Ranking Every NBA Franchise on Historical Success

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2017

Ranking Every NBA Franchise on Historical Success

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Recency bias does not apply here. 

    The events that transpired in the 2016-17 NBA season carry the same weight as those that unfolded back in the 1950s. Every campaign is treated equally when trying to determine which franchises have experienced the most historical success. 

    Who will emerge atop the rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers? How high can the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat rise, since they missed the earliest portions of NBA history? Can the Golden State Warriors overcome years of mediocrity with their disproportionate helping of success in the last few seasons? 

    All those questions and more will be answered as we count down from the Association's historical basement-dwellers to the franchises that stand above all the rest. 


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    Brian Drake/Getty Images

    To give expansion franchises a fair shake, we're not looking at cumulative tallies. That would grant the original organizations who have logged 69 NBA seasons an unfair advantage, one that's impossible for newer programs to overcome. 

    Instead, we're analyzing which of the 30 teams have done the most during their average go-around. To do so, five overarching categories are put into the calculators: 

    1. Historical winning percentage: Duh. Winning games has to matter, even during the regular season. 
    2. Years per playoff appearance: On average, how many seasons must a team play before it can expect to escape the lottery? Postseason mainstays are rewarded here. 
    3. Years per Finals appearance: Winning in the playoffs matters, but titles shouldn't be the only barometer. 
    4. Years per championship: Titles still matter, of course. 
    5. All-Stars per season: Though All-Stars are subjective accolades, and a handful of underserving players have gained inclusion over the years, star power is important. Part of being a successful franchise is attracting fans and gaining prestige, and representation at these interconference battles is a solid way to measure that historically. The best teams usually feature the best, most popular players. 

    Once we had scores in all five categories, we summed the Z-scores earned in every category by each franchise. Using just their ranks doesn't give proper credit to the organizations that fall way behind or dominate a particular category. The rungs on these ladders just aren't evenly spaced. 

    The programs with the highest total scores? Well, those are the ones you'll find at the top of these objective rankings. 

30. Los Angeles Clippers, Minus-8.42

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 39.9

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 3.62

    Years per Finals AppearanceN/A

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.57


    Back when they were known as the Buffalo Braves and featured Bob McAdoo at the helm, this franchise made the playoffs just three times in eight seasons. Transitioning to the San Diego Clippers didn't help, as World B. Free, Swen Nater and others couldn't prevent a postseason goose egg in six attempts. 

    Then the Los Angeles Clippers plunged into decades of almost uninterrupted futility. Danny Manning and Mark Jackson helped earn a pair of playoff berths in the early 1990s. Loy Vaught and Elton Brand posted big numbers during lottery appearance after lottery appearance. 

    It wasn't until recent years, with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan leading the charge, that the Clippers truly became a competitive squad in the Western Conference. Fortunately, that should remain true even after the point guard's departure to the Houston Rockets, since the Clips restocked nicely and built plenty of depth behind their incumbent star players. 

    But even after six straight trips beyond 82 games, LAC remains one of two organizations trailing the rest of the field by a rather wide margin. It ranks dead last in years per playoff and Finals appearances. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves have a worse winning percentage, while just the Phoenix Suns have a lengthier title drought. Thanks to Paul and Griffin (among others), the Clippers do at least sit ahead of four teams in the All-Star category. 

    But nothing about this history is particularly positive. 

29. Minnesota Timberwolves, Minus-8.09

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    David Sherman/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 39.1

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 3.5

    Years per Finals AppearanceN/A

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.57


    Though three teams have produced fewer All-Stars per season (the Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies), the distribution of those accolades throughout Minnesota Timberwolves history is rather telling. Take a gander at how many different players have represented this franchise at the midseason festivities:

    • Kevin Garnett: 10 All-Star berths
    • Kevin Love: three All-Star berths 
    • Sam Cassell: one All-Star berth
    • Tom Gugliotta: one All-Star berth
    • Wally Szczerbiak: one All-Star berth

    That's it. 

    Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins should change that going forward, but we're concerned with the past rather than the future in this particular analysis. The history of the 'Wolves just isn't littered with many quality players, and it's led to the worst winning percentage of any current franchise. 

    And lest we forget, the playoff drought now dates back to 2003-04, when Garnett was pacing Minnesota in almost every statistical category and won MVP for his well-rounded efforts. 

28. Charlotte Hornets, Minus-6.21

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 44

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2.7

    Years per Finals AppearanceN/A

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.41


    The Charlotte Hornets' history is a bit strange, as it contains a gap in the middle. When the team changed names to the current one in 2014, it absorbed the years of the teal-clad Hornets from the '90s who were led by Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues. The Charlotte Bobcats also count for these purposes, but not anything that took place in New Orleans. 

    Even with the joining together of the two disparate eras, these Hornets still couldn't pull themselves out of the basement. 

    Their winning percentage still sits well below .500, and they haven't advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2002, when Baron Davis, P.J. Brown, Elden Campbell and David Wesley led them beyond the Orlando Magic in the opening series. Somewhat sadly, those remain some of the biggest names this organization has featured while compiling a grand total of 11 All-Star selections, earned by Johnson, Mourning, Glen Rice, Eddie Jones, Davis, Gerald Wallace and Kemba Walker. 

