Ranking the NBA's 20 Best Offenses of All Time

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2014

Ranking the NBA's 20 Best Offenses of All Time

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    Barry Gossage/Getty Images

    How do you judge the success of an NBA offense? 

    Just looking at points scored isn't enough, because that doesn't allow offensive efficiency to factor into the equation. For that reason, offensive rating—a pace-neutral metric that shows how many points a team scores per 100 possessions—is much better to look at. 

    But when attempting to rank teams historically, as we're doing here, that's still not good enough. After all, not every team with identical offensive ratings is made equal. 

    If two teams score 110 points per 100 possessions, which is better—Team A, which did so during a year in which defenses thrived, or Team B, which did so when everyone was scoring at a high level? 

    Team A should be the obvious answer, because context matters. And that's why ORtng+, or adjusted offensive rating, is the best inter-era metric for comparing offensive performances. 

    Calculating it isn't particularly difficult; just divide the team's offensive rating by the league-average offensive rating from the year in question, then multiply the result by 100. If a team scores 10 percent more than the average squad that year, it'll have a 110 ORtng+. If it scores 10 percent less, it'll have a 90 ORtng+. 

    A score of 100 means the offense was perfectly average, a feat most recently achieved by the 2012-13 Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors. 

    When determining the 20 best point-scoring machines in NBA history, flashiness doesn't matter. Neither does points per game. Nor does memorability, subjectivity or the team's win-loss records. 

    ORtng+ is all that comes into play. Analyses like this have been run before, notably by Hardwood Paroxysm's Andrew Lynch and Ian Levy, but this is taking it to a whole new level by running things pre- and post-merger. 

    Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com.

20. 1994-95 Orlando Magic: 106.28 ORtng+

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    Brian Drake/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 115.1

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 108.3

    Win-Loss Record: 57-25

    These Orlando Magic may have been swept by the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, but they still put together an impressive offense throughout the regular season, scoring 115.1 points during the average 100 possessions. That mark is actually one of the highest featured in this article, but the 1994-95 season was also filled with offense, and the 108.3 league-average offensive rating is tied with the 2008-09 and 1986-87 seasons as the highest average in NBA history. 

    Nonetheless, when you have a collection of talent like this, of course you're going to put up points in bunches.

    The Magic were led by a 22-year-old Shaquille O'Neal, who spent his third season in the NBA averaging 29.3 points per game while shooting 58.3 percent from the field. Penny Hardaway, then only 23 years old, was putting up a remarkably efficient 20.9 points and 7.2 assists during the average contest.

    And we can't forget about the steady production of Horace Grant or the three-point shooting of Nick Anderson and Brian Shaw. This was a finely tuned offensive machine overflowing with quality parts.  

    Honorable Mentions: 2011-12 San Antonio Spurs (106.02 ORtng+), 2012-13 Miami Heat (106.04), 1986-87 Dallas Mavericks (106.09), 2012-13 Oklahoma City Thunder (106.14), 1990-91 Chicago Bulls (106.21)

19. 1997-98 Seattle SuperSonics: 106.29

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    Andy Hayt/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 111.6

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 105.0

    Win-Loss Record: 61-21

    Gary Payton may have been known as a a defensive maestro, but don't overlook the offensive production he brought to the table during his prime with the Seattle SuperSonics. During the 1997-98 season, he managed to average 19.2 points and 8.3 assists per game while shooting 45.3 percent from the field. 

    Interestingly enough, though, the top-ranking Sonics team of all time didn't have Shawn Kemp on the roster. He'd just been traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his replacement—Vin Baker—enjoyed an excellent season before virtually falling off the map. Baker actually matched Payton's scoring contributions, and he did so without sacrificing the least bit of offensive efficiency. 

    In 1997-98, Seattle paced the league in triples made and three-point percentage while minimizing turnovers, sharing the ball nicely and shooting better from two-point range than all but two teams throughout the Association. That's a devastating combination, one that more than made up for a lack of Kemp's dunks. 

    It's terrifying to think of what this offense could have done if Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf and Hersey Hawkins had all still been in their primes. 

18. 1998-99 Indiana Pacers: 106.36

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 108.7

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 102.2

    Win-Loss Record: 33-17

    This just in: Reggie Miller was quite good at draining three-point attempts. 

    During the lockout-shortened campaign, the man who held the downtown record before Ray Allen averaged 18.4 points per game, shooting 43.8 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from beyond the arc and a scorching 91.5 percent at the charity stripe. Playing in all 50 games for the Indiana Pacers, he made 106 triples, which prorates to 173.8 over the course of a normal season. 

