Power Ranking Every NBA Franchise Over the Past 5 Years

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 23, 2022

Power Ranking Every NBA Franchise Over the Past 5 Years

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    In the NBA, five years is an eternity.

    It's roughly the average career span of a player, and it's long enough that franchises can shift completely from rebuilding to contending or vice versa.

    Plenty has changed in the Association over the past five seasons, but some teams have navigated this time span better than others. A lot better in some cases.

    Since these power rankings aren't vulnerable to the recency bias that often plays a massive role in in-season rankings, we can leave subjectivity on the sideline and let the numbers do the talking.

    Three statistical marks tell the tale here: winning percentage, net rating and playoff series wins, which we'll label as playoff points (one point for each round, five extra for a title). The first two categories are given the same weight, while the playoff success portion carries double.

    The average ranking in all three categories determines the order. While this leaves no room for nuance—like success in drafting and trades or differing organizational goals—it ultimately pins the focus solely on performance.

    With those parameters in place, let the ranking commence.

30. Orlando Magic

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    Winning Percentage: .366 (30th)

    Net Rating: Minus-4.56 (29th)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    Orlando spent part of this stretch chasing maximum competitiveness, though it never amounted to more than a couple of first-round cameos.

    The Magic found a few good players, but they never landed the top-15-type talent who could take them over the top. Nikola Vucevic came closest while emerging as a highly skilled scorer and active rebounder, but his defensive limitations always muted his impact.

    It's tempting to throw a few brownie points at the franchise for finally accepting that it needed to aim higher than blink-and-you-missed-them playoff appearances, but this exercise doesn't allow for such subjectivity. Instead, it forces Magic faithful to simply stomach the worst statistical combination of the last half-decade.

29. Chicago Bulls

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    Winning Percentage: .386 (27th)

    Net Rating: Minus-4.00 (28th)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    Chicago really could've used a pinch of playoff success to avoid landing so low here. Instead, the Bulls lasted all of five games in the 2022 postseason, sealing their fate for our purposes.

    When our study sample started, Chicago tried and failed to field even a competent offense. By the time Zach LaVine rounded into All-Star form and the front office delivered legitimate offensive co-stars, then the defense fell apart. The Bulls' best balance came in 2020-21 (a 31-41 season), when they ranked just 19th on offense and 11th on defense.

    Only two Bulls produced more win shares than DeMar DeRozan did last season alone: LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, who was sign-and-traded to Cleveland in 2021.

28. Detroit Pistons

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    Winning Percentage: .372 (29th)

    Net Rating: Minus-3.22 (25th)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    Detroit opened the half-decade chasing playoff berths with Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson. By the time this stretch closed, the Pistons were pursuing draft lottery odds, which so far have yielded Killian Hayes (meh), Cade Cunningham (very good) and Jaden Ivey (we'll see).

    It always felt like the Drummond-Griffin combo had a low ceiling, and Griffin's injury issues dropped the bottom out. The Pistons at least didn't try to try to chase false hopes for too long. Griffin was acquired in January 2018, Stan Van Gundy (the architect and coach of that team) was out that same May and Drummond was sent packing in February 2020.

    Since shifting to a draft-and-develop strategy, the Pistons figured to take their fair share of lumps, and they have. Their 63 wins are by far the Association's fewest over the past three seasons, as no one else has fewer than 76 victories during this stretch. The losses could be worth it, though, if their prospects all pan out.

27. New York Knicks

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    Winning Percentage: .378 (28th)

    Net Rating: Minus-3.36 (26th)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    The Knicks haven't enjoyed many good times the last half-decade, but they perhaps found some stability, and that's not a minor win for a franchise that so often went without it in recent history.

    If Tom Thibodeau lasts for the entire 2022-23 campaign, he'll be the first Knicks coach to preside over three full seasons since Mike D'Antoni achieved the feat more than a decade ago. New York has also resisted some of the instant-gratification attempts it has made in the past, opting instead to keep and develop players like RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin.

