningham (forward), Alex Hannum (coach).

In a paragraph: Chamberlain (24.1) and Greer (22.1) provided a classic inside-out offensive threat. It paid off in a 46-4 start to the season. The 76ers rostered six double-figure scorers on their way to ending Boston’s run of eight consecutive NBA titles.

 

  1. 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (2.47)

Record: 72-10

Post-season: Beat Miami Heat 3-0 in first round; beat New York Knicks 4-1 in conference semi-finals; beat Orlando Magic 4-0 in conference finals; beat Seattle Supersonics 4-2 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Michael Jordan 8.3; 2. Scottie Pippen 6.3; 3. Toni Kukoc 3.5; 4. Dennis Rodman 2.8; 5. Ron Harper 2.2.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 105.2 (1st), allowed 92.9 (1st).

Hall of Famers (5): Michael Jordan (guard), Scottie Pippen (forward), Dennis Rodman (forward), Jerry Krause (general manager), Jerry Reinsdorf (owner).

In a paragraph: This best of all Bulls teams set the record (since broken) for wins in a season. Jordan, back from his flirtation with minor league baseball, spurred the game’s best offense averaging 30.4 ppg for his eighth scoring title. He would win his fourth MVP award. The Bulls lost only three of their first 44 games, those defeats coming by a total of 17 points.

 

  1. 1964-65 Boston Celtics (2.485)

Record: 62-18

Post-season: Beat Philadelphia 76ers 4-3 in conference finals; beat Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by Win shares: 1. Bill Russell 16.9; 2. Sam Jones 12.8; 3. Tom Sanders 7.5; 4. K.C. Jones 6.7; 5. John Havlicek 4.5.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 112.8 (3rd), allowed 104.4 (1st).

Hall of Famers (7): Bill Russell (center), John Havlicek (forward), Tom Heinsohn (forward), K.C. Jones (guard), Sam Jones (guard), Tom Sanders (forward), Red Auerbach (coach).

In a paragraph: The Celtics went 27-3 in Boston Garden and hit the All Star break with a  record of 37-7.  They opened in mid-October with a 31-point beatdown of the Detroit Pistons and did not lose a single game until the 76ers edged them by one point on Nov. 12. They also went unbeaten between Dec. 5 and Jan. 22, a stretch of 16 consecutive victories.

 

  1. 1996-97 Seattle Supersonics (2.489)

Record: 57-25

Post-season: Beat Phoenix Suns 3-2 in first round; lost to Houston Rockets 4-3 in conference semi-finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Gary Payton 6.2; 2. Hersey Hawkins 4.5; 3. Shawn Kemp 2.8; 4. Detlef Schrempf 2.7; 5. Sam Perkins 1.9.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 100.9 (2nd), allowed 93.2 (1st).

Hall of Famers (1): Gary Payton (guard).

In a paragraph: We look past the Sonics because they played in the shadow of the great Bulls dynasty as well as the Utah Jazz, and also because the Rockets blocked showdown series with those two teams. They deserve better. At 93.2 ppg allowed Seattle was the NBA West’s best defensive team. Payton led the scoring, Kemp led the rebounding and Schrempf provided support everywhere.

 

  1. 1980-81 Philadelphia 76ers (2.51)

Record: 59-23

Post-season: Beat Indiana Pacers 2-0 in first round; beat Milwaukee Bucks 4-3 in conference semi-finals; lost to Boston Celtics 4-3 in conference finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Julius Erving 7.2; 2. Bobby Jones 3.6; 3. Maurice Cheeks 3.2; 4. Caldwell Jones 1.9; 5. Darryl Dawkins 1.5.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 111.7 (2nd), allowed 103.8 (1st).

Hall of Famers (2): Julius Erving (forward), Billy Cunningham (coach/inducted as a player)

In a paragraph: It’s possible the 76ers’ title hopes were derailed by the coin flip they lost to the Celtics to determine home court advantage after the teams matched regular season records. Boston won that seventh game in Boston by a single point. At 24.6 ppg, Julius Erving was named league MVP; he was one of six Sivers to average in double figures.

