With a few days between Games 2 and 3 of the NBA Finals, I thought it’d be fun to break down who the best NBA teams are from 2000 to the present season. Since the 1999-2000 NBA season there have been 18 Championship teams. Here’s how they stack up:
18. 2005-06 Miami Heat
When you look at the Miami Heat’s roster during this season, it’s pretty amazing that they were able to go all the way. Credit to D-Wade and Shaq for winning a championship with the likes of Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, James Posey, Udonis Haslem, and a 37-year old Gary Payton as their supporting cast. Undoubtedly teams like the 2016 Warriors were better than this Heat team, but they didn’t hoist a trophy that year, therefore the 2005-06 Miami Heat claim this spot.
17. 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks
Lead by an aging crew of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, and Peja Stojakovic, and with help from JJ Barea and Tyson Chandler, this roster of players would have killed it in the early-mid 2000s. But in 2010-11, they were certainly not expected to win the title, especially after losing Caron Butler midway through the season. They wound up making a magical run, knocking off the defending champion Lakers, the rising Thunder, and the “not 6, not 7, not 8”, Miami Heat in their first Finals with LeBron James.
16. 2006-07 San Antonio Spurs
Before you get on me about the Spurs being one of the lower-ranked teams, just realize that there will be four Spurs teams and five Lakers teams on this list. This Spurs team was solid, but loses some points based on how simple their run was to the championship. They beat the Deron Williams/Carlos Boozer-era Jazz 4-1 in the Conference finals and swept one of the worst teams to ever make the NBA Finals. The Spurs reeled off 4 wins against a Cleveland Cavalier team lead by a young LeBron James with a supporting cast of Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Eric Snow, Anderson Varejao, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, and Donyell Marshall.
15. 2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers completed their 3-peat this season, but as mentioned earlier, they may have not even made the finals if not for some possibly mob-influenced officiating. The Lakers were only the 3-seed in the West that season. Kobe and Shaq may be two of the best to ever play the game, but take a look at the rest of their completely forgettable roster.
14. 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
I wanted to put the 2003-04 Pistons higher because of how fun this team of non-stars was. In reality, this Pistons team was a three seed in the East that went 54-28 that season (the second lowest win total of the millennial champions). Comprised of Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Richard ‘Rip’ Hamilton, and Chauncey Billups, this team made six straight conference finals between 2003 and 2008. They were good enough to win a championship, but not good enough to crack the top 10 on my list. Still, watching them knock off four hall of famers in Kobe, Shaq, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone, was one of the most satisfying outcomes for the majority of NBA fans at the time, and it ended the Lakers were “evil empire” phase, with Shaq leaving LA after the loss.
13. 1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers
They had the flashy record at 67-15 during the regular season, but still this Laker team was mostly a goon squad. At this point in time, Kobe was still on the rise, and the team relied more heavily on Shaq. O’neal averaged almost 31 ppg while Kobe only averaged 21 ppg during the playoffs. This was nearly two decades ago when contending teams could be lead by big men.
12. 2004-05 San Antonio Spurs
This version of the Spurs was one of the shallowest rosters the Spurs ever had. Beyond Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili, they hardly relied on anyone else outside of some tough defense from Bruce Bowen, and a big shot or two from big shot Bob (Robert Horry). Quick trivia question…Who averaged the fourth most points in the playoffs that season after the Spurs big three?
Robert Horry with 9.3 ppg, followed by Nazr Mohammed, 7.1 ppg.
11. 2011-12 Miami Heat
LeBron’s first ever championship came two seasons into his move to Miami. This Miami Heat team had the incredible core of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, but after that? You had to rely on Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, and Mike Miller. Obviously this was a teriffic team, but when you consider how shallow the roster was, I couldn’t let them crack the top 10.
10/9 Los Angeles Lakers 2008-09/ Los Angeles Lakers 2009-10
It was almost the exact same roster that went back-to-back for the Lakers in 2009 and 2010. With Kobe still running the show, the Lakers brought in Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol to help the Hall-of-Famer get over the hump. The main difference between the two squads was the addition of Ron, Metta, whatever he was going by back then (Ron Artest). Derek Fisher was still a useful point guard, and oh yeah! Andrew Bynum was there! Well on his way to a promising…….never mind.
8. 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers
Forever remembered as the time LeBron got one for the LAND. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will forever be the face of the first Cleveland championship in 50 years that saw them knock off the 73-9 Warriors after being down three games to one. Although, it was mostly James and Irving, they at least had Kevin Love before his downward decline, and apparently JR Smith knew what the score was for the entire series.
7. 2002-03 San Antonio Spurs
This was the beginning of the big three in San Antonio, but they still had the veteran presence of David Robinson, Steve Smith, and Bruce Bowen, as well as a young Stephen Jackson. This Spurs team ended the Lakers dynasty at a 3-peat knocking them off in the Western Conference Semi-Finals, then beat the 60-win Mavericks in the Conference Finals, before beating the New Jersey (what?) Nets in six games.
6. 2014-15 Golden State Warriors
Undoubtedly the beginning of a dynasty, the Warriors lead by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguadola, had a very different look for the rest of their roster. Andrew Bogut, Mareese Speights, Harrison Barnes, and David Lee headline the players that are no longer a part of the team. After going 67-15 in the regular season they knocked off the Cavs in what would be the first of four straight finals appearances against them.
5. 2007-08 Boston Celtics
Even as a Boston-hating New Yorker, even I can’t deny that this team was awesome to watch. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, all teamed up in their prime along with a rookie Rajon Rondo to bring Boston their 17th NBA Title over Kobe and the Lakers in six games. Guys like Leon Powe, James Posey, Tony Allen, and Glen “big baby” Davis, made this team even more likeable with the grit and hustle that Boston fans love to see.
4. 2012-13 Miami Heat
The additions of Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Ray Allen, and Rashard Lewis, made all the difference. This team was no longer made of just three players. Adding a couple of veteran sharpshooters, one of which was arguably the greatest shooter of all-time until Curry started smashing records, elevated this team to a second title in a row. Had the Miami front office not made those moves, they most likely would’nt have gotten by the Spurs that year.
3. 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers
The roster was more or less the same as the other two teams in the three-peat, but this team dominated the NBA Playoffs as much as any team on this list. They went 15-1 (first rounds were still best of 5) during their championship run. Their only loss? An overtime loss in Game 1 of the NBA Finals when Allen Iverson dropped 48 points. Weirdly, all anyone remembers about that Finals was Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue. The Lakers thoroughly handled the Sixers from that point on.
2. 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs
The new-age Spurs mixed with the old big 3. I remember watching this series and thinking to myself, this is some of the greatest ball-movement I’ve ever seen. Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker were now getting help from an up and coming Kawhi Leanord, Danny Green, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, and TIAGO SPLITTER (in my best Stephen A voice). Going up against back-to-back champs in the Miami Heat, this Spurs team made easy work of them in 5 games moving the ball around like nothing we’d ever seen before…
1. 2016-17 Golden State Warriors
…until the modern Golden State Warriors came to be. The Warriors revolutionized the sport and the way it’s played with their quick ball-movement, inside out, everyone touches it, defenses heads are spinning, as they bury three-after-three-after-layup-after-three. That was the 2014-16 Warriors I was talking about. Then they added Kevin Durant. Call it recency bias or whatever you want, but when the best team in the NBA adds the best pure scorer in the game and then goes on to deliver everything that you expect of them? I have no other choice, but to rank them number one. The Warriors went 16-1 on their way to the title, with their only loss being to Cleveland in the finals.