I don't know for what reason but the case of Baron Corbin has been on my mind for quite some time. He's a great wrestler, he can cut a promo, he is safe, yet he has been so underwhelming it just boggles the mind. And I think all he needs is a great story.
And it starts with Chad Gable.
At Backlash, we have Alpha Academy fight MMM. AA loses because Otis turns on Gable to join the Models. This leaves Gable as the Master with no Academy.
The RAW after Backlash, Corbin approaches Gable. Up to this point, Corbin had been down on his luck, squashed every match, cut from interviews, etc. Corbin approaches Gable earnestly and asks the Master to help him, because he needs training.
This coincides with Chad Gable's singles run and face turn, he starts winning a lot of matches, and Corbin is ringside every time to learn from his Master. Eventually, Corbin starts winning matches as well, although not important ones.
Eventually, we arrive at MiTB, where Chad Gable has to face Austin Theory (or the US Champ at that time) for the belt. He loses to Theory, and his spirit is completely crushed. Next night on RAW, Theory is viciously attacked backstage by a hooded figure, and is sent to the hospital.
The belt has to be vacated (this gives Theory a break, after which he could return and maybe chase after a bigger title) and a tournament is held for the US Title. We arrive at the finals, which is Chad Gable versus someone super strong, like a Seth Rollins/Bobby Lashley, etc. No one thinks Gable can pull it off.
Right before the match, Gable's opponent is viciously attacked and he has to forfeit the match, making Gable the US Champ. Next RAW/Smackdown, Corbin reveals to his master that he helped him win the title by attacking Theory and Rollins/Lashley and that he finally payed back his Master for his wisdom and training.
This disappoints Gable and tells Corbin that all the training was for nothing, that he will always be a bad human being and not even the Master can help with that.
This sends Corbin into a frenzy, and sets up a well-built US Title Match at SummerSlam between Gable and Corbin, which Gable wins.
This gives Gable a much needed push, and puts Corbin in a storyline where he can shine.
I’ve been sitting on this series for a while, but because I don’t want to redo everything after the season, I want to hopefully get both of these last installments in before the end of the regular season. There are two teams on these respective lists (Milwaukee and Golden State) who are still relevant today, which will hopefully pique some interest. I might end up editing longer write-ups for some of these teams later, while still making sure to get the post out in a reasonable amount of time.
A “dynastender”, coined by Bill Simmons, is a team who won a championship, but failed to qualify as a Dynasty proper (which requires three or more titles in six or fewer seasons). While the Bridesmaid list had 15 entries (as it takes more to stand out without a title to your name), this Dynastender list is lengthier (23 teams), as winning a championship will give you enough points to get to 10 most of the tme.
It’s often said in contexts like this that nobody remembers second place, and you’d rather be at the bottom of this list than at the top of the previous one. However, thinking about it I’m not sure I agree. That’s true in one respect, but Bridesmaids do have the advantage of standing out for their lack of hardware; having the marks of a potential dynasty with zero championships is a compelling storyline, but if you do win a championship you might run the risk of getting blurred together with numerous other teams with similar storylines.
There are two slight changes I made to the rules when it comes to displaying players and coaches:  if a coach won a championship, they get included (Pat Riley wouldn’t be included on the Heat otherwise);  for a player to make the list for 20 Win Shares, only seasons where they’re top 5 on the team in WS count (my memory of the Bridesmaid list is vague, and I might have missed 20-WS players before, but this rule change makes it easier for me to not miss anyone).
Two more notes by way of citation:
- I got all of the data for this series from Basketball Reference.
- Credit to Joe Dimino for having his own NFL dynasty system shortly after James’ MLB one. His is part of the family tree of this one, although I don’t think I mentioned it in my original post.
Missed the Cut
I actually have to make some cuts to get under 40,000 characters, so this is what I decided to cut (I'll put this section in the comments). Besides, maybe it'll help build suspense for which teams did and didn't make the main list.