 

  1. 1961-62 Boston Celtics (2.56)

Record: 60-20

Post-season: Beat Philadelphia Warriors 4-2 in conference finals; beat Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by Win shares: 1. Bill Russell 15.5; 2. Sam Jones 9.6; 3. Tom Heinsohn 9.3; 4. Frank Ramsey 7.3; 5. Tom Sanders 7.2.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 121.1 (3rd), allowed 111.9 (1st).

Hall of Famers  (8): Bob Cousy (guard), Tom Heinsohn (forward), Bill Russell (center), K.C. Jones (guard), Sam Jones (guard), Frank Ramsey (guard), Tom Sanders (forward), Red Auerbach (coach).

In a paragraph: The Celtics could strike from everywhere. Heinsohn averaged 22.1, Russell 18.9, Sam Jones 18.4, and Cousy – in his last big season – provided 15.7 points along with 7.8 assists per game. They won 28 of their first 32 games, their only losses in that stretch coming by six, two, three and three points.

 

  1. 1975-76 Golden State Warriors (2.57)

Record: 59-23

Post-season: Beat Detroit Pistons 4-2 in conference semi-finals; lost to Phoenix Suns 4-3 in conference finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Rick Barry 4.3; 2. Phil Smith 3.2; 3. Clifford Ray 2.6; 4. Charles Dudley 1.9; 5. Jamaal Wilkes 1.5.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 109.8 (1st), allowed 103.1 (4th).

Hall of Famers (2): Rick Barry (guard), Jamaal Wilkes (guard).

In a paragraph: The Warriors set a franchise record with 59 wins before being upset by Phoenix in the conference championship. Barry and Smith both averaged better than 20 points per game.  The Warriors had beaten the Suns in four of six regular season meetings, finished 17 games ahead of them in the standings, and led the final series 3 games to 2 before losing.

 

  1. 1966-67 Boston Celtics (2.58)

Record: 60-21

Post-season: Beat New York Knicks 3-1 in division semi-finals; lost to Philadelphia 76ers 4-1 in division finals.

Top 5 players by Win shares: 1. Bill Russell 12.2; 2. Bailey Howell 11.8; 3. John Havlicek 8.3; 4. Sam Jones 7.5; 5. Larry Siegfried 6.4.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 119.3 (4th), allowed 111.3 (1st).

Hall of Famers (7): John Havlicek (forward), K.C. Jones (guard), Sam Jones (guard), Don Nelson (forward), Bill Russell (center), Tom Sanders (forward), Red Auerbach (coach).

In a paragraph: The mid-1960s Celtics are probably the only team in  American professional sports history that fielded a future Hall of Famer in his prime at every position including coach: Bill Russell (center), Don Nelson and Tom Sanders (forwards), K.C. Jones and Sam Jones (guards), and Red Auerbach (coach). They also had a Hall of Fame substitute, forward John Havlicek.

 

  1. 2007-08 Boston Celtics (2.70)

Record: 66-16

Post-season: Beat Atlanta Hawks 4-3 in first round; beat Cleveland Cavaliers 4-3 in conference semi-finals; beat Detroit Pistons 4-2 in conference finals; beat Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Kevin Garnett 5.5; 2. Paul Pierce 4.9; 3. Ray Allen 3.4; 4. Rajon Rondo 2.7; 5. James Posey 2.3.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 100.5 (3rd), allowed 90.3 (2nd).

Hall of Famers: None.

In a paragraph: The additions of Garnett and Allen transformed the Celtics, who improved by a record 42 games in the regular season standings. Pierce averaged 19.6 ppg, Garnett added 18.8 and Allen 17.4.

