NBA Power Rankings: Showtime Lakers and 20 Most Exciting Teams in NBA History
Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are primed for another run at a championship, attempting to become the first team to three-peat since, well, Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers last decade.
Winning is nice, and it's pretty much the most important thing in professional sports, but what about excitement?
This current group of Lakers is obviously very good, but they don't make our jaws drop like the Showtime Lakers of the '80s did. Now they were fun to watch.
What exactly is an exciting team, though?
For an organization's fans, surely winning a championship, or two, or three is pretty exciting. There are 29 other teams that don't get to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy every year, however, and most of those fans aren't likely to be all that enthused about watching someone else celebrate.
So what if we take winning out of the equation? How about we really just look for the teams that kept us on the edge of our seats wanting more?
You know what I'm talking about. The teams that push the tempo to breakneck speeds. The ones showing up on the highlight reels every night with spectacular play after spectacular play.
With the point guard who fits passes into windows no one else can see. Or have a collection of talents who score more than we previously thought possible.
Those are the teams we're looking for here.
Yeah, winning rings helps the cause, but only if you fit in with some of the above scenarios. We want teams who score more than everyone else and do it for a sustained period of time. Who have the coaches that refuse to budge from their "Put Up a Shot As Fast As You Can" mentalities, even though everyone knows you need to play some defense to win it all.
And that's exactly how a team makes this list. A team has to have a player, or a coach, or a group of players who, for a number of years, were seemingly unstoppable in their scoring (at least during the regular season) and who, even still, make us sit in front of our computers looking up YouTube clips all day.
For once, it's not all about the championships.
20. BAA's Chicago Stags (1946-47 to 1948-49)
For its first three years of existence, what we now know as the NBA was titled the Basketball Association of America (BAA) before merging with the National Basketball League. In the early days, teams didn't score as much as we've grown accustomed to.
The Chicago Stages were a different story, however, particularly in the BAA's inaugural season. In that first year, the Stags scored nearly 10 more points per game than the league average and attempted 6,309 field goals compared to the league average of 5,592. And it wasn't like they just haphazardly threw the ball at the basket, as they also ranked No. 1 in field-goal percentage for the 1946-47 season.
While the league would catch up to them over the next couple of years, the squad was the top-scoring team for the next two seasons as well, with guard Max Zaslofsky leading the league in points scored for the 1947-48 campaign.
The franchise then fell off for the 1949-50 season and folded when the year was through.
19. Don Nelson's Golden State Warriors 2.0 (2006-07 to 2009-10)
Don Nelson's second go-'round with the Warriors lasted four years. In three of those four seasons, Golden State led the league in pace (the number of possessions a team has per game, a stat that is available starting with the 1973-74 season) and was the highest or second-highest scoring team in each year.
Because the run lasted only four years and the team didn't do much winning during the stretch, the Warriors get knocked down a bit on this list. Still, it is worth noting that in the 2007-08 season, the Warriors had three players (Baron Davis, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson) average at least 20.0 points per game.
In the first year of Nelson's return (2006-07), the Warriors also took part in one of the more memorable playoff series in NBA history when they, as the eight-seed, upset the one-seeded Dallas Mavericks in six games.
|Golden State Warriors||106.5||111.0||108.6||108.8||108.7|
18. Wilt Chamberlain's Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors (1959-60 to 1962-63)
The Warriors led the league in scoring only once during this four-season stretch, but they were still above the league scoring average each year and the output of Wilt Chamberlain is simply too much to ignore.
From the 1959-60 through 1962-63 seasons, Chamberlain averaged 42.8 points per game and for the 1961-62 year scored a mind-blowing 50.4 points per game, notching his famous 100-point game on March 2, 1962. The team moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco before the 1962-63 season, and Chamberlain was sent back to Philadelphia—this time to play for the 76ers—in 1965.
|Philadelphia/San Fran Warriors||118.6||121.0||125.4||118.5||120.9|
17. Bob McAdoo's Buffalo Braves (1973-74 to 1975-76)
Bob McAdoo led the NBA in scoring for the 1973-74 through 1975-76 seasons, averaging 32.1 points per game for those three years. His Buffalo Braves were tops in the league in scoring once, jostling with the Golden State Warriors for that honor throughout those years. The team was also No. 2 in pace for all three seasons.
