Comparing This Year's Miami Heat to the Most Dominant NBA Teams of All Time
Which raises the question: Where do they fit among the most dominant teams in NBA history? The answer to the question, honestly, is that they are just outside looking in.
It would be tough to make a case that they are among the most dominant teams ever right now. Depending on how you define "dominance," you could make a case for the top 20, but top 10 is a reach.
Their current .788 winning percentage is tied with Oklahoma City for the best in the NBA right now, but it's only tied for 18th all-time.
Perhaps the better way of measuring dominance is margin of victory (MOV). In that regard, it's Chicago, not Miami, presently leading the NBA with the eighth-best in NBA history: 9.46 points. Miami is 13th with 9.41.
You could take a look at SRS (simple rating system), which adjusts MOV based on a team's strength of schedule. In that regard, Miami does stand alone this year, but they are only 23rd all-time.
In short, there's not much you can do to qualify that the Heat are one of the most dominant teams. They are in the neighborhood with half a season to go, though, and if they continue to play the way they have been, they can move into the conversation.
Here are the seven most dominant teams in NBA history, and how Miami compares to them and is different from them.
1987 Los Angeles Lakers
The 1987 Lakers were the single most efficient offense in the history of the NBA. They scored 115.6 points per 100 possessions.
On average, they won their games by an average of 9.3 points. They won 40 games by at least double digits.
In some ways, they were the opposite of the Heat. Their superstars were their point guard and their center. The Heat's weakest starters are their point guard and their center.
On the other hand, they were very similar, and with the Lakers team being coached by Pat Riley and the Heat team being partly-owned by Riley, that's not a coincidence.
Like the Heat, the Lakers were extremely athletic and lethal in transition. Magic Johnson and the "Showtime Lakers" were the greatest fast-break team ever. They were a team that was proficient at turning turnovers into points in the blink of an eye.
1986 Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics were about as different a team from the Heat as you can get. They had a dominant frontcourt—considered by some to be the greatest ever—composed of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. As if that weren't enough, they had Bill Walton coming off the bench as the Sixth Man of the Year.
Their average margin of victory was 9.41 points.
The biggest similarity between this team and the Heat team is that they had an incredibly versatile small forward who was one of the greatest passers to ever play the position who won his third MVP that year.
2008 Boston Celtics
The 2008 Boston Celtics are probably a team that is going to surprise some to be here, but if that's the case, then you don't have enough appreciation for what that team accomplished.
The '08 Celtics won their games by an average of 10.26 points and they held their opponents to just 98.9 points per 100 possessions.
This was a different type of team in in the sense they were a an efficient offensive team that relied on executing in the half-court set to win games. They weren't as effective in their transition game as these Heat, but they certainly executed effectively.
They are similar in the obvious sense—it was a team built around three Hall of Fame players who play the 2, 3, and 4 and came together to win a championship.
1967 Philadelphia 76ers
The 1967 Philadelphia 76ers were one of the most dominant teams to ever play the game. They won their games by an average of 9.44 points and they won 68 games, the fourth most in history.
They had Wilt Chamberlain playing what was essentially a "point-center," where he would either score or simply hold the ball aloft until someone was open and toss them the ball. He averaged 24.2 boards, 24.1 points and 7.8 assists with one of the most utterly ludicrous stat lines you've ever seen.
While Wilt was a very different style of player, there are a lot of similarities between Chamberlain and LeBron James. Both were heavily criticized for getting it done in the regular season but not winning in the postseason.
Chamberlain made an adjustment in his game to be a better passer to win it all. This year, James has made a change in his game, getting into the post.
Will it have a similar result?
1971 Milwaukee Bucks
The young Lew Alcindor teamed up with the aging Oscar Robertson to form a tremendously talented tandem that would be the nucleus of one of the greatest teams to ever take the court.
The team was very deep, too, with four players averaging at least 15 points.
The biggest similarity is Oscar Robertson, probably the closest player that there is to LeBron James historically. He also had huge numbers over his career but never won a championship. He certainly did here.
There's a lesson to be learned here. A lot of these great players eventually did win.
1972 Los Angeles Lakers
The 1972 Lakers were, for many years, the greatest team that had ever played. Some would still put them there. They once won 33 consecutive games.
The team won 69 games, an NBA record which stood for 24 years. They were led by Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, both of whom averaged 25 points per game. Their average margin of victory was 12.28 points.
As far as similarities to the modern-day Heat team goes? I'm open to suggestions. Perhaps you could say there is some comparison to Jerry West and Dwyane Wade in that they were both great shooting guards, but their games are very different. Wade is a driver, while West was more of a shooter.
1996 Chicago Bulls
The 1996 Chicago Bulls won 72 games—three more than any team in NBA history. They also have the highest SRS ranking in NBA history at 11.80. They are the greatest team in NBA history.
If you don't believe me, believe Michael Jordan's ring.
In many ways, the team most closely resembling the Heat is the old Bulls teams. Their two best players were a shooting guard and small forward who were incredibly athletic. Both teams had a power forward as their third-best player.
Both teams looked mostly for role playing and defense from their other two positions. Both teams loaded up their bench with role players.
Now, the Heat aren't the Chicago Bulls, but neither were the Chicago Bulls at first. It remains to be seen how good the Heat will be once they've peaked.