    Sure, this would be slightly different if the Hornets retained historical access to Jamal Mashburn, Jamaal Magloire and the full extent of Davis' tenure. But not by much, and not by enough to push them toward the new tier of teams beginning at No. 26. 

    Without playoff success or a string of seasons pushing the overall winning percentage closer to .500, Charlotte is doomed to remain toward the bottom of the pile. 

27. Memphis Grizzlies, Minus-5.96

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 42

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2.2

    Years per Finals AppearanceN/A

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.27


    From the Vancouver Grizzlies days and the time of Bryant "Big Country" Reeves to the Memphis grit-and-grind era that finally seems like it's drawing to a conclusion, this organization hasn't experienced much top-level success. 

    Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are the only All-Stars, which means no franchise has put forth fewer representatives for the interconference clash. Thanks primarily to the putridity of the Vancouver squads (0.22 winning percentage), the recent competitiveness of the Memphis iterations hasn't been enough to drag the overall win-loss record higher than No. 27. 

    But the playoffs are the saving grace. 

    Thanks to the younger Gasol brother, Mike Conley, Randolph and the others who helped give this squad a tough-nosed, defensive identity, the Grizz have consistently overperformed many of their underlying metrics in recent years. Despite the rigors that come with playing in the West, they've made the playoffs each of the last seven go-rounds, which dramatically changed their postseason score in this analysis. 

    If they'd continued advancing past the regular season at pre-2010 levels (i.e., making it once every five years), they'd have dropped well below the Los Angeles Clippers, sitting dead last in these rankings by a wide margin. 

26. Toronto Raptors, Minus-4.67

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 44.7

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2.44

    Years per Finals AppearanceN/A

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.77


    Since entering the league as an expansion team in 1995, the Toronto Raptors have almost always had a star gracing their squad. 

    The first few years were rough, as is expected for a new organization attempting to break into the ranks of the Association. Then Vince Carter came along to save the day. Though his exit was acrimonious and the team underachieved while he was throwing down one highlight-reel dunk after another, he was the original Toronto superstar. Chris Bosh came next, holding down the fort until he departed for the Miami Heat and opened the door for the Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan era. 

    Many teams would kill for that type of celestial continuity. 

    But that's about where the positives end. 

    Toronto boasts just nine playoff appearances in its 22-season history, and only three of them have featured runs that went beyond the opening round. No version was better than the 2015-16 Raptors, who followed up a franchise-best regular season (56-26) by toppling the Indiana Pacers and Heat before falling to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    Each of the last four seasons are among the four best in franchise history, though, so Toronto can safely claim it's on a distinctly upward trajectory. 

25. New Orleans Pelicans, Minus-4.14

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    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 46.3

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2.5

    Years per Finals AppearanceN/A

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.87


    With only 15 seasons officially to their credit, the New Orleans Pelicans haven't had many opportunities to achieve great things.

    They've made the playoffs six times in the always-difficult Western Conference, but only the 2008 New Orleans Hornets escaped the first round. That team, behind plenty of Chris Paul-Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls and Paul-David West pick-and-pops, took down the Dallas Mavericks in five games before falling to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. 

    Yes, you're reading that correctly. 

    Paul, the legendary point guard who can't escape the lack of postseason success on his resume, was actually part of the premier playoff run in a franchise's history. Unfortunately for all parties involved, that should say quite a bit. 

    Still, while the number of postseason trips—and the early exits—don't bode well for NOLA's final standing, it's always possessed some star power that leads to a respectable number of victories. The Pelicans (and Hornets before them) have typically hovered around .500, while Jamal Mashburn, Jamaal Magloire, Baron Davis, Paul, West and Anthony Davis have allowed for near-constant representation in the All-Star proceedings. 

    It's just slightly disconcerting that a 24-year-old big man with a lengthy list of prior injuries already ranks No. 2 in career win shares for the franchise.  

24. Brooklyn Nets, Minus-3.63

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 41.6

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2.16

    Years per Finals Appearance20.5

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.54


    If we included the New York Nets' time in the ABA within the scope of our analysis, this franchise would have two titles to its name, as well as another Finals appearance from 1972, when it lost to the Indiana Pacers. But we're only interested in the NBA portion of history, which means we're left looking at 41 seasons—only 19 of which have resulted in playoff berths. 

    Quite frankly, one factor is causing the Nets to overperform here. 

    They've lacked star power throughout the years, with Buck Williams, Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Brook Lopez and Kerry Kittles emerging as the career leaders in win shares. Only the Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies have produced fewer All-Stars during their average season, and that number doesn't seem likely to trend up in the immediate future. 

    Winning percentage tells a similar story, though relevant history dates back far enough that outlier seasons such as the 12-70 campaign in 2009-10 can only drag down the overall mark so far. Just the bottom two teams in these rankings have fared worse. Naturally, that hasn't led to an inordinate number of playoff appearances. 

