Ranking the NBA's Best Teams over the Past Decade
Each year there are great teams in the NBA. Sometimes it’s the same team as the year before; other times it’s teams that came out of nowhere. So if you took teams from each season and put them together in a playoff series, which would win?
That’s what we looked at here. Which NBA team, starting with the 2004-05 season, was the best overall? Was it last year’s Miami Heat, was it the 2010 Lakers, or was it a different team?
Keep reading to find out which team tops them all over the past 10 years.
All stats in this article via Basketball-Reference.
Detroit Pistons 2004-05
The Detroit Pistons had just won an NBA title in 2003-04, and they came into '04-05 looking for their second straight. The Pistons came up just one game short when they fell to the Spurs in seven games.
This Pistons team was still great, though. The famous starting lineup of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace was as good as it had ever been. Unfortunately for the Pistons, the Spurs were just a little better in 2005, or else it could have been back-to-back titles for Detroit.
Oklahoma City Thunder 2011-12
The Thunder became elite in the 2011-12 season. The season was shortened due to the lockout, so the Thunder’s 47 wins were enough for the No. 2 seed in the West.
What made this loss even worse, though, was the trade of James Harden. After the season, the Thunder traded Harden and gave up what could have been a dynasty in the making.
It’s sad we never got to see those three reach their full potential together.
10. San Anotnio Spurs 2004-05
The Spurs are often featured on this list, and here is their first appearance. The 2004-05 Spurs were centered on Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, just like every other Spurs team for what feels like forever now.
All still in their 20s, the combination of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili led this team to 59 wins and a championship over the Detroit Pistons.
The Spurs’ Big Three was complemented by defensive stopper Bruce Bowen and the sharpshooting Robert Horry.
Horry gave us one of the great shots in NBA Finals history when he hit a three-pointer with under 10 seconds to go in Game 5. Horry’s shot was just one of many big shots that he hit in that seven-game series.
The Spurs went on to win Game 7 81-74 to get their title.
9. Dallas Mavericks 2010-11
The 2010-11 Mavericks are still one of the most underappreciated teams. The Mavs finished the season with 57 wins and then posted a 16-5 record in the playoffs, upsetting the favored Miami Heat in the finals.
Dirk Nowitzki was unguardable, averaging 27.7 points per game in the playoffs, while Jason Terry hit every single big shot the team needed. Their defensive anchor, Tyson Chandler, was the perfect complement to the smart, savvy Jason Kidd, the team’s starting point guard.
A few huge playoff moments from J.J. Barea and some phenomenal coaching from Rick Carlisle also aided this team on its way to the championship.
The Mavericks were a team of destiny this season; they just were not going to lose. Their roster fit together so perfectly and the players all played to their full potential. It was Dallas’ year, and the Mavs deserved exactly what they achieved.
8. Los Angeles Lakers 2008-09
The Lakers beat Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals after dominating all year. They won 65 games and were the team to beat all season.
This was not the best Lakers team over the past decade, though.
The team struggled to get help off the bench and relied heavily on Kobe Bryant on the offensive end. Because he is Kobe, it worked out. He averaged 30.2 points per game in the playoffs.
The Lakers also got big contributions from Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza, all of whom averaged over 30 minutes a game in the postseason. After Odom, the Lakers bench did not help much. Luke Walton, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar all chipped in, but they were nothing exceptional.
The 2008-09 Lakers team was really good, but there is a better Lakers team ahead.
7. Miami Heat 2011-12
The Miami Heat had just lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. Instead of letting that get to them, it just motivated the Heat even more.
The Heat came back for the 2011-12 season and posted a 46-20 record (the season was shortened to 66 games because of the lockout).
It was finally LeBron James' time to shine, and after a grueling seven-game series versus the Celtics, the Heat took home the championship after a five-game finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
James put together another amazing year, and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh didn't fare so badly either. The team was deeper this year too. The Heat got more help from Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and the oft-injured Mike Miller.
No one was going to beat the Heat in 2012, and the finals just proved it once and for all.
6. San Antonio Spurs 2006-07
The Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2006-07 finals after running through the playoffs without many problems.
They were a very deep team that played a lot of different guys and got help from seemingly everybody. Tony Parker was just 24, Tim Duncan was just 30, and they both were dominating.