23. St. Louis Hawks, 1957-1961 Head Coach
: Alex Hannum, Ed Macauley, Paul Seymour Key Players
: Bob Petit, Cliff Hagan, Clyde Lovellette, Ed Macauley Dynastender Rankings
: 9th-16th in Seasons (5), 19th in Points (12.39), 23rd in adjusted Championships (0.52), 8th in adjusted Finals appearances (2.07), 23rd in win% (.597), 20th in playoff win% (.528), 23rd in adjusted Net Rating (+1.3), 23rd in Top 5 aNR (+1.3) Avg z-score
Just like with the Bridesmaid list, we start with a team from the early days of the NBA; accomplishments like making two Finals and winning one are likely to be more impressive today than back when there were a handful of teams in the league. The title the Hawks did win also comes in at #3 on Bill Simmons’ footnote title list, due to a Bill Russell injury which weakened the Celtics. On the other hand, that was the only Finals loss that one of the greatest teams of all time suffered, and the Hawks took them to seven in ‘57 and ‘60. So maybe winning a single title is a “fairer” result than thinking only about Russell’s injury would lead one to believe.
22. Seattle SuperSonics, 1978-1980 Head Coach
: Lenny Wilkens Key Players
: Gus Williams, Jack Sikma, Dennis Johnson, Lonnie Shelton, Marvin Webster Dynastender Rankings
: 21st-23rd in Seasons (3), 20th in Points (11.77), 16th in adjusted Championships (0.86), 15th in adjusted Finals appearances (1.71), 20th in win% (.630), 12th-13th in playoff win% (.593), 21st in adjusted Net Rating (+2.7), 22nd in Top 5 aNR (+1.6) Avg z-score
These guys might be the most forgettable post-merger team in this entire series, at least from where I’m sitting. Mike the NBA Guy agrees with me, as he made a YouTube video
with basically the same name. It probably doesn’t help that they didn’t have many memorable players, and that they played in the 70s; too late for the nostalgic Wilt/Russell era, but too early for the Bird/Magic era.
In ‘78, Seattle lost a seven-game Finals series to the Bullets, the worst NBA champion of all time (by both win percentage and net rating). The next season, they won an extremely nail-biting conference finals against the Suns, and struck back by beating Washington in five to get the title. 56 wins and a conference final loss in 1980 was enough to qualify for this list, but they weren’t able to sustain success for long enough to be remembered.
21. Miami Heat, 2004-2006 Head Coach
: Stan Van Gundy, Pat Riley Key Players
: Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Shaquille O’Neal, Eddie Jones, Damon Jones, Lamar Odom Dynastender Rankings
: 21st-23rd in Seasons (3), 23rd in Points (10), 8th-13th in adjusted Championships (1), 19th-21st in adjusted Finals appearances (1), 22nd in win% (.622), 5th in playoff win% (.647), 17th in adjusted Net Rating (+3.3), 21st in Top 5 aNR (+2.0) Avg z-score
Shaq’s last real hurrah was in Miami, where his stint alongside Dwyane Wade was so short that despite winning a (footnote
) championship, his years alone actually wouldn’t have been enough for his team to be an official Dynastender. The 2004 series between Miami and New Orleans is otherwise rather forgettable, but the Heat qualified for that season- and for the list overall- because they were able to eke that series out in seven.
Relatively speaking, the only real bright spot keeping the Heat ahead of the Sonics is their playoff record; in fact, this is the first of five teams we’ll cover in this series who have a higher win percentage in the playoffs than in the regular season. Two sweeps to start off 2005 help, as well as two close series losses in ‘04 and ‘05, followed by a solid championship run where nobody took Miami to seven.
20. Los Angeles/Utah Stars, 1970-1974 Head Coach
: Bill Sharman, LaDell Andersen, Joe Mullaney Key Players
: Zelmo Beaty, Willie Wise, Jimmy Jones, Ron Boone, Mark Calvin Dynastender Rankings
: 9th-16th in Seasons (5), 18th in Points (13.17), 19th-20th in adjusted Championships (0.61), 13th in adjusted Finals appearances (1.79), 19th in win% (.633), 10th in playoff win% (.595), 18th in adjusted Net Rating (+3.15), 18th in Top 5 aNR (+3.15) Avg z-score
If this team doesn’t look familiar, it’s because I decided to include the ABA for this series.