    But the saving grace is a pair of trips to the NBA Finals—the first organization in these rankings to achieve such a feat. Though they finished as runners-up both times, Kidd, Jefferson and the rest of the early-aughts Nets did represent the Eastern Conference in back-to-back seasons, first getting swept by the Los Angeles Lakers, then ceding to the San Antonio Spurs. 

23. Denver Nuggets, Minus-3.6

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 45.4

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.71

    Years per Finals AppearanceN/A

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.78


    This offseason's Paul Millsap signing is an instructive one, because the acquisition of an All-Star big man in his 30s was viewed as a game-changing deal—one of the best gets in this franchise's history. The Denver Nuggets have experienced plenty of success up until playoff runs that always end short of the NBA Finals, but their indelible moments have largely been produced by home-grown talents or men acquired via trade. 

    Alex English, for example, paced the entire Association in scoring during the 1980s while playing for the Nuggets, and he was brought in through a trade with the Indiana Pacers. Nikola Jokic and Carmelo Anthony were both found in the draft, while the original studs (Dan Issel, David Thompson, Kiki Vandeweghe) got their NBA careers kicked off in the Mile High City. 

    Thirteen different players have made All-Star rosters while wearing a Denver uniform. But how many have done so after joining as a free agent who had never before suited up for the Nuggets?

    Literally zero. Millsap could be the first. 

    Denver has enjoyed some fantastic seasons—going 57-25 in 2012-13 while proving just about unbeatable within the friendly, altitude-aided confines of the Pepsi Center, for example. But it won't be able to truly ascend the ranks without first proving itself a compelling destination.  

22. Sacramento Kings, Minus-3.35

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 45.8

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2.38

    Years per Finals Appearance69

    Years per Championship: 69

    All-Stars per Season: 1.16


    The Brooklyn Nets were the first organization in this countdown with a trip to the NBA Finals; the Sacramento Kings are the first with an actual title. 

    Of course, they've only won a single championship in their 69-year history, and they weren't even known as the Sacramento Kings back then. Led by Arnie Risen, Bob Davies, Jack Coleman and Bobby Wanzer, the 1950-51 Rochester Royals stormed their way to some jewelry during their third year of existence, taking down the Fort Wayne Pistons, Minneapolis Lakers and New York Knicks in the process. 

    Obviously, quite a bit has changed since then, including the Kings' ability to emerge victoriously. 

    Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double while wearing a Cincinnati Royals uniform. Tiny Archibald paced the league in both scoring and assists just after the organization moved and became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings. Mitch Richmond thrived for the Sacramento version, preceding big names such as Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Kevin Martin and DeMarcus Cousins.

    But despite the plethora of household figures and above-average All-Star representation (No. 14 in that category), wins have been tough to come by. The Kings have suffered through far too many playoff droughts, including a current one that dates back to 2006-07, for them to move out of the bottom third in these rankings.  

21. Indiana Pacers, Minus-2

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 49.7

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.71

    Years per Finals Appearance41

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.61


    The Indiana Pacers have been thoroughly mediocre throughout most of their existence. That can be remedied by an organization with a title to its credit, but not one that's advanced to the NBA Finals (note: not ABA Finals) just once since the merger of the two leagues. 

    These aren't just my words, though. Here's what Mark Titus recently wrote for The Ringer: 

    "It enters the 2017-18 season in a familiar position of mediocrity, seeming to exist solely so that the real NBA attractions have a reason to come to one of the most basketball-crazed cities in America. Seriously, think about any Pacers team in the last 40 years that moved the national needle. Now consider this: Is the Pacers squad you're thinking of relevant only because it served as a foil for a team that actually mattered? The answer is yes, because that will forever be Indiana's role in the NBA. Whether losing to the Magic and Knicks in the mid-1990s, the Bulls in the late '90s, the Lakers in the early 2000s, or the Heat in the early 2010s, the Pacers have an established ceiling: good enough to be taken seriously, but not good enough to pose a legitimate Finals threat."

    Harsh? Maybe. True? Well, the facts seem to back Titus up. 

    The Pacers, even factoring in Reggie Miller's exploits throughout his Hall of Fame career, rank exactly 15th in both winning percentage and years per playoff appearance. They're just dragged further down the rankings by a relative lack of All-Stars and precious few trophies on their collective mantle. 

20. Orlando Magic, Minus-1.25

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    Larry W. Smith/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 48.5

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2

    Years per Finals Appearance: 14

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 0.79


    For a relatively new franchise that hasn't lured too many stars into its clutches—Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal were all brought in during the draft and have accounted for 63.6 percent of the All-Star appearances—the Orlando Magic are doing quite well. 

    They've typically been a consistent fixture in the playoffs, making it past the regular season once every two years, on average. They've won nearly half their games, which leaves them trailing only 17 teams in that particular category. And, perhaps most importantly, the two best big men in franchise history have each carried their troops to the brink of a title. 

    O'Neal did so back in 1995 (his third season in the NBA), though he and the Magic were swept by Hakeem Olajuwon's Houston Rockets on the biggest stage. Fourteen years later, Howard got past LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in a five-game series. 