    New York even found the secret sauce for a surprise playoff push in 2021, although the good vibes from that run were probably eroded by last season's disappointing 37-45 finish. If nothing else, the Knicks seem in much better position than they were at the start of this study, when Jeff Hornacek was head coach and Enes Kanter Freedom was the win shares leader.

26. Sacramento Kings

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    Winning Percentage: .405 (25th)

    Net Rating: Minus-3.88 (27th)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    You may have heard this once or a million times before, but Sacramento is historically starved for success. The problem is the Kings so badly want to snap out of this funk they have too often pursued quick-fixes rather than practicing patience and seeking sustainable success.

    That means they never really bottom out—in their worst season of this stretch (2017-18), they still tied for the 24th-most wins—which denies them access to the blue-chip talents in most drafts. While they made three top-five picks over the past six drafts, only one landed in the top three, and they spent that pick (second overall in 2018) to select Marvin Bagley III over Luka Doncic.

    At this point, it's fair to wonder what will ever turn this team around. The Kings made a major move to land Domantas Sabonis at last season's deadline, but their biggest hopes might be tied to this summer's No. 4 pick, Keegan Murray, who looked the part of a rising star at summer league.

25. Washington Wizards

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    Winning Percentage: .433 (23rd)

    Net Rating: Minus-2.36 (23rd)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    Remember when Bradley Beal scored a quarter-billion dollars this summer, and everyone sort of him side-eyed him and wondered what he was thinking? This is the reason why.

    The Wizards had one winning record in the last five seasons, and that club was swiftly knocked out of the opening round. It also leaned on far more players than Beal for support, like John Wall, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat, all of whom are at least two years removed from ditching the District.

    Former coach Scott Brooks never solved the riddle of winning big in Washington, and Wes Unseld Jr. could have a tough time of his own. Beal is an in-prime star who lacks a high-level sidekick, so Washington has to either hope Kristaps Porzingis can turn back the clock to become that player or see if one of its fairly anonymous prospects suddenly spring forward into stardom.

24. Charlotte Hornets

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    Winning Percentage: .454 (21st)

    Net Rating: Minus-1.96 (22nd)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    The Hornets are one of two teams not to book a playoff trip during this five-season stretch. That they hold that distinction without also holding a bottom-five ranking shows the minor successes they've enjoyed.

    They only once posted a sub-.400 winning percentage and also enjoyed one winning record (.524, last season). They haven't gotten a ton of mileage out of Gordon Hayward's four-year, $120 million pact, but they nailed the selection of LaMelo Ball as the No. 3 pick in 2020 and smartly snagged Terry Rozier in the 2019 sign-and-swap that sent Kemba Walker out of town.

    Charlotte's trajectory seemed to be an upward arrow and probably still is just by virtue of having Ball on the roster. However, Miles Bridges' offseason arrest on felony domestic violence charges left a glaring void on the wing, and it's possible the front office could consider momentarily stepping backward to gain a few long-term assets to put around Ball.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Winning Percentage: .448 (22nd)

    Net Rating: Minus-1.18 (20th)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    The Timberwolves lived an entire NBA life cycle over the previous five seasons.

    When the stretch opened, they were tasking the likes of Tom Thibodeau and Jimmy Butler to snap their lengthy playoff drought. They accomplished that goal (making a one-round cameo in 2018) and then plunged into a rebuild almost immediately after Butler demanded a trade (and was dealt in November 2018) and Tom Thibodeau was fired (in January 2019).

    They quickly recovered, though, thanks to the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns and the addition of Anthony Edwards, and booked their first return trip to the playoffs this April. They also saw enough potential in that performance to justify—in their minds, at least—spending a fortune to land Rudy Gobert. It's tough to tell how good Minnesota is or can be with this group, but it's clearly trending up after a wild five-year ride.

22. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Winning Percentage: .479 (18th)

    Net Rating: Minus-1.88 (21st)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    Want to know exactly how much five years covers in the NBA? Just set your sights on the Sooner State.