The LA Stars managed to make the ABA Finals after a 43-41 season in 1970, the year before they moved to Utah. The team improved after moving, sporting 57, 60, and 55-win seasons, and squeaking out a championship in ‘71 after seven-game series in both of the final rounds, including the mighty Pacers. Utah would be the 1-seed in the Western division the next three seasons, but lose in the playoffs: twice to the Pacers, and once to a team coming up on this list.
19. Rochester Royals, 1949-1954 Head Coach
: Les Harrison Key Players
: Bobby Wanzer, Arnie Risen, Bob Davies, Arnie Johnson, Jack Coleman Dynastender Rankings
: 5th-8th in Seasons (6), 17th-18th in Points (13.17), 19th-20th in adjusted Championships (0.61), 22nd in adjusted Finals appearances (0.61), 14th in win% (.658), 23rd in playoff win% (.500), 14th in adjusted Net Rating (+4.0), 14th in Top 5 aNR (+4.3) Avg z-score
This Royals team is best known as the last time the Kings’ franchise has won a title; when you have to go back this far, it’s probably even more humiliating than simply having never won a title at all.
We have to go all the way back to the BAA for the start of this run; where in ‘48-49, the Royals had the best record in the league but lost the Division Finals to Mikan’s Lakers. Then in 1950, the new NBA had a best-of 3 format before the Finals, where the Royals got swept in two games against the Ft. Wayne Pistons. It was in Rochester’s worst regular season of this run (‘51) that they actually won the championship, in what was also their only Finals appearance. They sustained their run with three more moderately good regular seasons, but petered out in the playoffs against the Lakers (twice) and Pistons (once).
18. Kentucky Colonels, 1970-1975 Head Coach
: Gene Rhodes, Joe Mullaney, Babe McCarthy, Hubie Brown Key Players
: Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel, Louie Dampier, Goose Ligon, Darel Carrier, Cincy Powell Dynastender Rankings
: 5th-8th in Seasons (6), 16th in Points (13.76), 21st-22nd in adjusted Championships (0.58), 14th in adjusted Finals appearances (1.76), 18th in win% (.643), 17th in playoff win% (.570), 15th in adjusted Net Rating (+3.7), 13th in Top 5 aNR (+4.5) Avg z-score
We’re back in the ABA, and to a team which somehow had six different head coaches in a six-year period of success.
Like happens occasionally in this list, the seasons where Kentucky saw playoff success aren’t the ones you’d necessarily expect. They had the best regular season in ABA history (68-16, +8 net rating), and lost in the first round of the playoffs. However, that season was sandwizhed between two Finals runs where they went 44-40 and 56-28 in the RS. They lost two Game 7s in those Finals, and even outscored the Pacers in ‘73, meaning this Dynastender run was reasonably close to becoming a Dynasty. However, they didn’t get to the 10-pont threshold until their actual championship season, with an impressive 12-3 playoff run including a convincing 5-game defeat of Indiana.
17. New York Nets, 1974-1976 Head Coach
: Kevin Loughery Key Players
: Julius Erving, Brian Taylor, Billy Paultz, Larry Kenon Dynastender Rankings
: 21st-23rd in Seasons (3), 22nd in Points (10.14), 7th in adjusted Championships (1.13), 18th in adjusted Finals appearances (1.13), 13th in win% (.667), 4th in playoff win% (.656), 12th in adjusted Net Rating (+4.4), 20th in Top 5 aNR (+2.65) Avg z-score
Rounding out our ABA section is a short-but-sweet run of two titles in three years from Dr. J and the Nets. They also had a very impressive championship run at the start of their Dynastender, going 12-2 in the ‘74 playoffs. They then rounded out ABA history by beating the Nuggets in a six-game Finals in 1976.