    But don't be disheartened by the dearth of titles. Only 12 organizations have shorter average gaps between trips to the Finals, and just half the league has more total ventures to that last series on the NBA calendar. Considering the natural disadvantage that stems from gaining such late entry to the league, that's nothing to be embarrassed about. 

19. Cleveland Cavaliers, Minus-0.76

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 46.7

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2.24

    Years per Finals Appearance11.75

    Years per Championship: 47

    All-Stars per Season: 0.83


    Thank you, LeBron James. 

    If the world's best player hadn't led his Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 series deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals against the 73-win Golden State Warriors—and sparked countless jokes at the Dubs' expense—his hometown organization wouldn't come close to sniffing the top half of these rankings. 

    When it comes to wins, playoff appearances and All-Star nods, the Cavaliers have been a middling organization. In fact, removing James from the equation gives Cleveland only 30 All-Star bids in 47 seasons, and that average of 0.64 per campaign would beat out only six other organizations. 

    But remove the lone title? That drops the Cavs behind the two teams preceding them in this countdown, and that's saying nothing of the simple fact that all four Finals bids have come under James' supervision. 

    Without the resident G.O.A.T. candidate, Cleveland simply hasn't accomplished much. Kyrie Irving couldn't make the playoffs without his superstar running mate. The Mark Price/Larry Nance/Brad Daugherty era led to just one appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. Before that, the 1975-76 iteration, paced in scoring by Jim Chones and Campy Russell, had the franchise's best finish by making it to that same penultimate stage. 

    So again, thank goodness for LeBron James. 

18. Washington Wizards, Minus-0.44

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 45.3

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2

    Years per Finals Appearance14

    Years per Championship: 56

    All-Stars per Season: 1.07


    Now that he's signed a massive contract extension and figures to spend his entire prime with the Washington Wizards, John Wall has a serious chance to get his jersey retired by the organization and establish himself as the premier talent in the nation's capital.

    He's already up to seventh in career win shares for the Wizards/Bullets, trailing only Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Walt Bellamy, Greg Ballard, Jack Marin and Gilbert Arenas. But unless Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. continue trending toward the top of their respective positions in the current NBA landscape, he'll have trouble finding much team-oriented success. 

    Right now, credit in those categories almost exclusively goes to the '70s squads. 

    During that decade, with Unseld and Hayes teaming up as the franchise relocated from Baltimore to D.C. (and was once known as the Capital Bullets), this organization made the playoffs every single year. Four times, it advanced to the Finals, and those remain its only such appearances. In 1978, the Wizards even won the franchise's lone title, with Unseld taking home MVP honors. 

    That much sustained success helps make up for the futility of Washington basketball throughout the '90s and lengthy portions of the current millennium. The Wizards still rank just No. 24 in lifetime winning percentage, but that's only one of the five relevant factors. 

17. Utah Jazz, 0.35

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 53.7

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.65

    Years per Finals Appearance: 21.5

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 1


    How much does one title matter?

    Well, the Utah Jazz are currently the first team in these rankings with a positive overall score, thanks primarily to boasting the sixth-best winning percentage in NBA history. But if they'd overcome Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in either of their two Finals clashes during the late-'90s, they'd have jumped past the next four franchises.

    Alas, they didn't, and the fourth significant digit drops them below the countdown's No. 16 finisher. But John Stockton and Karl Malone still did their darnedest, achieving more than a handful of stellar regular seasons and deep postseason runs before parting ways. 

    Though other great players such as Carlos Boozer, Adrian Dantley, Rudy Gobert, Andrei Kirilenko, Pete Maravich and Deron Williams have called Salt Lake City (or, in Maravich's case, New Orleans) home, that pick-and-roll duo from the '80s and '90s rises above everyone else in franchise history.

    Together, Stockton and Malone earned 438 win shares for the Jazz. Next up is Dantley (76.3), but you actually need Nos. 3-11 to sum their scores if you wish to topple the point guard-power forward combo. For perspective, that takes us all the way down to Rickey Green (41.3) on the career leaderboard.  

    Rarely have two contemporary players so completely defined the history of an NBA organization. 

16. Milwaukee Bucks, 0.35

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    NBA Photo Library/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 51

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.69

    Years per Finals Appearance24.5

    Years per Championship: 49

    All-Stars per Season: 0.82


    Pull up a list of the Milwaukee Bucks' seasons throughout franchise history and throw a dart at it. Chances are good you'll hit one of the campaigns in which this organization advanced to the playoffs, since only 11 have done so more frequently. 

    Perhaps even more impressively, 13 different versions of the Bucks have won at least 50 games—excellent years that are in part canceled out by the overall ineptitude of the 1990s squads, which experienced a franchise-worst seven-year playoff drought.

    But so long as we're excluding that unfortunate period, almost every era in Milwaukee has produced a dominant unit. 

    First came Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, who teamed up to win the only title in franchise history during the 1970-71 spin. Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief and Jack Sikma took over after that, making the Eastern Conference Finals three times in a four-year stretch. Fast forward a bit and you get to Ray Allen's tenure. Now, after a brief lull while Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut served as the featured pieces, Giannis Antetokounmpo is ready to bring this historic franchise back to prominence. 