    When this sample started, the Thunder had pinned their hopes on Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Midway through the sample, you had the Oklahoma City Overachievers, a feisty group powered by the three-headed point guard monster of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder. Now, you have the Thunder on an unashamed mission toward maximum draft-lottery odds.

    The prospect pool is growing—and the pick pool is overflowing—but it's hard to say when this squad will be competitive again and to what degree. The Thunder have a surplus of youth, but it's too early to tell what this group can become.

21. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Winning Percentage: .402 (26th)

    Net Rating: Minus-4.62 (30th)

    Playoff Points: Three (T-11th)

    In 2017-18, the Cavaliers won 50 games and booked their fourth consecutive Finals appearance. In 2021-22, they ranked among the season's biggest surprises, winning 44 games and sending two players to the All-Star Game (Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen).

    In between, Cleveland produced some of the worst seasons in this entire study. Between 2018-19 and 2020-21, the Cavaliers were—look away if you're squeamish—a disastrous (and league-worst) 60-159. Their average game in that stretch was an 8.72-point loss.

    The less said about that midsection, the better, so let's instead send a quick nod at LeBron James' greatness and then shift the spotlight over to this franchise's future. The excitement Garland, Allen and Evan Mobley generated last season was enough to send Northeast Ohio into a frenzy, but the offseason acquisition of three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell just sent that buzz into overdrive.

20. Atlanta Hawks

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    Winning Percentage: .408 (24th)

    Net Rating: Minus-2.96 (24th)

    Playoff Points: Two (T-13th)

    The Hawks have started finding their footing in the Eastern Conference, but they were still bottom-feeders for the majority of this half-decade.

    They transitioned out of the Mike Budenholzer era and embarked on a quick youth movement before up-and-comers like Trae Young, John Collins and De'Andre Hunter found their running shoes. They turned plenty of heads with their surprise sprint to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021, though they couldn't work the same magic this past season and needed two play-in wins just to secure a postseason ticket and then were bounced from the opening round in all of five games.

    They have since made a massive gamble on Dejounte Murray, which theoretically positions the organization for better days ahead. The fit between Murray and Young looks pretty effortless on paper—minus the typical there's-only-one-ball concerns that surface with any new star pairing—but it's unclear whether either can serve as the best player on a title contender.

19. New Orleans Pelicans

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    Winning Percentage: .456 (20th)

    Net Rating: Minus-0.52 (17th)

    Playoff Points: One (T-17th)

    The Pelicans have shapeshifted multiple times in this stretch, which makes their consistency somewhat impressive.

    Travel back to 2017-18, and you'll find the likes of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and DeMarcus Cousins all residing in the Crescent City. Hit up the 2020-21 campaign, and you'll find Stan Van Gundy during his solo stint with the squad. Return to the present, and you'll see the Pelicans following the leads of (a hopefully healthy) Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, who are backed by a quietly loaded supporting cast.

    New Orleans is still waiting on its breakthrough, as its lone series win came back in 2018 and was immediately erased by a second-round defeat. Saying that, it's hard not to like where it seems this club is headed. The roster impresses with both high-end talent and depth, and the front office has enough trade chips to plug up any leaks.

18. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Winning Percentage: .468 (19th)

    Net Rating: Minus-0.74 (18th)

    Playoff Points: One (T-17th)

    Memphis spent much of the half-decade finding its way out of the Mike Conley-Marc Gasol era and into a future that started with uncertainty but now features copious amounts of unbridled excitement.

    The story of the Grizzlies' stretch is the story of Ja Morant, the No. 2 pick in 2019 who quickly put his fingerprints all across this organization. He broke in as Rookie of the Year, and by his third season, he was both an All-Star and the Association's Most Improved Player. Memphis followed his lead and launched into a 56-win effort this past season, ultimately bowing out of the conference semis against the eventual champion Warriors.