    That's not a historically great mark, as there have been over 100 individual campaigns to top such a mark, but it's still significant because he was just one cog of many on the Indiana roster. 

    Mark Jackson was fantastic at distributing the ball to a roster of players who could score, including Miller, Rik Smits, Jalen Rose and Chris Mullin. The team used a remarkably slow pace, but it maximized every possession by shooting efficiently, limiting turnovers and converting at the charity stripe. 

    Rarely do you see a team ranked No. 26 in pace emerge as this solid of an offensive unit, but such was the case for these Pacers. 

17. 1996-97 Utah Jazz: 106.47

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    Glenn James/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 113.6

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 106.7

    Win-Loss Record: 64-18

    John Stockton and Karl Malone were an unstoppable tandem as they developed alongside one another, getting better and better throughout the primes of their careers. I'll go ahead and tell you right now that they have another season that will rank even higher in this countdown of NBA history's best offenses. 

    During the 1996-97 season, Malone was 33 years old and Stockton had an extra year on him, but it's not as though either player relied upon athleticism. The former was a physical specimen, one who remains remarkably strong to this day, and the latter was a tenacious and intelligent point guard, one who wouldn't really blow away the opponent with athleticism. 

    This deep into their respective careers, especially with Jerry Sloan still at the helm, they had the pick-and-roll game completely figured out. Of course, it also helped that Jeff Hornacek was on the squad, as was Bryon Russell, Antoine Carr and a young Greg Ostertag. 

    Utah ultimately didn't have enough to get past the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals, but it was dominant in just about every offensive category. During the regular season, the Jazz paced the Association in field-goal percentage, free throws made and assists while finishing near the top in so many other spots.

16. 1997-98 Los Angeles Lakers: 106.57

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    Jon SooHoo/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 111.9

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 105.0

    Win-Loss Record: 61-21

    Back when Kobe Bryant wore No. 8 and boasted that awesome afro that Anthony Davis seems to be bringing back (or at least trying to) during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, the Los Angeles Lakers couldn't be stopped on the offensive end of the floor. 

    During the 1997-98 season, Kobe averaged only 15.4 points per game, starting just one game during his sophomore go-round. He would make the All-Star squad, largely because of his popularity and flashy play, but he wasn't exactly the MVP candidate he'd blossom into. 

    Instead, Shaquille O'Neal was the unquestioned leader of the team. 

    O'Neal averaged a ridiculous 28.3 points and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 58.4 percent from the field, and he was joined in double figures most nights by Eddie Jones (16.9 points per game), Rick Fox (12), Nick Van Exel (13.8) and Elden Campbell (10.1). Plus, Robert Horry usually managed to chip in with some big shots. 

    Del Harris was still in charge of this squad, not Phil Jackson, but the Lakers managed to excel even without the Zen Master pacing the sidelines. Few teams have been great at shooting efficiently, depressing turnovers, going to the foul stripe and collecting offensive rebounds, but LAL finished in the top 11 in all four categories. 

15. 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers: 106.74

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    Lennox Mclendon/Associated Press

    Offensive Rating: 115.6

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 108.3

    Win-Loss Record: 65-17

    The Showtime Lakers have to show up at some point. 

    Everything came together perfectly for this squad. 

    Magic Johnson led the show, averaging 23.9 points and 12.2 assists per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the field. His primary passing targets included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (still playing at a high level with an efficient 17.5 points per contest), James Worthy (19.4) and Byron Scott (17.0). 

    And just for good measure, A.C. Green, Michael Cooper and Mychal Thompson all averaged double figures as well. 

    This was an uber-efficient shooting machine, one that proved equally adept from beyond the three-point arc and inside it. Johnson and the rest of his squad took good care of the ball, there were plenty of quality offensive rebounders and only nine teams spent more time at the charity stripe throughout the 1987-87 season. 

    The only problem was the season itself. 

    No team has ever produced a higher offensive rating than these Lakers, who stand out as the model of efficiency and production. However, the NBA as a whole thrived in 1986-87, tying with a few other seasons as the one with the top league-average offensive rating in the annals. That just doesn't allow this Los Angeles iteration to stand out as much as it would otherwise, reputation and all.