    But trips to the Finals are still missing. 

    In 49 years, Milwaukee has played on that stage just twice, and it hasn't returned since 1974. If that doesn't change, it won't be able to work its way back into the top half of these rankings for quite some time. 

15. Dallas Mavericks, 0.75

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 50.7

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.76

    Years per Finals Appearance18.5

    Years per Championship: 37

    All-Stars per Season: 0.78


    Here's a fun experiment. 

    Dirk Nowtzki has basically become synonymous with the Dallas Mavericks, so how would they have fared if we only looked at the portion of franchise history since they acquired him?

    Since the 1998 NBA draft (remember, they traded Robert Traylor to the Milwaukee Bucks for Nowitzki's services), the Mavericks have won a staggering 63.7 percent of their games—a number dragged down by the most recent seasons and the first two years of the German 7-footer's career, but still the top mark in NBA history. They've made the playoffs 15 times in 19 seasons (1.27 years per postseason appearance), advanced to the Finals twice (8.5 years per Finals appearance) and won a title in 2011 behind Nowitzki's heroics (19 years per title).

    Throw in 19 All-Stars in the same number of years, and Dirk-driven Dallas would sit at No. 4 in this countdown. Not too shabby. 

    Of course, the opposite is also true. If Nowitzki has been present for just over half of this franchise's history, the team ranks No. 4 during his career and it still sits at No. 15 overall, you can imagine just how inept the Mavericks have been without the best player they've ever claimed. 

14. Phoenix Suns, 0.82

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 54.1

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.69

    Years per Finals Appearance: 24.5

    Years per Championship: N/A

    All-Stars per Season: 1.27


    Of the NBA's 30 franchises, a dozen have never experienced the unabashed joy that comes with holding up the Larry O'Brien Trophy (or a similar trophy from an earlier era). None rank higher than the Phoenix Suns, who have been remarkably consistent over their history despite never finishing atop the pack. 

    Alvan Adams was unforgettable during the franchise's early years. Kevin Johnson was even better in the early '90s, and we can't just overlook Larry Nance or Charles Barkley during their relatively brief tenures. But in terms of unabashed entertainment value, no portion of Phoenix history, not even the classic Gar Heard moment in 1976, could top the run-and-gun era under head coach Mike D'Antonio. 

    Steve Nash won a pair of MVPs, while Shawn Marion and Amar'e Stoudemire asserted themselves as All-Stars. Most importantly, they just kept winning games, to the point that they made the Western Conference Finals three times in a six-year span. 

    But a title eluded them, just as it has every other great squad put together in the desert. Only two different units have even advanced to the NBA Finals—none more recently than the star-studded 1992-93 group that featured Barkley, Johnson, Cedric Ceballos, Tom Chambers and Danny Ainge. 

    Just for fun, let's pretend they'd taken down Michael Jordan and handed the legendary 2-guard the only blemish on his Finals resume. With just that one championship, they'd move three spots higher in this pecking order. 

13. Atlanta Hawks, 1.39

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    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 50

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.48

    Years per Finals Appearance17

    Years per Championship: 68

    All-Stars per Season: 1.35


    Though their playoff streak will likely end in 2017-18 after losing Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap this offseason, the Atlanta Hawks have now made the postseason in 10 consecutive seasons. They just haven't made the Finals even once during that span, and it was preceded by an eight-year playoff drought.

    Atlanta has been the definition of mediocre for quite some time.

    Millsap and Al Horford couldn't change that, though they did win a franchise-record 60 games in 2014-15, including a perfect month. Ditto for Mookie Blaylock, Dikembe Mutombo and Dominique Wilkins, who kept the Hawks in playoff contention but could never quite get over the hump. In fact, we have to go way back in NBA history to find a player who could. 

    That would be Bob Pettit, who led the Hawks (then located in St. Louis) to the Finals in 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1961. They even dethroned Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics—thanks in part to an injury suffered by the Hall of Fame center—to win the franchise's lone championship in '58. 

    Yes, those exploits took place over five decades ago. But the present isn't any more important than the past when looking at an organization's entire track record, which allows these Hawks to still sit on the verge of the top dozen and well within the top half. 

12. Portland Trail Blazers, 1.7

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    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 53.4

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.42

    Years per Finals Appearance: 15.67

    Years per Championship: 47

    All-Stars per Season: 0.85


    The Portland Trail Blazers just don't do anything but make the playoffs. 

    With the exception of their first six years of existence and a five-year dry spell while recovering from the Jail Blazers era, Rip City has literally never gone three consecutive seasons without participating in the postseason. In fact, their misses in 2012 and 2013 were the first back-to-back lottery finishes since Bill Walton's first two go-rounds out of UCLA. 

    That, in a nutshell, is consistency. 

    But what the Blazers did with their constant playoff appearances allows an entirely different story to unfold. 

    The Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum era has produced a memorable buzzer-beater against the Houston Rockets, but the team has yet to get past the second round. Clyde Drexler took Portland to the Finals twice, but he fell to the Detroit Pistons in 1990 and the Chicago Bulls two years later. Only Walton has led this franchise to a championship, doing so with a—Marv Albert voice—spectacular year in 1976-77. 

