Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Where Do the Heat and Spurs Rank Against the Great Teams of the Past 40 Years?

It appears that the Heat, in their current iteration, are shot.  They have one star, one current top 30 player (Bosh) and a former star who can play at a high level for about 25 games a year (Wade) and then a bunch of shit.  They are not well coached.  They will not return to the Finals without a substantial retooling.

The Spurs may continue on, but Duncan is going to have to retire some day - even Kareem and Karl Malone eventually did so.

So the question could be asked as to where the Heat and Spurs rank on the all-time greatest teams list.  Well, I will exclude teams that were dominant before I turned 10.  So I exclude the old Celtics and the Minneapolis Lakers and the Red Holtzman's Knicks.   I cannot say that my 0-10 year old self can tell you much there.

Starting in 1975, your best teams, two or more titles required:

-- Magic/Kareem Lakers (5X champs, 7 finals  **Magic went to one later w/o Kareem)
-- Bird Celtics (3X and 5 finals)
-- Bad Boys Pistons (2X and 3 finals)
-- Jordan's Bulls (6X, 6 finals)
-- Hakeem's Rockets (2X, 2 finals)
-- Shaq/Kobe Lakers (3X, 4 finals)
-- Duncan Spurs (5X, 6 finals)
-- Kobe/Gasol Lakers (2X, 3 finals)
-- LeBron Heat (2X, 4 finals)

I hope I got them all.  (The Dr. J. Sixers are a particularly rough case - finalists in 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983, they won only 1 title).

9th - Rockets - not that good before or after those two years, titles are subject to a big asterisk as Jordan was off serving his gambling suspen... I mean, playing baseball.

8th - Kobe/Gasol Lakers - more a tribute to good coaching than to the actual quality of this team.  Lost to the Celts in 07-08 and should have lost to them the next year as well.  Beat the awfully lucky Magic in the second final, then were swept the next year by the Mavs in a beatdown that was so one-sided and crushing that it basically ended Pau Gasol's career as a U.S. star.

7th -- Bad Boys -- they beat a Lakers team that started David Rivers and Jeff Lamp in the backcourt, then they beat a good Portland team.  They also took the last full strength Magic/Kareem team to 7 games and then walked off the court against the Bulls when the dynasty was over.

6th -- Heat -- 4 straight finals is a feat matched only by Bird and Magic.  But the Heat lose substantial points for terrible coaching and being so unbelievably reliant on one guy.  There is no team on the list of 9 more reliant on one guy, not even the Rockets, who at least added a healthy Drexler to help Hakeem.

5th - Shaq/Kobe Lakers -- get credit because they played in the better conference (the East at the time was a train wreck) and they won 3 straight titles.  Loss to Pistons proved to be their unraveling, and Kobe spent ages 25-29 without escaping the first round of the playoffs.

4th -- Bird Celtics -- it is fashionable to put the Bird teams higher, but consider this -- two of their three wins came in the finals against pretty bad Houston teams (1981, 1986) who had defeated the Lakers in huge early round upsets.  The Celts did manage to beat the Lakers in 1984 and reach four straight finals, so they do deserve a lot of cred' , just not as much as they generally get.

3rd -- Duncan's Spurs -- the Spurs have won 5 titles, 1999 (Knicks), 2003 (Nets), 2005 (Pistons), 2007 (Cavs), and 2014 (Heat).  They suffered their only finals loss in 2013 to the Heat in a series the Spurs should have won.  They have been excellent for 15 years, which no team on the list can match.  (Even if you combine the two Laker entries, they do not approach 15 years).  Duncan, by my ratings, is the 5th best player of all time, better than Magic and Bird.  Great coaching.  Great front office.  Great, great team.  And still going???

2nd -- Jordan's Bulls -- Jordan's Bulls were extremely well coached over 8 years and  they won 6 titles.  Their victories are not exactly a Murderers' Row of all-time greats - The No-Kareem Lakers, Portland's second best team, Suns, Sonics, Jazz, Jazz.  But they did have the greatest player of all-time and they won 6 times.

1st -- Magic/Kareem Lakers - The Lakers' five titles were over the Sixers twice, Celtics twice and Bad Boys Pistons.   This means that every team the Lakers defeated in the Finals was an eventual champion (Sixers 1983, Celtics 1986, Pistons 2X).  Their 3 finals losses were to two of the all-time great clubs (Sixers, Celtics) and the other came when they were crippled and playing the Bad Boys.

What else makes the Lakers the #1 club?  They had two of the top 10 players of all-time and played in the finals against top 25 all-time great players (Dr. J, Moses, Bird) and they also defeated the number 8 and number 4 teams on this list.  The Lakers were the best team of teams in a Golden Age of NBA basketball.   They are #1.

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