While McAdoo took up the majority of opportunities, Jim McMillan and Randy Smith also made significant contributions, combining to scoring 34.6 points per game over that three-year span.
Unfortunately for Buffalo fans, the team traded McAdoo to the New York Knicks during the 1976-77 season. The team was unable to continue its scoring pace without the Hall-of-Fame center, and the franchise eventually moved to San Diego and then Los Angeles, where we now know them as the Clippers.
16. Chamberlain/Greer/Cunningham Philadelphia 76ers (1965-66 to 1969-70)
Wilt Chamberlain spent three full seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, and the team ranked No. 1 in scoring in two of them. Then, after the organization traded Wilt to the Lakers prior to the 1968-69 season, Billy Cunningham took over the scoring load and the Sixers led the league in points per game for two more years.
This made the Sixers the top scoring team four years in a row, and fellow great Hal Green was No. 2 on the team in points per game in all five of these seasons.
Philadelphia won the NBA Championship for the 1966-67 season and won the Eastern Division from 1965-66 through 1967-68.
The trade of Chamberlain did have its effect, however. Even though the team was still able to top the league in scoring for two years afterward, the 76ers were unable to advance past the first round of the playoffs in each of the next three seasons. The Sixers then missed the playoffs for four straight seasons before again rising to prominence in the mid-1970s.
15. Rick Barry's Golden State Warriors (1973-74 to 1976-77)
The San Francisco (and eventually Golden State) Warriors first got hold Rick Barry prior to the 1965-66 season, and he proceeded to lead the league in scoring at 35.6 points per game in just his second year. After those two years, Barry decided to dabble in the ABA, where he continued to score and was absent from the NBA for four years.
Upon rejoining the senior league for the 1972-73 season, Barry averaged 22.3 points per game and the Warriors ranked seventh in points per game, although they were just barely above the league average.
Then, starting with the 1973-74 campaign and lasting through the 1976-77 year, the floodgates opened and the Warriors became a fast-paced, high-scoring team led by Barry, who averaged 24.6 points per game for those years. Included in this run was a 30.6 points-per-game outburst in 1974-75.
The team as a whole topped the league in scoring twice, never finished below fourth overall and was in the top three in pace twice. To top it all off, the Warriors won the championship at the end of the 1974-75 season.
|Golden State Warriors||109.9||108.5||109.8||110.9||109.8|
14. George Karl's Denver Nuggets (2005-06 to 2009-10)
George Karl had his first full season with the Denver Nuggets in 2005-06, and the squad ranked second in pace. The next year, Denver acquired Allen Iverson, teaming him up with Carmelo Anthony early in the season. The Nuggets were, again, No. 2 overall in pace, while also becoming the third-highest scoring team.
This trend continued in 2007-08 when the Nuggets were ranked No. 1 in pace and No. 2 in scoring. In two nearly-full seasons together, Iverson and Melo combined for 52.9 points per game, although their inability to win in the playoffs would ultimately buy "The Answer" a ticket out of town.
Very early in the 2008-09 campaign, the Nuggets traded for Chauncey Billups, discarding Iverson in the process.
The Nuggets slowed down their pace with Billups running the point, although they remained among the highest-scoring teams in the league. The more balanced scoring attack also helped the team reach the Western Conference Finals in Billups' first year in Denver.
Now, after trading both Billups and Anthony to New York, the Nuggets are going about re-inventing themselves in the hope of becoming more solid defensively.
13. Don Nelson's Dallas Mavericks (1999-00 to 2004-05)
Don Nelson's Dallas Mavericks were among the highest-scoring teams in the league throughout his tenure, and they led the NBA in scoring from 2001-02 through 2003-04.