14. 1991-92 Chicago Bulls: 106.75

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    Brian Drake/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 115.5

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 108.2

    Win-Loss Record: 67-15

    You knew Michael Jordan was going to show up at some point. His first appearance comes with the 1991-92 Chicago Bulls, but it certainly won't be the last time one of his teams is featured in these rankings. In fact, this is only one of three showings. 

    The '91-92 Bulls featured Jordan in his prime, averaging 30.1 points per game and shooting 51.9 percent from the field, but it's not as though he was the only star on the team. Scottie Pippen was a huge contributor, throwing up 21 points and seven dimes during the average contest. Plus, Horace Grant was an incredible offensive rebounder, giving the scoring studs even more opportunities to put the ball in the hoop. 

    This was the first truly great Chicago team, but it certainly wouldn't be the last. Later iterations found even more success than this squad, which produced the second-best offensive rating of all time. 

    But much like the Showtime Lakers, they did so during a year that featured a league-wide offensive explosion, resulting in an average offensive rating of 108.2. It's hard to stand out when that number is so high, but Jordan had a knack for doing things that weren't particularly easy. 

13. 1987-88 Boston Celtics: 106.85

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 115.4

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 108.0

    Win-Loss Record: 57-25

    These Boston Celtics could flat-out shoot the basketball. 

    Not only did they lead the league in three-point percentage, but they also did so while taking more attempts than anyone else in the NBA during the 1987-88 season. Not only did they dominate the three-point categories, but they connected on two-point attempts at a higher clip than anyone else. It had to be disappointing that the Denver Nuggets beat them by 0.1 percent in free-throw shooting, but the C's made up for it by pacing the Association in assists as well. 

    Talk about a crazy combination, right? 

    It helped that Larry Bird put up one of the best scoring seasons of all time, joining the 50/40/90 club while averaging 29.9 points per game, which is something no one else in NBA history can claim. As Bleacher Report's Bryan Toporek wrote after Kevin Durant's eye-popping 2012-13 campaign for the Oklahoma City Thunder, "So, again, is Durant's shooting performance in 2012-13 the best we've ever seen? Bird's 1987-88 season would beg to differ."

    Plus, Kevin McHale helped the cause and averaged 22.6 points per contest while using his stellar footwork to shoot over 60 percent from the field. 

    I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Danny Ainge, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson as well. 

    With dominant stars and a deep supporting cast, there was no stopping this Boston squad. Well, there was no stopping them until the Detroit Pistons did exactly that in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

12. 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks: 106.85

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 110.7

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 103.6

    Win-Loss Record: 60-22

    During the early 2000s, NBA offenses were not particularly efficient. The value of high percentages wasn't the focus of anyone, be it media, fans or the teams themselves, which allowed volume shooting and hero ball to run rampant. 

    However, some teams were ahead of their time, and the Dallas Mavericks were one of those in 2002-03.

    The Mavs finished No. 3 in effective field-goal percentage and No. 1 in turnover percentage, thanks to the heady and cerebral play of their two superstars. Steve Nash ran the show for Dallas, and he did a masterful job taking care of the ball while involving everyone around him. All the while, Dirk Nowitzki served as a premier scoring force. 

    Nowitzki finished the season averaging 25.1 points and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field, 37.9 percent from beyond the arc and 88.1 percent at the charity stripe. He wasn't quite a 50/40/90 candidate, but it's not as though he was inefficient either.

    With Michael Finley scoring at a high level as well, it's not as though the Mavericks were a two-man team. Nick Van Exel and—to a lesser extent—Raef LaFrentz would have something to say about that as well. 

    Interestingly enough, Dallas' 2002-03 offensive rating, if looked at in a vacuum, would emerge as the No. 129 mark of all time. However, producing that during a time in which defense and volume shooting reigned supreme elevates this season's stock rather significantly. 

11. 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks: 106.89

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    NBA Photo Library/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 103.9

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 97.2

    Win-Loss Record: 66-16

    Subjectively speaking, the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks deserve to be ranked higher than No. 11, simply because no teams from this era emerged as truly dominant offenses. Prior to the NBA-ABA merger, defense really did win championships (see: Celtics, Boston), and the number of teams in the league made it harder to stand out either positively or negatively, as one outlier would drag up the average significantly. 

    In fact, here are the top five pre-merger teams, along with their rankings throughout the entirety of NBA history: 

    1. 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks: 106.89 ORtng+ (No. 11 overall)
    2. 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers: 105.62 (No. 34)
    3. 1951-52 Rochester Royals: 105.41 (No. 39)
    4. 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers: 105.31 (No. 41)
    5. 1967-68 Los Angeles Lakers: 105.06 (No. 51)

    These Bucks are just a massive outlier in so many ways. 