    The Grizzlies had a few lean years in between eras, but under head coach Taylor Jenkins, they've made a habit of making each season better than the last. If they somehow continue that pattern in 2022-23, they might mess around and challenge for the league's best record.

17. San Antonio Spurs

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    Winning Percentage: .499 (15th)

    Net Rating: Plus-0.48 (13th)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    The Spurs have the first positive net rating on these rankings and nearly had its first winning record, too. If only there was some playoff success to accompany the regular-season triumphs.

    Instead, the Spurs could never muster more than a first-round appearance when DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge called the Alamo City home. They haven't even traveled that far in the past three seasons, as the league's longtime model for sustained success finally shifted into its first rebuilding effort in decades.

    Beyond Gregg Popovich's presence on the sideline and the squad's signature silver and black threads, there isn't much recognizable about this team. Maybe Keldon Johnson is on his way toward face-of-the-franchise status, but if he doesn't make that jump, it's anyone's guess as to who will. Victor Wembanyama maybe?

16. Brooklyn Nets

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    Winning Percentage: .505 (14th)

    Net Rating: Plus-0.18 (14th)

    Playoff Points: One (T-17th)

    This is...frustrating, honestly.

    For the majority of this half-decade, Brooklyn has had both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the roster. Other players to pass through the borough over this stretch include: James Harden, Ben Simmons, Jarrett Allen, D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert.

    Now, look at those numbers again: barely above .500, basically breaking even in terms of efficiency, a single playoff series win. How is that possible? How have the Nets failed to win anything of substance with this kind of talent?

    Well, the Nets have played 390 games during this stretch, and only three players have appeared in 170-plus of them: Allen, Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. Durant and Irving have 193 appearances combined. Harden suited up just 80 times for the Nets; Simmons still hasn't debuted.

    Maybe everything clicks one of these seasons and the Nets embark on a championship run, but it's been a while since Brooklyn's whole was anywhere near the sum of its parts.

15. Indiana Pacers

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    Winning Percentage: .512 (T-11th)

    Net Rating: Plus-0.62 (11th)

    Playoff Points: Zero (tied for last)

    This is the highest a team ranks without enjoying any playoff series wins. So...congrats?

    Indiana turned playoff trips into clockwork under former coach Nate McMillan, but the journeys never went anywhere. The Pacers were not only ousted from the opening round in the first three years of this half-decade, but they were also swept the last two times.

    McMillan was out after that, and then Indy kinda, sorta adopted a rebuilding mindset. The Pacers haven't pulled the plug entirely, but there was a clear directional shift away from Domantas Sabonis and toward Tyrese Haliburton at the trade deadline. Still, Indy's handling of remaining veterans Myles Turner and Buddy Hield could paint the clearest picture yet of where this organization hopes to go and when.

14. Dallas Mavericks

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    Winning Percentage: .494 (16th)

    Net Rating: Plus-1.24 (10th)

    Playoff Points: Two (T-13th)

    When this half-decade started, Dirk Nowitzki was still hooping in Dallas, Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. were the Mavericks' top two scorers, and Luka Doncic was giving buckets to EuroLeague defenders. Given how much has changed with the organization since, it deserves some credit for keeping its head above water.

    That has everything to do with finding Doncic during the 2018 draft, and if the Mavericks aren't sending gift baskets to the Suns, Kings and Hawks—the three teams who could've kept Doncic away from Dallas—every year, then they aren't doing it right.

    Doncic already looks like an all-time great. He tallied more than 6,000 points, 2,000 assists and 2,000 rebounds across his first four NBA seasons, a feat matched only by Oscar Robertson, LeBron James and Grant Hill.

    Dallas had a .402 winning percentage in Doncic's rookie season and hasn't ventured below .573 since. Last season, it posted a .634 mark and traveled all the way to the conference finals. If the Mavericks ever give him a legitimate sidekick, look out.

13. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Winning Percentage: .526 (10th)

    Net Rating: Minus-0.30 (16th)

    Playoff Points: Two (T-13th)

    Portland has changed plenty over the half-decade, but Damian Lillard looms as the lone constant.