Steve Nash became the full-time starting point guard in the 2001-02 year and retained that role through the 2003-04 season. During those years, Nash averaged 16.4 points per game and 7.8 assists per game.
The bulk of the scoring during Nelson's time as coach was done by Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley. In these six seasons, Nowitzki averaged 22.6 points per game and Finely put in 19.7 points per game.
Nelson was fired during the 2004-05 season and replaced by Avery Johnson. Johnson initially had more success the Nelson in the playoffs, making the NBA Finals in his first full season, but lasted only through the 2007-08 campaign.
Meanwhile, Nelson caught on with Golden State.
12. George Karl's Sonics with Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton (1992-93 to 1997-98)
George Karl's first full season as coach of the Seattle SuperSonics came in 1992-93, and he learned quickly that his best bet was to get Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp to score...a lot. That they did, as in five seasons under Karl, the duo combined for 37 points per game.
Detlef Schrempf then joined the team starting in the 1993-94 season and acclimated to his new surroundings easily, scoring 16.8 points per game over the next five years.
This group of Sonics never led the league in scoring, but they did have an average finish of 3.8. They also made the NBA Finals at the end of the 1995-96 season and were in the Western Conference Finals following the 1992-93 year.
11. Run-T.M.C. (and Slightly Beyond) Golden State Warriors (1988-89 to 1993-94)
Although the Run-T.M.C. Warriors were only fully together for two seasons, the scoring output of the Warriors teams with any combination of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin was simply astounding.
The group first began to come together in the 1988-89 season, when Mulling was in his third year and Richmond was a rookie. Hardaway then joined the team beginning with the 1989-90 year.
In that first slate of games together, the three combined to average 61.9 points per game and were just getting started. The following year, Mullin, Richmond and Hardaway combined for 72.5 points per game.
Richmond would leave the team following that season, but Mullin and Hardaway remained, together for two more years.
In the 1993-94 season, Mullin teamed up with Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell to form another fearsome threesome. They were not quite as effective as Run-T.M.C., but they still managed to combine for 55.3 points per game.
In total, over this six-season stretch, the Warriors led the league in scoring twice and were never below No. 4. They also ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in pace in all but one season.
|Golden State Warriors||116.6||116.3||116.6||118.7||109.9||107.9||114.3|
10. Doug Moe/George Gervin San Antonio Spurs (1976-77 to 1983-84)
George Gervin both preceded and exceeded Doug Moe's stint as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, although they both entered the NBA in the same year, due to the ABA-NBA merger.
Moe took over coaching duties for San Antonio's first year in The Association and immediately unleashed his breakneck style of basketball, with the Spurs leading the league in both pace and scoring for three of his four seasons with the team. The one year they didn't lead the NBA in those categories (1977-78), the team finished second in scoring and fourth in pace.
Moe was replaced by Bob Bass after 66 games in the 1979-80 year, and the following season Stan Albeck took over as coach. The pace slowed with Albeck—the team ranked higher than sixth only once over the next four seasons—but the output of points remained high, with the Spurs ranking no lower than third in each of those years.
For his part, Gervin led the team in scoring in each of the eight seasons listed here, averaging 28.1 points per game and topping the NBA in that category four times.
While Gervin had the more glamorous career and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996, this was not the only time the NBA would witness the high-octane basketball produced by one Doug Moe.
|San Antonio Spurs||115.0||114.5||119.3||119.4||112.3||113.1||114.3||120.3||116.0|
9. Oscar Robertson's Cincinnati Royals (1961-62 to 1965-66)
Thanks mainly to the spectacular play of Oscar Robertson, the 1961-62 through 1965-66 Cincinnati Royals were among the top-scoring teams in the league. The squad would lead the NBA in scoring in two seasons during this stretch, finishing No. 2 overall in two others.