    It was Oscar Robertson's first season in Milwaukee, and he made all the difference for a squad that was previously anchored almost solely by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The former averaged 19.4 points and 8.2 assists per game en route to a championship, while the latter added 31.7 and 3.3. 

    Robertson shot 49.6 percent from the field—an insane figure for a high-scoring guard in that era—and Abdul-Jabbar checked in at 57.7 percent. With support from Bob Dandridge, Jon McGlocklin, Greg Smith and Bob Boozer, there was just no stopping this squad. 

    In fact, the Bucks were held below 100 points only six times all season. 

10. 1981-82 Denver Nuggets: 106.92

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 114.3

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 106.9

    Win-Loss Record: 46-36

    Though the Denver Nuggets scored an NBA-record 186 points during the 1983-84 season, it was the squad two years prior that managed to emerge as the No. 10 best offense of all time. The pieces were already in place for future heroics, after all.  

    Interestingly enough, this is one of the least successful teams featured throughout this article. The Nuggets finished with a 46-36 record, overachieving by four wins if you take their margin of victory and strength of schedule into account. Plus, they'd lose to the Phoenix Suns in the opening round of the playoff festivities. 

    Why? Because the defense was awful. 

    While the Denver offense finished No. 10 throughout NBA history, the defense was better than only eight of the 1,315 teams who have ever suited up on the hardwood. Yes, this is the most one-sided team of all time. 

    Defense is irrelevant to these purposes, though. What matters is how dominant Alex English, Kiki Vandeweghe and Dan Issel were. Though Issel was starting to move out of his prime, he still averaged 22.9 points per game, giving the Nuggets three players who topped 20 on the average night. 

    This squad played at a ridiculously fast pace, allowing it to lead the Association in field goals made, field goals attempted, two-point shots made, two-point shots attempted, free throws made, free throws attempted and points. Plus, the Nuggets were still efficient enough to finish No. 1 in effective field-goal percentage. 

    It's tough to pack this much offensive talent onto one roster and have it function at a high level, but that's exactly what Doug Moe did in 1981-82. 

9. 2006-07 Phoenix Suns: 106.95

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    Barry Gossage/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 113.9

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 106.5

    Win-Loss Record: 61-21

    It's time to give Mike D'Antoni a little love. 

    The "seven seconds or less" offense was humming for the 2006-07 Phoenix Suns, who had the perfect personnel in place for sheer point-scoring dominance. 

    Few point guards have ever been better equipped to handle such uptempo machinations than Steve Nash was in his prime, as the always-in-shape floor general could race up the court, fight through contact and hit open teammates through just about any passing lane. 

    Plus, he was surrounded by the ideal blend of physical and athletic finishers (Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion) and snipers (Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa and James Jones). Rarely has there been a roster better suited to the philosophies of a unique head coach like D'Antoni. 

    Obviously, things worked out quite nicely. 

    This wasn't a good rebounding team, nor was it particularly skilled at getting free shots at the charity stripe. However, it played so fast that it wore down opponents, shot plenty of three pointers, tended to make looks at a higher rate than anyone else in the NBA and won a whole bunch of games. 

8. 1995-96 Chicago Bulls 107.06

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 115.2

    League-Average Offensive Rating107.6

    Win-Loss Record: 72-10

    You've probably heard good things about this team. 

    No one in NBA history has ever managed to compile a better win-loss record than the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who blazed their way to a 72-10 mark. This was the perfect storm in basketball—a terrific coach at the helm, a trio of stars led by the greatest player of all time in the midst of his prime, a stellar supporting cast and two-way excellence. 

    Though this doesn't technically matter here, the '95-96 Bulls have the best adjusted defensive rating of any top-40 offense in NBA history. Yikes. No wonder they won so many games. 

    But back to offense. 

    Michael Jordan, as you might expect, was flat-out unstoppable in the triangle offense. The Hall of Famer averaged 30.4 points per game while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 42.7 percent from beyond the arc. 

    Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc joined him in double figures, but this wasn't a squad that had to outrun the opponents. Instead, it slowed things down (No. 20 pace during the 1995-96 season) and methodically outworked opponents, allowing it to shoot high percentages every game. 

    These Bulls "only" finished No. 4 in effective field-goal percentage, but they paced the league in turnover percentage and offensive rebounding percentage.