16. Houston Rockets, 1993-1997 Head Coach
: Rudy Tomjanovich Key Players
: Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Clyde Drexler, Mario Ellie, Otis Thorpe, Charles Barkley Dynastender Rankings
: 9th-16th in Seasons (5), 12th in Points (17), 3rd in adjusted Championships (1.90), 12th in adjusted Finals appearances (1.90), 16th in win% (.646), 12th-13th in playoff win% (.593), 22nd in adjusted Net Rating (+2.4), 17th in Top 5 aNR (+3.3) Avg z-score
We’ve left the land of historical footnotes, and from this point on these teams will mostly be remembered by hard-core fans.
With Michael Jordan spending his time either playing baseball or losing a memory-holed second-round series to Orlando, the man picked ahead of him in the ‘84 draft took advantage of the power vacuum. He led Houston to two straight titles, including an empathic upset sweep over the aforementioned Magic. Then they tried forming a superteam
with Barkley, but John Stockton
and the Jazz ended their season, and it turns out their Dynastender.
Hakeem’s Rockets are stuck near ABA-land, with their biggest problem being their weak regular seasons (both in terms of net rating and win percentage, plus missed opportunities for Points). Their second championship, and the Points it gave them, does help, but it can only propel them so far when every other category is lacking.
15. Philadelphia 76ers, 1966-1969 Head Coach
: Dolph Schayes, Alex Hannum, Jack Ramsay Key Players
: Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Billy Cunningham Dynastender Rankings
: 17th-20th in Seasons (4), 21st in Points (10.67), 21st-22nd in adjusted Championships (0.58), 23rd in adjusted Finals appearances (0.58), 2nd in win% (.738), 21st in playoff win% (.526), 8th in adjusted Net Rating (+5.15), 15th in Top 5 aNR (+4.1) Avg z-score
This franchise enjoyed three full seasons of Wilt’s services, and took advantage; with a stupendous 185-58 regular season record (a 62-win pace), and a ‘67 season which ended the Celtics’ eight-peat of championships emphatically.
That season’s East Finals ended 4-1 in Philly’s favor, with the Sixers outscoring the Celtics by a total of 50 points. Both of those metrics (the three-game and 50-point margin) were franchise records for Celtics losses; the three-game margin wasn’t beaten until 1983, and the 50-point drubbing wouldn’t be topped until 2004. Beating the eight-time defending champs this badly is extremely impressive.
Still, the Sixers didn’t count as a Dynastender quite yet until 1969, when the remnants of the team were able to amass 55 wins with Wilt no longer in town.
14. Boston Celtics, 1972-1977 Head Coach
: Tom Heinsohn Key Players
: John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, Paul Silas, Don Nelson, Don Chaney Dynastender Rankings
: 5th-8th in Seasons (6), 9th in Points (18.52), 5th in adjusted Championships (1.53), 16th in adjusted Finals appearances (1.53), 9th in win% (.687), 14th in playoff win% (.588), 20th in adjusted Net Rating (+3.1), 16th in Top 5 aNR (+4.05) Avg z-score
After the retirement of Bill Russell, the Celtics were nearly
able to continue his Dynasty (spoiler alert!). 1970 was a dud, a sub-.500 season worth (approximately) -3 points. ‘71 was another playoff miss, but they finished over .500 (44-38), for -2 points. Boston finally got into the positive category in ‘72, but only for 2 points (56 wins and a conference finals loss), meaning that the Celtics satisfied criteria 4 for ending a dynasty (as ‘69 and ‘72 both had to be worth at least three points).
But while Russell’s Dynasty was over, a couple of the same players who were around for its twilight were able to put together a Dynastender on its coattails. Two championships and six seasons of success are both impressive, but other numbers are underwhelming. They have some distance between themselves and everyone below them, but their weak net rating and lack of a popping stat to make up for it keep them in the teens.