    Would Portland have been home to a dynasty if the red-haired center had stayed healthy? Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing. 

    But even with the team quickly declining into first-round-exit material after reigning supreme over the rest of the Association, that title helped its standing here rather significantly. 

11. Golden State Warriors, 1.91

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 47.8

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 2.15

    Years per Finals Appearance7.89

    Years per Championship: 14.2

    All-Stars per Season: 1.24


    The Steve Kerr era has changed everything. Not because Mark Jackson was overmatched as a head coach (that couldn't be further from the truth), but because Stephen Curry developed into an MVP, Draymond Green morphed into a game-changing two-way force, and Kevin Durant eventually joined the squad.

    The Golden State Warriors—dating back to their early days in San Francisco and Philadelphia—have boasted plenty of impressive players. Joe Fulks, Neil Johnston, Paul Arizin, Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, the Run TMC combination of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin...you name 'em.

    But if we remove the last three years from this franchise's history, a lot changes.

    The winning percentage goes down to 46.1 percent. The years per playoff appearance, Finals showing and championship elevate to 2.27, 11.33 and 22.67, respectively. The Dubs would feature "only" 1.16 All-Stars per season. Combine all those factors, and Golden State would drop behind the Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns. 

    That might not seem like a big decline, but it's a monumental fall when we're only removing three seasons, or just 4.2 percent of the franchise's history. 

    On the flip side, the Warriors' marks in those last three years have been mind-numbingly excellent. They've made the playoffs and the Finals every year, earned two championships, produced a whopping nine All-Stars and won a staggering 84.15 percent of their outings. Those scores combine to give Golden State a cumulative mark that would nearly double that of the actual first-place finisher. 

    We're looking at a modern-day dynasty that's having a massive impact on a franchise's overall fortunes. 

10. Oklahoma City Thunder, 2.24

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 53.9

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.72

    Years per Finals Appearance: 12.5

    Years per Championship: 50

    All-Stars per Season: 1.24


    For better or worse, the Oklahoma City Thunder's history does include the Seattle SuperSonics years. Until the NBA legislates otherwise or grants the Pacific Northwest another team that reabsorbs its old records, much like the Charlotte Hornets have done, it's simply not our place to decide otherwise.

    It might feel icky to lump Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Dale Ellis, Fred Brown and the other Seattle legends in with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and James Harden, but that's what we're forced to do. Please know that it makes me feel queasy all the same. 

    So rather than focusing on the extent of this franchise's lengthy history, which dates back to 1967, let's instead home in on the OKC portion. You can see for yourself that the breadth of the Thunder annals leaves the team just inside the top 10, thanks primarily to a dynamite winning percentage. 

    But while displaying "Oklahoma City" on the front of their jerseys, Thunder players have gone 441-281 (0.611). They've made the playoffs every 1.29 years, advanced to the Finals once in their abbreviated history and failed to win a championship. Lastly, they've sent 13 representatives to the All-Star proceedings in nine seasons. 

    Add all those factors together, and the OKC-only version would just barely nudge its way into the top five of these rankings.  

9. New York Knicks, 2.35

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 49.2

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.69

    Years per Finals Appearance: 8.88

    Years per Championship: 35.5

    All-Stars per Season: 1.34


    Before every New York Knicks fan rests his or her head on their pillow and prepares to drift into the land of dreams, they should first express their gratitude for Willis Reed and Walt Frazier. 

    The Carmelo Anthony era hasn't led to much success, though the 2012-13 run to the Eastern Conference Semifinals still made for an enjoyable experience. Patrick Ewing turned the Knicks into playoff mainstays and even allowed Madison Square Garden to host games during two separate Finals series. Bill Cartwright left plenty of indelible memories. Harry Gallatin served as the team's first superstar and experienced notable postseason success in the NBA's early years. 

    But none of them could win titles. 

    Frazier and Reed—as well as notable players such as Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett, Jerry Lucas and Earl Monroe—changed that in both 1970 and 1973. Those championships in close succession remain the only ring-earning endeavors in this franchise's star-studded history, and the Knicks wouldn't hold down a top-10 spot without them. 

    They wouldn't without the prestige associated with this franchise, either. Only five teams have produced more All-Stars per season, even after the relative dry spell in the last few years that has only seen Anthony gain entry to the midseason circus. 

8. Houston Rockets, 2.8

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 52

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.61

    Years per Finals Appearance: 12.5

    Years per Championship: 25

    All-Stars per Season: 1.16


    The Houston Rockets are the most balanced of any upper-tier franchise (excluding the top two finishers, who just ran away from the field in this competition). 

    They've won more than half of their games throughout franchise history—and that number should keep trending up now that the current squad has paired James Harden and Chris Paul. They've also had enough dry spells early on to cancel out some of the more recent exploits. Still, only 14 current organizations are .500 or better overall. 

    Similarly, they've made the playoffs more often than not. But they've also had lengthier droughts than many of the squads in the top portion of these rankings, missing in three, four and five consecutive seasons at various points.