7. 2009-10 Phoenix Suns: 107.16

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 115.3

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 107.6

    Win-Loss Record: 54-28

    Back to the Phoenix Suns we go. 

    This was Amar'e Stoudemire's final season in a Phoenix uniform before he signed with the New York Knicks during the ensuing offseason, and he sure made it count. The big man averaged 23.1 points per game while shooting a scorching (appropriate for the desert, huh?) 55.7 percent from the field. 

    Alvin Gentry had replaced Mike D'Antoni by this time, but the key on-court pieces were still in place. Well, most of them, at least. 

    A 35-year-old Steve Nash was still running the show and playing like he was in his mid-20s, joining the 50/40/90 club while averaging 16.5 points and 11 dimes per contest. He was joined by Jason Richardson, Grant Hill and Channing Frye, the beginning of this team's remarkable depth.

    In addition to each of the aforementioned players, Jared Dudley, Robin Lopez, Goran Dragic and Leandro Barbosa all averaged at least seven points per contest. 

    MDA might not have been on the sidelines, while Shawn Marion was gone and key people had put on some years. However, the 2009-10 Suns maintained similarities to that run-and-gun style from a few years prior, and it paid large dividends during a 54-win season. 

6. 2003-04 Sacramento Kings: 107.19

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 110.3

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 102.9

    Win-Loss Record: 55-27

    "But 2004 was a year of defense. The league average efficiency was 102.9 in 2004, the lowest it's been since 1979," wrote Andrew Lynch for Hardwood Paroxysm while tackling the same type of project I've undertaken here. "Hand-checking would be curtailed and defensive three-second violations enforced the following year in an attempt to bring some offense back to the game."

    It was just really difficult to score in 2003-04, but not for the Sacramento Kings (or one other team yet to appear in these rankings). Let's put this in perspective.

    The Kings' traditional offensive rating of 110.3 would be the No. 150 mark of all time. Seriously. It's not even in the top 100.

    Nonetheless, the defenses in 2003-04 took such center stage that these Kings are still on the brink of the top five in adjusted efficiency. That's absolutely insane.

    This was an uptempo squad that shot the ball with remarkable accuracy, led by Peja Stojakovic. He averaged 24.2 points per game, shooting 48 percent from the field and 43.3 percent beyond the arc. Brad Miller, Mike Bibby, Chris Webber, Doug Christie and Bobby Jackson all managed to average double figures as well, and Vlade Divac finished the season at 9.9 points per contest.

    With this many options and passing coming from nearly all spots on the floor, Sacramento proved that offense could still reign supreme, even if defense, in the form of the Minnesota Timberwolves, would win the battle in the playoffs. 

5. 1996-97 Chicago Bulls: 107.22

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 114.4

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 106.7

    Win-Loss Record: 69-13

    The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls might have been the best team Michael Jordan ever played on, but the next year's iteration had an even better offense. 

    Though the '96-97 Bulls had an offensive rating that was 0.8 points per 100 possessions lower, the league as a whole experienced a step back on the scoring end. In 1995-96, the average offensive rating was 107.6; one year later, it dropped to 106.7. 

    That made all the difference for this particular squad, which still featured many of the same pieces. Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc were the top contributors to the scoring efforts, but the combined rebounding efforts of Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley and the aforementioned trio allowed for so many second-chance points. 

    Throughout this article, we've discussed the four factors on offense quite a few times—effective field-goal percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage and free throws per field-goal attempt. Now, let's see how these two Chicago teams stack up: 

     eFG%eFG% RankTOV%TOV% RankORB%ORB% RankFT/FGAFT/FGA Rank
    1995-96 0.517413.1136.910.21726
    1996-97 0.511512.5135.920.19928

    These squads were quite similar, but the rising defensive levels of the league as a whole do end up pushing the later Bulls slightly ahead. 

4. 1997-98 Utah Jazz: 107.33

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 112.7

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 105.0

    Win-Loss Record: 62-20

    Father Time?

    Something more powerful was needed to stop the Utah Jazz. Even with John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and Karl Malone all at least 34 years old, these Jazz put together one of the most potent offenses of all time. And just as always, it was all about that dominant pick-and-roll set that Stockton and Malone would run with one another. 

    The all-time leader in assists averaged 12.0 points and 8.5 dimes per game, while Malone chipped in with 27 points and 3.9 assists per contest on 53 percent shooting from the field. Hornacek did his part with 14.2 points during the average outing, and Bryon Russell, Adam Keefe, Howard Eisley, Greg Ostertag and Shandon Anderson all made sizable contributions to the Salt Lake City efforts. 