    A fire-breathing lead guard, Lillard has essentially guaranteed the Blazers an elite offense whenever he's healthy. Now, defensive deficiencies have ultimately limited this club's postseason accomplishments, but it did reach the 2019 conference finals despite losing Jusuf Nurkic to injury just ahead of that playoff run.

    The Blazers torpedoed their ranking with last season's second-half tank job, as they had a lottery pick to protect (and eventually use on Shaedon Sharpe), but they don't plan on being down for long. They made an aggressive move to get Jerami Grant this offseason and could be on the hunt for more win-now talent to maximize the remainder of Lillard's prime.

12. Phoenix Suns

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    Winning Percentage: .483 (17th)

    Net Rating: Minus-0.80 (19th)

    Playoff Points: Four (T-7th)

    Phoenix's half-decade can effectively be split into two chapters: before the Chris Paul trade and after.

    Prior to the November 2020 blockbuster, the Suns were keeping it slow and steady while young players like Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges rounded into form. Once they showed enough promise, the front office correctly pegged the Point God as a transformational talent for this team, and it hasn't looked back since.

    Phoenix might have this time span's widest split between peaks and valleys. It twice failed to win 26 percent of its games and twice won more than 70 percent of its contests. That early losing and last season's premature playoff exit kept the club from climbing any higher.

11. Houston Rockets

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    Winning Percentage: .510 (13th)

    Net Rating: Plus-0.04 (15th)

    Playoff Points: Four (T-7th)

    Want to know how long five seasons really is in the NBA? Just ask the Rockets.

    In 2017-18, they had the Association's best record, an outstanding one-two punch with James Harden and Chris Paul, plus the innovative Mike D'Antoni steering an unstoppable offense. By 2021-22, everyone was out, and a batch of youngsters like Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun and Josh Christopher now held Space City's long-term hopes.

    Houston had a chance to secure a championship—and, of obviously equal importance, launch up these rankings—in 2018, as it built a 3-2 lead over the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in the conference finals. But Paul couldn't stay healthy, Houston's shooters went ice cold at the worst possible time and the Rockets were forced to enter the greatest-teams-that-never-won-a-title debate.

10. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Winning Percentage: .585 (7th)

    Net Rating: Plus-2.72 (7th)

    Playoff Points: Three (T-11th)

    The Clippers opened the half-decade by making Blake Griffin a "Clipper for life" in July 2017 and then shipped him off to Detroit the following January. Longtime skipper Doc Rivers exited in 2020. The entire roster turned over during the course of these five seasons.

    For all of the twists and turns, though, L.A. avoided any major drop-off. The club posted a winning record in all five seasons, punctuating three seasons with a playoff berth and escaping the opening round twice.

    Along the way, the Clippers assembled what might be the deepest, most talented roster in the league. That's assuming everyone gets and stays healthy, of course, but having Kawhi Leonard and Paul George at the top with a slew of capable contributors around them is a pretty great place to be.

9. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Winning Percentage: .512 (T-11th)

    Net Rating: Pus-0.54 (12th)

    Playoff Points: Nine (4th)

    This one is tricky and sure to be divisive.

    For much of the last half-decade, the Lakers haven't been very good. They had three losing records in that stretch. No, they were never bottom-feeder bad, but for a team that rostered LeBron James in four of the five seasons and teamed him with Anthony Davis for three of them, the disappointing moments felt disastrous.

    However, the 2020 championship run happened, and it was glorious. The Lakers had a .732 winning percentage and top-five net rating in the regular season. They went on a 12-3 through the Western Conference portion of the playoff bracket and then bested the Miami Heat in six games to win the title. Oh, and before anyone starts with any bubble asterisk nonsense, if anything, that championship run was harder than normal given the circumstances and isolation.

    So, the Lakers had a championship campaign, a first-round exit and three losing seasons. Subjectively, there might not be a word for all of that, so it's a good thing the numbers are doing all of the heavy lifting.