    The same is true of their ability to advance through the entire Western Conference field, since their four Finals appearances—three with Hakeem Olajuwon as the central figure, and one with Moses Malone—are good, but not truly great. And, as you may have guessed, a pair of titles falls into the same category, even if they were earned in back-to-back fashion while Michael Jordan was swinging and missing at a different kind of ball. 

    In fact, the weakest part of Houston's resume is its All-Star representation. Earning 58 selections in 50 seasons ranks No. 12 among the 30 current organizations, sandwiched between the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat. 

7. Detroit Pistons, 3.1

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    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 48.7

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.68

    Years per Finals Appearance: 9.86

    Years per Championship: 23

    All-Stars per Season: 1.51


    Rarely has a franchise's identity matched that of the city it resides in quite so well. 

    The "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons were a tough-nosed, defense-first squad that played physically enough to frustrate Michael Jordan for years. Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman refused to yield even an inch. Then, after Grant Hill tantalized the world with his potential before succumbing to constant injuries, the Ben Wallace era began. 

    Winning the third title in franchise history, the 2003-04 Pistons were one of the most dominant defensive outfits the league has ever seen. Could they have toppled the title-earning bunches from 1988-89 and 1989-90? No one will ever know, and they don't have to. 

    Either way, the Pistons are one of just eight teams with at least three championships. And that's not even the most impressive part of their profile, since they've produced so many stars that they've overcome a substandard winning percentage to rank third in All-Stars per season. 

    Eleven different times, Detroit—or Fort Wayne in the early years—has produced three All-Stars in the same campaign. Twice (Larry Foust, Mel Hutchins, Jack Molinas and Andy Phillip in 1953-54; Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton in 2005-06), they've sent four players to strut their stuff for the Eastern Conference. 

6. Miami Heat, 3.69

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 52

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.53

    Years per Finals Appearance: 5.8

    Years per Championship: 9.67

    All-Stars per Season: 1.14


    The Miami Heat are a great example of why we're looking at these franchises on a per-season basis. 

    They've only been around for 29 seasons, which prevents them from rising nearly as high in a cumulative analysis. For instance, though their five Finals appearances are more than all but eight squads, only the top two finishers have fewer years per Finals showing. 

    Other categories fall into similar patterns. So on and so forth. 

    The first few seasons in South Beach were rough, as the Heat only advanced to the postseason twice in seven tries. But Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning soon changed that, and only a brief lottery lull occurred before Dwyane Wade sparked a rise back into the most important part of the NBA calendar. Since then, he's teamed up with Shaquille O'Neal to win a title and earned two more championships alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh. 

    Now, the Heat are attempting to climb back out of the lottery after one of the most bizarre seasons in NBA history. According to NBA Math's rolling team ratings, Miami actually spent one day apiece as the Association's best and worst team during the 2016-17 campaign, and a second-half surge almost allowed it to climb all the way back into the playoff picture. 

    Completing the climb still would've left the Heat just outside the top five, but it would've been a nice story all the same. 

5. Philadelphia 76ers, 3.93

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 51.1

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.45

    Years per Finals Appearance7.56

    Years per Championship: 22.67

    All-Stars per Season: 1.47


    Don't make the mistake of assuming the "Trust the Process" portion of the Philadelphia 76ers' record books is indicative of the franchise's history as a whole. In fact, the current five-year span of lottery finishes and bottoming out is just the third time the Sixers have missed the playoffs for more than two consecutive seasons. 

    This organization made its NBA debut in 1949-50 as the Syracuse Nationals, and it would quickly reel off 22 straight trips to the playoffs. Thanks to the greatness of Hall of Famers such as Dolph Schayes, Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer and plenty of others, the Nationals/76ers made the Finals four times—including in their inaugural season—and won titles in both 1955 and 1967. 

    Since then, Philadelphia has largely continued to experience success. 

    While Julius Erving served as the face of the franchise, the Sixers advanced through the Eastern Conference four more times, even sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers to earn the 1983 championship. Charles Barkley kept them functioning as a playoff mainstay for a while longer, and then, after a seven-year drought (the longest in franchise history), Allen Iverson carried them back to relevancy. 

    Iverson made countless All-Star squads, won MVP and converted innumerable supporters into hardcore fans of the franchise. He also almost single-handedly carried Philly to its ninth Finals berth—a number only two organizations have topped. 

4. Chicago Bulls, 4.76

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 52.2

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.17

    Years per Finals Appearance6.83

    Years per Championship: 6.83

    All-Stars per Season: 1.29


    The Chicago Bulls are one of just nine franchises without a single loss on the sport's biggest stage.

    Seven of them—the Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans and Toronto Raptors—are part of the club because they've never even advanced to the NBA Finals, so it's literally impossible for them to have that type of unfortunate line on their resumes. The Sacramento Kings are 1-of-1, thanks to their 1951 title as the Rochester Royals. 

    The Bulls have made six trips and emerged victorious from every single one. 

    Sure, all of them featured Michael Jordan as the roster's central figure, and he was joined by talented supporting casts comprised of notable names such as Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr and plenty others. But the championships all count the same, and regardless of the distribution throughout history, it's rather impressive that a franchise is winning, on average, about once every seven years. 