    This was by no means a glamorous team, though. 

    The Jazz used a slow pace and relied on getting to the free-throw line quite often. They shot the ball efficiently from the field, made their freebies, racked up assists and created plenty of second-chance points with their tough and gritty style of play. 

    Jerry Sloan's Jazz were never going to win many beauty pageants, but they still asserted themselves as one of the most dominant offenses in NBA history. Until they played the Chicago Bulls, of course. 

3. 2001-02 Dallas Mavericks: 107.37

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 112.2

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 104.5

    Win-Loss Record: 57-25

    Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash were the headliners of this Dallas Mavericks squad in 2001-02, and for good reason. The former averaged a team-high 23.4 points and 2.4 assists per game with a slash line of .477/.397/.853, while the latter produced 17.9 and 7.7 during the typical contest, shooting .483/.455/.887. 

    Not too shabby. 

    However, let's not forget just how good the rest of the roster was for this early-2000s Mavericks team. 

    Michael Finley was squarely in the midst of his prime, averaging an efficient 20.6 points per game during his age-28 season. Plus, Juwan Howard, Raef LaFrentz and Nick Van Exel were all key contributors. Off the bench, Tim Hardaway was still capable of offensive firepower during the portion of his penultimate NBA season that he spent with the Mavs. 

    This was a fast team that shot a lot of threes, put the ball in the basket efficiently and almost completely eschewed turnovers. The only weakness—and yes, even the best offenses of all time can have weaknesses—was a lack of presence on the offensive glass. 

2. 2004-05 Phoenix Suns: 107.92

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    Barry Gossage/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 114.5

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 106.1

    Win-Loss Record: 62-20

    The 2006-07 Phoenix Suns were great. The 2009-10 version was even better. However, the 2004-05 Suns were the pinnacle of the run-and-gun excellence for this desert-based franchise. 

    Mike D'Antonio was on the sidelines, coaching up an MVP point guard (Steve Nash), arguably the best player in fantasy basketball (Shawn Marion) and a dominant athletic big (Amar'e Stoudemire). Oh, but that wasn't it. 

    Joe Johnson was still on this squad, averaging 17.1 points per game before he'd later join the Atlanta Hawks and establish himself as a perennial All-Star. A 24-year-old Quentin Richardson was thriving inside and outside, and the bench featured an endless supply of decent role players who could fill in for each other after injuries took their toll. 

    This was just perfect. 

    The San Antonio Spurs did get the better of Phoenix during the Western Conference Finals, as it didn't help that the Suns employed a defense that was slightly worse than the league average. But this roster will always be remembered as one of the best scoring bunches of all time, even by those who only look at points scored as their sole method of evaluation. 

    Was the "seven seconds or less" offense a gimmick?

    I have a better question. 

    Does it matter? 

1. 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks: 108.94

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Offensive Rating: 112.1

    League-Average Offensive Rating: 102.9

    Win-Loss Record: 52-30

    Can we just take a minute to appreciate Steve Nash? 

    There were 20 teams featured in these rankings, and he ran the point for six of the top dozen. Think about that, and I'll rephrase it. Nash led the charge for six of the best 12 offensive units in NBA history. 

    That's absolutely unbelievable. Just like these 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks. 

    As a sidenote, it's also worth noting that Don Nelson and Mike D'Antoni were calling the shots for five of those six squads, blessing Nash with the perfect systems. Did he make them, or did they make him? No one really knows, though I lean more toward Nash's side of the spectrum, given the success he had at the end of his Phoenix tenure without MDA on the sidelines. 

    Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Antawn Jamison, Antoine Walker and Michael Finley all averaged at least 14 points per game. Josh Howard, Marquis Daniels and Tony Delk all topped six. That's already eight quality scorers, nearly all of which played extremely efficient offensive basketball. 

    Dallas wasn't a dominant three-point team, but it was incredible inside the arc, getting easy buckets and using assists on almost everything. Plus, the Mavericks abhorred turnovers and did everything in their power to create second-chance points, finishing the season with the league's No. 3 offensive rebound percentage. 

    On the surface level, a 112.1 offensive rating doesn't seem to mix well with the best offense of all time. In fact, there have been 57 squads who have scored more points per 100 possessions. But remember what we've previously discussed about the defensive potency of the league during the 2003-04 season? 

    That makes all the difference. 


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