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Kevin Pelton Of ESPN Ranks Last 25 NBA Championship Teams

ESPN recently ranked the past 25 NBA champions.

Ranking and comparing teams from different seasons and eras is an inexact science. There are always debates about which team would win a certain matchup. That is seen from Rasheed Wallace and Draymond Green going back and forth about who would win between the 2004 Detroit Pistons and 2017 Golden State Warriors. Both of those teams were crowned NBA champions.

Kevin Pelton of ESPN used his formula to power rank the last 25 championship teams in the NBA. The list begins in 1999 when the Spurs won the title in a lock-out-shortened season just one year after Michael Jordan won his sixth and final title. Pelton’s formula takes into account both the regular season and playoffs.

Here are his best (and worst) championship teams of the last 25 years using his formula.

Kevin Pelton Of ESPN Ranks Last 25 NBA Championship Teams

Pelton’s Five Best

  • 1. 2016-17 Golden State Warriors
  • 2. 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers
  • 3. 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs
  • 4. 2014-15 Golden State Warriors
  • 5. 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers

It seemed like a cheat code when the Warriors added Kevin Durant to a team that won 73 games in the regular season in 2015-16. In 2016-17, their +11.6 net rating was tied for the third-best in league history (with the 2023-24 Boston Celtics). Golden State won their first 15 playoff games before the Cleveland Cavaliers won Game 4 of the NBA Finals to avoid the sweep.

The 2000-01 Lakers won their second of three straight titles that season. Led by the unstoppable duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, they actually had the worst of their records during that three-peat in 2000-01 (56-26). Much like the Warriors, they coasted to the NBA Finals without a postseason loss. While the Philadelphia 76ers won Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, Los Angeles took the next four.

The 2013-14 season was the last of Tim Duncan’s five championship years with the Spurs. It was also when Kawhi Leonard truly became a household name as he won Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year the next season. They avenged their previous year’s NBA Finals loss to the Heat by beating them in six games to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

In Steve Kerr’s first season as head coach, Golden State went 67-15 in 2014-15. That season, Stephen Curry won his first of back-to-back MVPs, but it was Andre Iguodala who was the surprise Finals MVP. The Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games to win their first championship since 1975.

The Cavaliers won the championship the following season beating that same Warriors team in seven games. Cleveland famously overcame a 3-1 deficit by winning the final three games for the franchise’s first-ever championship. In the regular season, they went 57-25 and underwent a coaching change midway through going from David Blatt to Tyronn Lue.

Pelton’s Two Worst

  • 25. 2005-06 Miami Heat
  • 24. 2022-23 Denver Nuggets

There’s no shame in winning a championship, but someone had to be last on Pelton’s list. That team is the 2005-06 Heat, who overcame a 2-0 deficit to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals by winning the next four. It was the team’s first title, and they later won two more once LeBron James came to town.

The reigning champions (for not much longer) won their franchise’s first NBA title in 2023 led by now three-time MVP Nikola Jokic. During the regular season, they went 53-29 with the sixth-best net rating that season. It’s surprising they are this low as they went 16-4 in the postseason, but their last two opponents (Lakers and Heat) weren’t among the elite in the regular season.

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