The 10 Best Teams in NBA History Who Missed the NBA Finals
The Chicago Bulls were the best regular season team this year, but they got ousted from the first round of the playoffs when Derrick Rose went to the ground with a torn ACL in the first game of the postseason.
They might be the best team to miss the finals this year, but they aren't one of the 10 best teams in history to miss the finals.
Basketball-Reference has a stat "SRS" that stands for Simple Rating System. It's a strength of schedule adjusted ranking structure to power rank teams.
Here are the 10 best SRS rankings by teams in NBA history who didn't make it to the NBA Finals. I imagine some will complain that SRS doesn't mean anything, but allow me this explanation.
In order to get to the top 10, I had to go 30 teams deep. The other 20 made the finals and the majority won them.
10. 1973 Milwaukee Bucks, 7.84
The 1973 Milwaukee Bucks, behind their superstar and MVP Kareem Abdul Jabbar, won 60 games and tied the Lakers for the best record in the Western Conference.
After opening up a 2-0 lead, ironically getting their second win on April Fool's Day, the Bucks may have felt safe that they were going to get the opening-round win against the Golden State Warriors.
Led by Rick Barry and unlikely hero Clyde Lee, who had only played 22 minutes per game in the regular season but led the team in minutes in the postseason, the Warriors shocked the Bucks, winning the next four games to the delight of their fans, and sent the heavily favored Bucks home early.
9. 2003 Dallas Mavericks, 7.91
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
The Dallas Mavericks won 60 games in 2003, leading the league in SRS at 7.91.
However, they were tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the league and the Spurs owned the tiebreaker.
The Mavericks fought hard to make it to the Western Conference Finals, first going seven games with the Portland Trail Blazers, then going seven with the Sacramento Kings.
When they finally got to the finals, it was their first trip there since 1988 behind Mark Aguirre.
Dallas stole away home court in Game 1 but the Spurs took it back in Game 3. They went on to win the series in six games and eventually the NBA title.
8. 1995 Seattle Supersonics, 7.91
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The 1995 Seattle Supersonics were coming back from a disappointing early exit the year prior and were out to prove something. They earned the best record in the NBA going 57-25.
Then they promptly got trounced by the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, getting knocked out in just four games in their best-of-five series.
The Supersonics were led by stars like Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton.
The Lakers were led by stars like Nick Van Exel and Vlade Divac.
Unlike this year's version of the Bulls, there were no injury excuses. They just got flat outplayed.
7. 1972 Chicago Bulls, 7.91
Photo form hoopmedia.com
The 2012 Chicago Bulls aren't on here and neither are the 2011 Chicago Bulls. The 1972 Bulls are, though.
The 1972 Bulls had the sad misfortune of being in the same conference as the 1972 Milwaukee Bucks and the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers, two of the best teams in the history of the league.
In their first-round series, they faced a Lakers team that "only" had Jerry West, Gail Goodrich and Wilt Chamberlain, just a few guys you might have heard of.
The Bulls responded with Chet Welker, Jerry Sloan and Bob Love. They were good players, but they weren't the Lakers, by whom they got swept in four relatively competitive games.
6. 1989 Cleveland Cavaliers, 7.95
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The 1989 Cleveland Cavaliers won 57 games and led the league in SRS. They boasted four players who scored at least 17 points a game—Larry Nance, Ron Harper, Brad Daugherty and Mark Price.
Then they ran into an up-and-coming player who was just starting to show what kind of magic he had by the name of Michael Jordan.
What happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers can be summed up in two words. "The Shot."
5. 1968 Philadelphia 76ers, 7.96
The 1968 Philadelphia 76ers were the defending NBA Champions, had the league's MVP in Wilt Chamberlain and won six more games than any team in the league. They had finally ended the run of the infamous Boston Celtics.
Chamberlain scaled back his scoring and became more of a team player than ever, and became the first and only center in league history to lead the league in assists.
They went into the postseason and knocked out the New York Knicks in six games. Then they took the first three games from the Celtics.
What could go wrong?
They dropped Game 4 110-105.
They dropped Game 5 122-104.
They dropped Game 6 114-106.
They dropped Game 7 100-97.
No injuries. It's just hard to play basketball with both hands on your throat.
4. 2009 Cleveland Cavaliers, 8.68
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
I seriously considered just writing "LeBron James" for this slide as it would actually say everything.
It says why the Cavaliers were so good and why they were able to win a league-high 66 games. It also says why they weren't able to reach the finals.
Not the "LeBron James" part of the statement. The fact that there wouldn't be anything else on the slide.
That's what the Cavaliers were: LeBron James and nothing else.
3. 1994 Seattle Supesonics, 8.68
J.D. Cuban/Getty Images
Remember the 1995 Seattle Supersonics from five slides ago? They were riding on the heels of the 1994 Supersonics.
The same club was ousted in the first round of the 1994 playoffs, but it had a better team. Seattle won an NBA-high 63 games and had the best SRS ranking and the best MOV.
Their competition was the 42-40 Denver Nuggets, who finished a full 20 games behind them. After the Supersonics took a two-game lead, they promptly choked away the next three.
Once again, this was a pure choke job as the Sonics weren't missing any starters for the final three games. Apparently they were just missing heart.
2. 1986 Milwaukee Bucks, 8.69
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The 1986 Milwuakee Bucks won 57 games, a full 10 fewer than the Boston Celtics. The Celtics also had the league's best SRS at 9.06 to Milwaukee's 8.69.
Milwuakee made it past the first two rounds and into the conference finals, but there they ran into the Boston Celtics where they pretty much just got trounced.
The Celtics won the four games by a total of 60 points. The Bucks were one of the best teams of all time who missed the NBA Finals.
Actually, the Celtics were just one of the best NBA teams of all time, period.
1. 1972 Milwaukee Bucks, 11.91
Photo obtained from nbahoopsonline.com
For the third time, the Milwaukee Bucks make this list. The 1972 Bucks and the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers were two of the greatest teams to ever play. The Lakers won 69 games and the Bucks won 63 that year.
The Bucks had a 10.70 SRS rating. The Lakers had an 11.65.
The Bucks had an 11.16 margin of victory. The Lakers had a 12.28.
Both teams easily made it to the finals, which was much anticipated. It was a matchup between Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The Lakers would go on to win the series 4-2, but the Bucks actually outscored LA by 14 points in the series.