    Still, Chicago might sink further down the rankings if it can't find another franchise centerpiece. No other era has come close to matching Jordan's exploits. 

    Bob Boozer and Chet Walker won plenty of games back when the Bulls were still in the Western Conference. Artis Gilmore threw up big numbers but had trouble beating .500 records. Tom Thibodeau's time coaching Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah showed lots of promise, but injuries got in the way. 

    Even with Jordan's years included in the mix, the overall winning percentage and All-Star representation just can't quite match the championship output in this analysis. 

3. San Antonio Spurs, 6.7

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    D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 62.4

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.11

    Years per Finals Appearance: 6.83

    Years per Championship: 8.2

    All-Stars per Season: 1.32


    The San Antonio Spurs simply aren't fair. 

    They have the highest winning percentage in the NBA, and the gap between them and the second-place Los Angeles Lakers is quite substantial. In fact, if the Spurs dropped out of the league or continued to record results at exactly the same rate, the Lakers would have to win 370 consecutive games to have a higher mark. That's slightly over 4.5 seasons of entirely undefeated play. 

    Of course, this helps San Antonio's score a wee bit. So too does making the playoffs at a stronger rate than any other franchise, as it's missed out on the postseason fun just four times since merging into the NBA. The most recent exclusion came when David Robinson missed the majority of the 1996-97 season, which resulted in the No. 1 pick and Tim Duncan. So...[insert shrug emoticon].

    Throw in five titles and six Finals appearances—the only loss came to the Big Three-led Miami Heat in 2013—and you have a nearly perfect resume, even for a squad that hasn't been along for as long a duration as the other premier programs. We're not including the ABA years spent as the Spurs and Dallas Chaparrals. 

    Just one flaw emerges. 

    The Spurs have "only" had 54 All-Stars in their 41 NBA seasons. They've also come from a relatively small group of players—small enough that we can reasonably list them all out without fear of spatial constraints: LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Sean Elliott, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Manu Ginobili, Larry Kenon, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Alvin Robertson and David Robinson

    While that speaks to the loyalty this model franchise inspires, it's somewhat shocking that the Spurs have only produced 11 different All-Stars in 41 years. 

2. Boston Celtics, 7.62

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 58.9

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.31

    Years per Finals Appearance: 3.38

    Years per Championship: 4.18

    All-Stars per Season: 1.99


    At this point in the countdown, we have to start picking at nits. 

    The Boston Celtics have logged a staggering 141 All-Star appearances. Twenty-eight different Hall of Famers have spent at least one season with the franchise. Twenty-three numbers (a generous word because of Jim Loscutoff and Johnny Most) hang from the rafters of the Garden. The amount of history that's unfolded on the parquet floors is almost unimaginable. 

    And in all five categories, Beantown thrives. 

    No franchise has produced more All-Stars per season or spent less time, on average, between championships. None has won more titles than the Celtics' 17, for that matter. Only the Los Angeles Lakers have been to the Finals more frequently, while both the Lake Show and San Antonio Spurs have superior winning percentages. 

    It's only making the playoffs where the C's fall more significantly behind. And again, we're just being nitpicky. 

    Thanks primarily to a six-year drought that spanned Y2K, Boston has typically required 1.31 seasons to make a playoff appearance. That drops them all the way down to...No. 4 in that category. 

    Must be rough, right?

1. Los Angeles Lakers, 8.09

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Win Percentage: 59.8

    Years per Playoff Appearance: 1.15

    Years per Finals Appearance: 2.23

    Years per Championship: 4.31

    All-Stars per Season: 1.99


    The last four years have been so tough for the Los Angeles Lakers fanbase because this is entirely uncharted territory. They had the worst record in franchise history during the 2015-16 season (17-65), have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1976 and have nearly doubled the total number of lottery finishes. 

    Prior to 2013, the Purple and Gold had watched the postseason from afar only five times. The playoffs haven't been a goal, so much as a realistic expectation year in and year out. 

    And that makes sense. 

    The Lakers have a certain prestige factor associated with them. It's why they can attempt to lure in prominent free agents by showing off trophies and the remarkable history of the organization. As the thinking goes, why wouldn't they want to play for the same franchise that once featured Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kobe Bryantgasps for air—Elgin Baylor, George Mikan, Clyde Lovellette, Pau Gasol—needs more air—Vlade Divac, Happy Hairston and so many other significant figures?

    Only the Boston Celtics have had more All-Stars per season, and differentiation requires a fourth significant figure (1.9855 to 1.9859). For all intents and purposes, they've boasted an equal amount of star power.

    We used five categories for this project, and the Lakers finished with top-two placement in all of them. Thirty-one Finals appearances in 69 seasons is the only No. 1 finish. But losing out to the San Antonio Spurs in winning percentage and years per playoff appearance, as well as the Celtics in titles and All-Stars? There's no shame in that. 

    Los Angeles is still trying to reclaim its former glory with its core of young up-and-comers. But no one else can touch the franchise's historical success. 


    Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from Basketball Reference, NBA.com, NBA Math or ESPN.com.


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