Every NBA franchise, ranked (part 1)

Larry O'Brien Trophy

Even though only one team can win it all every year, success isn’t solely determined by championships.


On Twitter, Jacob Greenberg of The Diss posed the following question:


After seeing someone respond with “Bucks” — many erroneously believe that consistently finishing the season in the 7-10 range is the worst place to be in the NBA — I felt compelled to examine the question a bit more closely. Using a very simple measure of success — regular season winning percentage, number of playoff home games, and coaching changes — I’m ranking every NBA franchise over the last 5, 10, and 15 years. Today I’ll be looking at the top and bottom franchises of the past 5 NBA seasons.

[Editor’s note: now that all three posts are out, you can catch Part 2 and Part 3]

Top 5

1. Miami Heat

  • W%: 66.0%
  • Home Playoff games: 42
  • Coaches: 1

What did you expect when you add the best player in the league to a playoff team? Since adding LeBron James, the Heat have played the most home playoff games and made three straight Finals. Having the third best record in that time isn’t too shabby either.

2. Boston Celtics

  • W%: 63.1%
  • Home Playoff games: 37
  • Coaches: 1

While their run seems to be over for the foreseeable future, the Celtics knew that they wouldn’t contend for long with their aging core. But the Celtics’ run lasted about twice as long as most people expected, and what the Celtics gave up to get there really wasn’t all that much.

3. San Antonio Spurs

  • W%: 69.3%
  • Home Playoff games: 28
  • Coaches: 1

The only thing keeping the Spurs this low is a couple of early playoff exits at the beginning of the five year period. Having retooled quite nicely, the Spurs made the Finals last year — and would’ve won it all if it wasn’t for Ray Allen’s three.

4. Los Angeles Lakers

  • W%: 67.3%
  • Home Playoff games: 37
  • Coaches: 4

Although the Lakers have melted down spectacularly over the past year and seem on the cusp of a terrible season, they have still been remarkably successful. Over the past five seasons they had the second best regular season record and tied for second in playoff home games. Their only blemish is their coaching turnover — the best teams don’t fire their coaches five games into the season.

5. Denver Nuggets

  • W%: 64.0%
  • Home Playoff games: 20
  • Coaches: 1

Surprised? The Nuggets have the fourth best regular season record and made the playoffs all five years, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2008-09. Sure, they’ve lost in the first round in four straight seasons, but if that constitutes failure in the NBA, then most teams are so bad that they don’t even fail.

Bottom 5

30. Minnesota Timberwolves

  • W%: 28.7%
  • Home Playoff games: 0
  • Coaches: 4

If you’ve ever wondered why Kevin Love seems so cranky about playing in Minnesota, wonder no more. The Timberwolves have won the fewest games across the past five NBA seasons, have not made the playoffs, and have gone through four coaches in five years. Sure, injuries have played a part in that, but there have also been some terrible personnel decisions.

29. Sacramento Kings

  • W%: 29.4%
  • Home Playoff games: 0
  • Coaches: 4

The Maloof Kings were following the blueprint used by most franchises who are looking to relocate: be very, very bad. Will new owner Vivek Ranadivé and the newly extended DeMarcus Cousins be able to turn things around? Probably not in the next five years.

28. Washington Wizards

  • W%: 29.7%
  • Home Playoff games: 0
  • Coaches: 4

Washington is largely shut down due to Congress’ inability to pass a budget, but the Wizards have been shut down (during the playoffs) for the last five seasons. They’ve got some productive players, but never seem to get it together for long. Strangely, the Wizards’ most recent period of ineptitude almost perfectly coincides with Barrack Obama’s election in November of 2008. Coincidence? Yes.

27. Brooklyn Nets

  • W%: 35.8%
  • Home Playoff games: 4
  • Coaches: 4

Sure, they made the playoffs last year, but they were quite bad across the previous four seasons. With a new owner, new coach, and a huge payroll, the Nets are trying to turn things around. Their roster is quite old, though, so a lot of additional moves will have to be made over the next few years to create sustainable success.

26. Charlotte Bobcats

  • W%: 35.8%
  • Home Playoff games: 2
  • Coaches: 3

When most of us think of the Michael Jordan owned Bobcats, we think of terrible basketball. In the 2010-11 lockout shortened season the Bobcats actually set a record for the lowest winning percentage in NBA history. However, it was only four seasons ago that the Bobcats made the playoffs, so the ‘Cats find themselves slightly above the very bottom.

Final Note (and Results)

Noticeably absent from the bottom five teams are the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks finished 19th — rather middle of the pack — but ahead of teams like the Clippers, 76ers, Warriors, and Pistons. In all, 11 teams have been worse over the past five seasons. Is that hopeless? I’d say no.

Here is the full table of results:

Rank Team Percentile (5Y)
1 Miami Heat 98.2%
2 Boston Celtics 96.3%
3 San Antonio Spurs 95.5%
4 Los Angeles Lakers 90.6%
5 Denver Nuggets 88.2%
6 Oklahoma City Thunder 87.3%
7 Dallas Mavericks 85.5%
8 Chicago Bulls 82.1%
9 Atlanta Hawks 81.2%
10 Orlando Magic 80.9%
11 Indiana Pacers 62.1%
12 Utah Jazz 59.1%
13 Houston Rockets 58.3%
14 Memphis Grizzlies 57.9%
15 Cleveland Cavaliers 54.1%
16 New York Knicks 50.4%
17 Portland Trailblazers 48.3%
18 Phoenix Suns 40.9%
19 Milwaukee Bucks 39.4%
20 Los Angeles Clippers 32.7%
21 Philadelphia 76ers 29.8%
22 Golden State Warriors 25.0%
23 New Orleans Pelicans 23.9%
24 Detroit Pistons 17.5%
25 Toronto Raptors 16.1%
26 Charlotte Bobcats 15.3%
27 Brooklyn Nets 8.5%
28 Washington Wizards 6.0%
29 Sacramento Kings 5.9%
30 Minnesota Timberwolves 5.6%

– Devin

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