Manu Ginobili and Michael Finley were the two best scorers after that, while Bruce Bowen locked down whichever offensive talent came his way.
Fabricio Oberto and Robert Horry were the two other players averaging over 20 minutes a game in the playoffs.
Fifty-eight regular-season wins and a 16-4 playoff record. This was easily one of coach Gregg Popovich’s best teams.
5. Boston Celtics 2009-10
The 2009-10 Boston Celtics lost the NBA Finals in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers. Even though they lost, this was easily the Celtics' second-best team of the Pierce-Garnett-Allen era.
This year, however, it was because of Rajon Rondo.
Rondo was 23 years old this season and was really becoming the Rajon Rondo we all know today. Rondo averaged 13.7 points and 9.8 assists on the year while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
The teams’ four other starters, who all also averaged double-digit points, helped Rondo’s strong play.
Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson were the guys off the bench. They each had their role and played it very well in the minutes they received.
A strong defensive team that could also light it up on the scoreboard is exactly what the Celtics were this season. One of the best finals series in a long time saw the Celtics lose to the Lakers, but Boston was very dangerous that season.
4. San Antonio Spurs 2012-13
The Spurs had the 2013 NBA Finals basically locked up with under a minute to go in Game 6. We all know the story, though. Fans left early, the Spurs missed free throws, Tim Duncan was on the bench, Chris Bosh got a rebound and Ray Allen hit one of the most legendary three-pointers of all time.
Even with the devastation the Spurs faced, they still were one of the best teams we have seen in a long time. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were both playing out of their minds, and we saw Manu Ginobili do some great things while also doing some terrible things.
Add those big names to Danny Green becoming an absolute sharpshooter and the emergence of Kawhi Leonard, and you have a very strong unit.
The Spurs basically should have won the title in 2013, but with a few unlucky bounces, it was all Miami.
Even with the loss, the Spurs had their best team in a while. Unfortunately, they had to play the Heat.
3. Miami Heat 2012-13
LeBron James was not human last year.
The King had an absolutely ridiculous year and topped it off with his second championship. The Big Three of James, Bosh and Wade captured the title after a wild seven-game series with the San Antonio Spurs.
The Miami Heat have been one of the top teams in the league since acquiring James and Bosh, but the 2012-13 version was their best team yet.
The addition of Ray Allen helped strengthen the already-dangerous three-point shooting attack that the Heat had. With Allen joining Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Mike Miller as a deep-ball threat, the Heat got that much better.
They rolled through the league, winning 66 games, including an absurd 27-game winning streak—second-longest all-time behind the 1971-72 Lakers—that proved to everyone that this was their season.
2. Los Angeles Lakers 2009-10
The 2009-10 Lakers were crazy good. Having Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom all in, or close to, their primes will do that.
Kobe absolutely dominated the regular season, averaging 27 points, 5.4 rebounds and five assists per game. Kobe’s play was complemented by the huge seasons from Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Combined, the two big men averaged 33.3 points and 19.6 rebounds.
Lamar Odom had a huge impact on the team that season. Odom played in every game, regular and postseason, and averaged 10.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in the regular season. Having your team’s sixth man basically average a double-double is pretty good.
Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) was just 30 years old during this season and was a key defensive stopper throughout the entire year. His presence was essential for this team, and the Lakers could not have won the championship without him.
Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown all played important roles on this team. An extremely deep team was exactly what the Lakers needed to top the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals.
1. Boston Celtics 2007-08
The first year of the Celtics' Big Three was a dominant one for Boston. Led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics were a force. After a 66-win regular season, the Celtics went on to beat the Hawks, Cavaliers and Pistons to get to the finals.
The finals matchup between the Lakers and Celtics was a good one, but the Celtics were too much for the Lakers to handle and took the series in six games.
What made the Celtics good this year was the play of the Big Three and their ability to jell together so quickly, but what took them to the next level was everybody else.
Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins rounded out the Celtics' starting five, adding youth to a veteran core. Rondo started to bring his game together and ended the season averaging 10.6 points and 5.1 assists per game. Perkins, James Posey, Eddie House and Tony Allen were all extremely important to this team as well.
The 2007-08 Celtics fit together perfectly as a team. Ending the year with the most home wins, the most road wins and a championship was just one way of proving that. There was no way the Celtics weren’t winning the title that year, and there is no other team this decade that could top them.