The 2010s was one of the most exciting decades for NBA basketball. The decade began with Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks stunning the world against the powerhouse Miami Heat. It ends in unparalleled parity with a wide-open NBA. Playstyles changed as dynasties rose and fell. Legends retired, young stars emerged, and basketball evolved. As the decade ends, let’s take a look at some of the best NBA franchises of the decade.
Ranking the 5 Best NBA Franchises of the Decade
5. Toronto Raptors
This decade began with losing for the Toronto Raptors, as they endured a rebuild following the departure of Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat. However, after drafting DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas, and signing Kyle Lowry, the Raptors created a potent core and consequently achieved newfound success. They made five straight playoff appearances from the 2013-14 season to the 2017-18 season and reached the conference finals in the last two years of this “DeRozan-Lowry” era. Sadly, they were eliminated by LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers in both of those years.
Following yet another heart-wrenching defeat at the hands of “Lebronto” in 2018, the Raptors sent fan-favorite DeRozan to the Spurs in a blockbuster trade that brought back eventual Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and sharpshooter Danny Green. They also replaced a proven coach Dwayne Casey for assistant Nick Nurse in a criticized move. These offseason changes, coupled with the emergence of young star Pascal Siakam and a midseason trade for center Marc Gasol, culminated in a dominant team that won the Finals in 6 games. This Raptors team showed grit and determination in the face of doubt and suspicion, leaving no doubt of their supremacy.
4. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs entered the decade with a decade-long playoff streak, and they’ve only added to it since, with their record streak now at 22 consecutive playoff appearances. Through it all, coach Gregg Popovich has preached the “Spurs Way”, an unselfish playing style centered around defense. At the start of the 2010s, they rolled out a lineup with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and a young Kawhi Leonard. Although they lost a nail-biter to the Heat in 2013, the Spurs avenged their loss in 2014, with Leonard winning Finals MVP.
As the core of the Spurs aged, they began leaning on younger players to continue their playoff run. They signed LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015, with Tim Duncan retiring in 2016. In 2017, they traded Leonard and Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poltl, and the recently drafted Keldon Johnson. Shortly after, Tony Parker left in free agency and Manu Ginobli retired, marking the end of an iconic Spurs era. However, the Spurs are still competitive, and seem certain to extend their record playoff streak.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have been up and down in recent years, bouncing from the lottery to the Finals and back. The decade began with the departure of superstar LeBron James, with the team drafting players such as Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and mega-bust Anthony Bennett. This team quickly emerged from the NBA lottery in 2014-15, as they acquired Kevin Love and signed James. They lost in the 2015 NBA Finals, as their injury-plagued roster couldn’t compete with the newly crowned MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. However, they came back from a 3-1 deficit in 2016 to win Cleveland’s first-ever championship, with James famously yelling “Cleveland! This is for you.”
In the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals, the Cavaliers could not overcome the prowess of the Warriors’ newly-signed Kevin Durant, losing 1-4 and 0-4, respectively. 2019 marked the first year the Cavaliers failed to make the playoffs since 2014, as they couldn’t weather the loss of star LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers. With the addition of youngsters Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, the Cavaliers have a core that could eventually compete.
2. Miami Heat
This decade began with success in Miami, as a Big Three comprised of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh made the NBA Finals in four consecutive years. Although they lost to the Mavericks in 2011, they won consecutive titles against the Thunder and the Spurs. After losing to the Spurs in 2014, the team’s championship window closed, with superstar LeBron James leaving for the Cavaliers.
Since their glory days of 2014, the Heat have undergone a period of mediocrity. 2016 marked the departures of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, although Wade returned for a 2019 retirement tour. Despite this, the Heat have drafted well with players like Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro. Following the 2019 NBA season, they signed All-Star guard Jimmy Butler, setting themselves up to be a top squad in the Eastern Conference for years to come and one of the best NBA franchises.
1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors started the decade as just another team and ended the decade as one of the greatest dynasties ever. It started when Joe Lacob bought the franchise in 2010, subsequently providing the franchise with a statistical, business-like perspective. The Dubs made unorthodox trades and questionable draft picks, but their genius showed with time. After hiring Steve Kerr in 2014, the Warriors took off, as Stephen Curry emerged as an MVP favorite, Klay Thompson became a premier 3-and-D threat, Draymond Green arose as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and Andre Iguodala became a potent force off the bench. They decisively won in 2015, and after a record 73-9 start, barely lost to the Cavaliers in the 2016 Finals.
Following this humiliating loss, the Warriors signed Kevin Durant, to the chagrin of the rest of the NBA. The Cavs proved no match for this powerhouse, as the Warriors took the title in 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately, because of injuries to DeMarcus Cousins, Thompson and Durant, the Raptors crushed the Warriors in the 2019 Finals. Following this loss, the Warriors underwent many changes. Durant, Cousins, Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston all departed, and the Warriors signed D’Angelo Russell and Willie Cauley-Stein. Although the 2019-20 season appears purposeless, the Warriors expect to receive a lottery selection in the 2020 NBA Draft. If they acquire a transcendent talent in the draft, perhaps a player like Cole Anthony, James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball, or Jaden McDaniels, the newly healthy Warriors could be a dark-horse NBA championship pick. After all, with an elite front office and innovative administration, this team is perpetually dangerous. All in all, this is clearly one of the best NBA franchises.
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