During this five-year run, Robertson would average 30.4 points per game, 10.9 assists per game and 9.9 rebounds per game. In the 1961-62 season, his second in the NBA, he became the first and only player in league history to average a triple-double, posting 30.8 points per game, 11.4 assists per game and 12.5 rebounds per game.
His teammates also found success during this stretch, with three Cincinnati players averaging at least 18.0 points per game in three of the seasons.
While Robertson was able to continue putting up huge numbers in his last four years with the Royals (1966-67 through 1969-70), the team finished in the bottom half of the league in scoring twice and was unable to win as many games as they had during his first six seasons.
8. Shaq/Kobe Los Angeles Lakers (1997-98 to 2003-04)
Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant first came together on the Lakers for the 1996-97 season, although Bryant did not make much of an impact.
In the 1997-98 and 1998-99 years, Bryant began to figure things out, and, aided by the likes of Glen Rice, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel, the Shaq/Kobe Lakers finished No. 1 and No. 2 in points per game and pace for those seasons, respectively.
Prior to the 1999-00 season, Phil Jackson came aboard as coach and proceeded to slow things down. This did not stop Kobe and Shaq from putting up some monster statistics, however, as Shaq would average 26.9 points per game over the next five seasons and Bryant would put up 26.0 points per game over that same span.
The team would win three championships with this duo—attaining all three in consecutive seasons from 1999-00 through 2001-02.
The two then went their separate ways following the 2003-04 campaign. What was supposed to be an absolutely dominant team consisting of Shaq, Kobe, Karl Malone and Gary Payton failed to live up to expectations that year, dropping a five-game series to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.
7. Clyde Drexler/Rick Adelman Portland Trail Blazers (1984-85 to 1993-94)
Clyde Drexler began playing for the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1983-84 season. He made a minimal impact as a rookie, averaging 7.7 points per game. Over the next four years, Drexler put in 21.1 points per game, and his Blazers ranked no lower than fourth overall in points scored, including topping the league in points per game for the 1986-87 campaign.
Starting with the 1988-89 year, when Rick Adelman took over coaching duties during the season, Drexler would average 22.7 points per game over his final six full years with the team. Portland ranked about third or fourth in points scored in nearly every season, making the Finals twice.
Kiki Vandeweghe (23.6 points per game from 1984-85 through 1987-88) and Terry Porter (17.7 points per game from 1988-89 through 1992-93) also made their presences known, and Clifford Robinson chipped in 19.6 points per game over the final two years of this run.
The 1993-94 season was Adelman's last with team. It was also Drexler's last full year with the Blazers, as he was dealt to the Houston Rockets in 1994-95.
|Portland Trail Blazers||115.5||115.1||117.9||116.1||114.6||114.2||114.7||111.4||108.5||107.3||113.5|
4. "The Greatest Show on Court" Sacramento Kings (1998-99 to 2004-05)
When Rick Adelman became coach of the Sacramento Kings beginning with the 1998-99 season, he went on a seven-year run that saw his team lead the NBA in scoring three times and pace four times. His Sacramento teams during this stretch were never below third in scoring and finished lower than fourth in pace just once.
On the court, the team was led by Chris Webber, who averaged 22.5 points per game during these seven years. The squad also got a big contribution from Peja Stojakovic, who scored 19.5 points per game from the 1999-00 through 2004-05 seasons.
The Kings made the Western Conference Finals at the end of the 2001-02 year (we have now come to find out that they were basically robbed of a spot in the NBA Finals) and Adelman was unable to make it past the 2005-06 season, when his team dropped to 10th in scoring and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Even so, from 1998-99 through 2004-05, the Sacramento Kings were one of the most exciting teams we've ever seen.
5. Kevin Johnson's Phoenix Suns (1988-89 to 1996-97)
When Kevin Johnson first came to the Phoenix Suns during the 1987-88 season, the team already had a top-notch offense in place. With Tom Chambers leading the team by averaging 26.5 points per game in Johnson's first two full seasons with the team, the Suns ranked No.1 and No. 2 in points scored.