8. Utah Jazz

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    Winning Percentage: .623 (4th)

    Net Rating: Plus-5.42 (1st)

    Playoff Points: Two (T-13th)

    You could present a pretty compelling case for Utah being the best regular-season performer of the past half-decade, but the Jazz could never carry that success over into the playoffs. Those failures—three first-round exits, two series wins total—were the primary motivation for Utah's offseason overhaul.

    "The biggest thing for us was opening up a window to compete for a title," general manager Justin Zanik told reporters. "Give credit to ownership, the organization, the community and the support we've had over the last three years as we put every resource toward trying to accomplish that. And we fell short. In the NBA life cycle, this was kind of a touch point to make a pivot."

    You can point your finger a thousand different directions to blame someone for Utah's playoff struggles, but the better move is recognizing how consistently good the Jazz were year over year. Their winning percentage never dipped below .585; for context, last season's sixth seed in the West and fifth seed in the East had .585 winning percentages.

7. Miami Heat

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    Winning Percentage: .563 (9th)

    Net Rating: Plus-1.42 (9th)

    Playoff Points: Five (6th)

    The Heat entered the half-decade in need of help. Previous summer spending had left them with a roster led by the likes of Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Tyler Johnson. They lacked direction and top-level talent. Oh, and in the first two seasons of our sample, they even found a way to block Bam Adebayo.

    But everything changed in 2019, when they managed to broker a blockbuster sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler. In that same summer, they cleared the runway for Adebayo to take flight and invested the 13th pick in Tyler Herro. Just like that, Miami had assembled the nucleus of a team that made the 2020 Finals and 2022 Eastern Conference Finals.

    The Heat may not quite have the star power needed to take home a title, but coach Erik Spoelstra squeezes everything he can out of his group, and this front office has a habit of finding no-names and converting them into rotation regulars.

6. Denver Nuggets

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    Winning Percentage: .616 (5th)

    Net Rating: Plus-2.94 (6th)

    Playoff Points: Four (T-7th)

    The Nuggets are one of two teams to have a back-to-back MVP this half-decade (Nikola Jokic). They won at least 56 percent of their games every season, booked four playoff trips and won at least one postseason series three different times.

    And yet, perhaps because Denver has never enjoyed its championship breakthrough or skyrocketed its winning percentage into the .700s, the Nuggets feel closer to really good than great. Maybe that'd be different had Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. ducked the injury bug, but the former tore his ACL and the latter had his third back surgery, so here we are.

    If nothing else, the Nuggets have been consistent: same coach (Michael Malone), same win shares leader for all five seasons (Jokic), same system and execution (usually featuring elite offense and average-or-above-it defense). This run will ultimately feel empty without a title, but maybe a clean bill of health is all they need to make it happen.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Winning Percentage: .629 (2nd)

    Net Rating: Plus-3.56 (5th)

    Playoff Points: Four (T-7th)

    This sample size puts Philadelphia just beyond The Process, which spares its winning percentage from those unsightly seasons and delivers the blue-chip talent those tanking efforts produced.

    Essentially, it attaches the Sixers to Joel Embiid's ascension, and they have followed his lead up the NBA ladder. In each of the last five seasons, he has been an All-Star and they've been a playoff participant with a .589-plus winning percentage.

    However, just like Embiid has been denied an MVP award, Philly has also fallen short of winning the big one—or even the medium one. The Sixers are still searching for their first venture past the conference semis since Allen Iverson was leading the charge, which doesn't seem possible for a club that has assembled as much talent as Philadelphia has.

4. Boston Celtics

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    Winning Percentage: .613 (6th)

    Net Rating: Plus-4.56 (3rd)

    Playoff Points: Eight (5th)

    Over the last five years, the Celtics never had a losing record, always made the playoffs and thrice advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. That's impressive consistency, particularly for a franchise that has faced this many curveballs.