 

  1. 1996-97 Utah Jazz (2.83)

Record: 64-18

Post-season: Beat Los Angeles Clippers 3-0 in first round; beat Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in conference semi-finals; beat Houston Rockets 4-2 in conference finals; lost to Chicago Bulls 4-2 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. Karl Malone 7.9; 2. John Stockton 4.3; 3. Jeff Hornacek 4.0; 4. Bryon Russell 4 3.8; 5. Greg Ostertag 1.2.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 103.1 (1st); allowed 94.3 (2nd).

Hall of Famers (3): Karl Malone (forward), John Stockton (guard), Jerry Sloan (coach).

In a paragraph: The first of back-to-back Jazz teams that lost the NBA Championship to the Bulls, this was likely the most title-worthy five Chicago had to overcome. They went 31-4 after the All Star break powered by Malone, the league’s MVP, who averaged 27.4 points per game. The Jazz beat their big rival, the Seattle Supersonics, three out of four in the regular season.

 

  1. 1971-72 Milwaukee Bucks (2.94)

Record: 63-19

Post-season:  Beat Golden State Warriors 4-1 in conference semi-finals; lost to Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in conference finals.

Top 5 players by Win shares: 1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 25.4; 2. Bob Dandridge 9.1; 3. Oscar Robertson 8.3; 4. Lucius Allen 7.6; 5. Jon McGlocklin 5.8.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 114.6 (4th), allowed 103.5 (2nd).

Hall of Famers (3): Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (center), Oscar Robertson (guard), Wayne Embry (general manager).

In a paragraph: A strong candidate as best non-championship team of all time, the Bucks had the misfortune to run into the Lakers in the conference finals. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at his most dominant, averaged 34.8 points and 16.6 rebounds per game. He was ably assisted by fellow future Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, by then a 33-year-old veteran.

 

  1. 2012-13 Miami Heat (3.01)

Record: 66-16

Post-season: Beat Milwaukee Bucks 4-0 in first round; beat Chicago Bulls 4-1 in conference semi-finals; beat Indiana Pacers 4-3 in conference finals; beat San Antonio Spurs 4-3 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by VORP: 1. LeBron James 9.8; 2. Dwayne Wade 3.5; 3. Chris Bosh 2.0; 4. Shane Battier 1.8; 5. Mario Chalmers 1.6.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 102.9 (1st), allowed 95.0 (3rd).

Hall of Famers: None eligible.

In a paragraph: This was the culmination of the James-Wade-Bosh triumverate. They averaged 64.6 points, 19.8 rebounds and 14.1 assists, making it obvious why the Heat – at 102.9 ppg – had the conference’s best offense. Clipping along at 29-14 in early February, they won 37 of their final 39 to claim the division by 22 games. James was named MVP.

 

  1. 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (3.32)

Record: 69-13

Post-season: Beat Chicago Bulls 4-0 in conference semi-finals; beat Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 in conference finals; beat New York Knicks 4-1 in NBA Championship finals.

Top 5 players by Win Shares: 1. Wilt Chamberlain 15.8; 2. Jerry West 13.3; 3. Gail Goodrich 12.3; 4. Happy Hairston 9.2; 5. Jim McMillan 7.8.

Points-per-game differential: Scored 121.0 (1st), allowed 108.7 (6th).

Hall of Famers (6): Wilt Chamberlain (center), Elgin Baylor (forward), Jerry West (guard), Gail Goodrich (guard), Pat Riley (guard, inducted as coach), Bill Sharman (coach).

In a paragraph: The Lakers were simply the greatest offensive juggernaut in NBA history. In an era when teams averaged 110 points per game, they averaged 120, 3.6 standard deviations better than the norm. One need only look at the roster to understand why: Jerry West averaged 25.8, Gail Goodrich averaged 25.9, Wilt Chamberlain averaged 19.2 rebounds, and Elgin Baylor was around to tidy up. Between Nov. 5 and Jan. 7, the Lakers won 33 consecutive games, the longest winning streak in the history of American professional team sports.

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