The trend of Johnson distributing to higher-scoring players than himself continued with guys like Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle and Jeff Hornacek, although the point guard was certainly no slouch.
In the 1988-89 through 1996-97 seasons, Johnson averaged 19.5 points per game and 9.8 assists per game, leading the team in scoring twice. During these years, the Suns were consistently among the fastest-paced teams in the league, and they led the NBA in scoring three times—never finishing below fourth in that department.
With Johnson running the show, Phoenix reached the Finals once and the Western Conference Finals two other times.
4. Phoenix Suns with Steve Nash (2004-05 to 2009-10)
Beginning in the 2004-05 season, Steve Nash has helped make a scoring spectacle of the Phoenix Suns. The run began with Mike D'Antoni as the head coach in Nash's first year with the team and continues today with Alvin Gentry diagramming plays.
The supporting cast has changed quite a bit for Nash over the years, but the result has remained the same. During this stretch, the Suns have led the league in points per game five times and pace twice.
Nash has averaged 17 points per game and 10.9 assists per game over these six seasons, and for five of them was accompanied by Amar'e Stoudemire.
Excluding the 2005-06 year in which he played just three games, Stoudemire averaged 23.2 points per game before taking his talents to the Knicks last summer.
The Suns made the Western Conference Finals three times during this run. Although they have thus far been unable to break through and win the whole thing, their up-tempo attack will always be remembered by those who saw them.
3. Showtime Lakers (1981-82 to 1988-89)
Led by Magic Johnson's wizard-like passing, the Showtime Lakers set the league on fire with their scoring ability, although it was in a bit of a different manner than some other teams on this list.
These Lakers weren't a particularly fast team (they ranked higher than ninth in pace over this stretch just twice) and they only led the league in scoring once. They were, however, extremely precise, which allowed them to have an average ranking of 2.9 in terms of points scored during this eight-year stretch.
L.A. topped the league in field-goal percentage four times in these eight seasons, finishing lower than second just once, in 1981-82, when they were third overall.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar generally scored the most points for these teams, averaging 22.5 points per game in the five seasons (1981-82 through 1985-86) that he led the team in this category. Johnson, whose greatest contribution during this span were the 11.9 assists per game he averaged, also scored when needed, as did Jamaal Wilkes, James Worthy and eventually Byron Scott.
The Lakers also won four championships over the course of these eight seasons, firmly cementing themselves among the NBA's greatest dynasties.
2. Bob Cousy's Boston Celtics (1951-52 to 1959-60)
Upon joining the Boston Celtics prior to the 1950-51 season, Bob Cousy put on a show like no other before him. The "Houdini of the Hardwood" would spend 13 seasons with Boston, and none of those years were more exciting than the 1951-52 through 1959-60 campaigns.
The Celtics ranked as the No. 1 scoring team for eight of those nine seasons, with Cousy leading the NBA is assists eight times as well.
Boston would not win a championship until getting a hold of Bill Russell prior to the 1956-57 year—a season in which Cousy was named the MVP—and would win two more during this stretch. Boston also won eight titles during the '60s, including three with Cousy still on the team, although the team did not put up the type of offensive numbers it did during the '50s.
1. Doug Moe's Denver Nuggets (1980-81 to 1989-90)
And he's back.
After being let go by the San Antonio Spurs, Doug Moe was quickly picked up by the Denver Nuggets about halfway through the following season (1980-81). The Nuggets then became one of the fastest teams the NBA has ever seen, ranking No. 1 in pace in all but one of Moe's seasons with the team. They finished first in points per game six times, and were never ranked below fourth overall.
The team was led in scoring by Alex English (26.0 points per game during his 10 seasons under Moe) seven times during this stretch, and also got significant contributions from Dan Issel and Kiki Vaneweghe.
Denver made the playoffs in each of Moe's nine full seasons with the team, going the deepest in 1984-85 when they made the Western Conference Finals. English and Issel would also be inducted into the Hall of Fame.