    In 2017, they added both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and then watched each player fail to meet expectations. They replaced Irving with Kemba Walker (at the expense of the promising Terry Rozier) and saw that addition fall flat, too. They watched Al Horford exit as a coveted free agent in 2019 and then return two years later as part of the Walker salary dump. They saw head coach Brad Stevens ditch the sidelines for the front office. They spent lottery picks on Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith but couldn't work their developmental magic on either one.

    Along the way, though, they also watched Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown turn toward stardom while the rest of the roster found supporting roles around them. That's why the winning never stopped and should only increase going forward.

3. Golden State Warriors

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    Winning Percentage: .580 (8th)

    Net Rating: Plus-2.08 (8th)

    Playoff Points: 21 (1st)

    Griping and second-guessing will run rampant here and with good reason. Golden State punctuated two of the five seasons with a championship and finished a third in the Finals. In terms of postseason success, it's the Dubs dynasty and then everyone else.

    Still, that's all reflected in the numbers, which put a double emphasis on the playoffs and still couldn't nudge the Warriors higher than No. 3. Why? Because the other two seasons—one featuring an awful 15-50 mark, the other ending in the play-in tournament—still happened. Even if those struggles can largely be explained by a wicked rash of injuries, the explanation doesn't erase the results.

    The Warriors' ceiling over this stretch reaches as high as any, but between 2019-20 and 2020-21 (40 percent of this sample), they tied for 25th in wins (54) and were 24th in scoring margin (minus-3.58 points per game). That can't be forgotten just because they were great in the other three seasons.

2. Toronto Raptors

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    Winning Percentage: .628 (3rd)

    Net Rating: Plus-4.28 (4th)

    Playoff Points: 11 (3rd)

    Wow.

    This doesn't seem like it should be possible. Not when the Raptors had to shift through multiple eras on the fly, as players like Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard all eventually headed south of the border. Not when the club stomached a 27-45 season in 2020-21, which seemingly foreshadowed an ominous rebuilding road.

    Yet the numbers are what they are. And thanks to the reliably excellent work by president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, head coach Nick Nurse (and Dwane Casey before him) and a roster that seems to always find ways to fit, Toronto has spent much of the past half-decade as a full-fledged elite.

    The Raptors had three different winning percentages land north of .700. They won a world title during Leonard's lone season, but they also booked three other playoff trips and won a pair of postseason series without him. They had seven All-Star selections and four All-NBA honorees. They had last season's Rookie of the Year (Scottie Barnes), 2018-19's Most Improved Player (Pascal Siakam) and two different Coach of the Year winners (Casey in 2017-18, Nurse in 2019-20).

    They might not be the first team that comes to mind in terms of defining this era of NBA basketball, but few can match Toronto's consistency, high-end achievements and, ultimately, on-court performance.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

    Winning Percentage: .657 (1st)

    Net Rating: Minus-5.36 (2nd)

    Playoff Points: 13 (2nd)

    Want to know what transpired over the previous five seasons in Milwaukee? Giannis Antetokounmpo conquered the basketball world. It's a stretch to tie all of the Bucks' success to him, but then again, in a league defined and dominated by superstars, maybe it isn't.

    "It's hard to find more words to describe what Giannis does," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters after the 2021 Finals.

    Between 2017-18 and 2021-22, Antetokounmpo earned five All-Star honors, was named to five All-NBA teams (four first teams), was a four-time All-Defensive first-teamer, won two MVP awards, won Defensive Player of the Year and was named Finals MVP. In the 2021 Finals, a series he started just a week after suffering a hyperextended knee, he scored 40-plus points three different times and secured the championship by tallying 50 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and two assists in the series-clincher.

    Again, he's not a one-man wrecking crew. Khris Middleton has been around for this entire run. Budenholzer, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez all helped the Bucks level up. The front office has surrounded the stars with reliable role players. The entire team has contributed to this dominant run: five playoff runs, four winning percentages north of .620 (two better than .730), eight series wins and one world title.

    This is, as far as the last five years are concerned, as good as it gets.


    Statistics used courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.

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