13. Cleveland Cavaliers, 2015-2018 Head Coach
: David Blatt, Tyronn Lue Key Players
: LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving Dynastender Rankings
: 17th-20th in Seasons (4), 10th-11th in Points (18), 8th-13th in adjusted Championships (1), 2nd-3rd in adjusted Finals appearances (4), 17th in win% (.643), 1st in playoff win% (.679), 16th in adjusted Net Rating (+3.45), 19th in Top 5 aNR (+2.8) Avg z-score
Of course, few people would think about this Cavs team in isolation; really, it’s a link in the chain of LeBron’s career, which is why I’ll be discussing him as the only player-centric Dynasty on the next list.
However, going through an exercise like this can help underline how special it is to make four Finals in a row. When we include era adjustments, only one other Dynastender that we’ll talk about beats 4 Finals appearances, and the only other one to match it is when LeBron did it with the Heat in the four previous seasons.
The one major asterisk everyone puts on this team is that the East was weak. That might be true, but it’s also overstated. Out of 133 Dynastender seasons, the Cavs’ strengths of schedule (per Basketball Reference) rank, in chronological order: 72th-75th, 97th-99th, 62nd, and 68th-69th. That’s nothing to particularly write home about (although the Cavs’ own weak point differentials meant they weren’t decreasing their own SOS as much as some other teams). Of 78 teams who lost in the conference finals since the 16-team playoff format started, the net rating of the Cavs’ ECF opponents ranked: 38th, 45th, 70th, 60th. Out of 156 second-round losers, Cleveland’s opponents ranked: 91st-92nd, 74th-77th, 55th-60th, and 9th. To be fair, these numbers would be a bit lower if you took SOS into account; but they’re not totally dismal.
In the big picture, it’s relatively rare for people to criticize the Raptors, or the Bucks, or the Big Three Celtics, or the Shaq-Wade Heat, because of a weak conference; even though all of these teams I mentioned have SOSs comparably bad as the Cavs throughout their Dynastender runs. But it was and is brought up over and over again for LeBron’s teams, because his teams were the only ones who were able to consistently benefit
from the weak conference. People were complaining about the lack of competition in the East, because when you’re up against LeBron the standard is so much higher to meaningfully count as “competition”.
With all of that said, the Cavs’ weak regular seasons, combined with the fact that LeBron only stayed for four years, anchors them out of the top 10.
12. Toronto Raptors, 2016-2020 Head Coach
: Dwane Casey, Nick Nurse Key Players
: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Pascal Siakam, Kawhi Leonard Dynastender Rankings
: 9th-16th in Seasons (5), 13th in Points (16), 8th-13th in adjusted Championships (1), 19th-21st in adjusted Finals appearances (1), 6th in win% (.693), 19th in playoff win% (.547), 6th in adjusted Net Rating (+5.4), 8th in Top 5 aNR (+5.4) Avg z-score
The Raptors are one of the weirdest entries in this series, as their run almost feels like three different ones.
The first chapter came as three consecutive solid regular seasons (56, 51 and 59 wins) that were all ended by the aforementioned Cavs. Then they traded for Kawhi Leonard and won a championship with him (A footnote title? Or not
?), for the second, one-season chapter. Then they managed to unexpectedly have a great season in the COVID-interrupted 2019-20 campaign, including a 60-win pace and a narrow second-round loss, for one final, one-season chapter.
Putting all of the pieces together, this run registers as an impressive one as far as regular-season success goes, finishing 6th among Dynatenders for both regular-season win percentage and adjusted net rating. Playoff success was a different story, which the aforementioned LeBron series (two of which were sweeps) are mostly responsible for (plus the fact that many of their series wins were close, including their last three wins in ‘19).
This run is technically
not officially over yet, but the Raptors would have to win the championship this season in order to extend it. Needless to say, that’s not very likely.
11. New York Knicks, 1969-1974 Head Coach
: Red Holzman Key Players
: Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett, Jerry Lucas, Earl Monroe Dynastender Rankings
: 5th-8th in Seasons (6), 8th in Points (18.6), 6th in adjusted Championships (1.44), 7th in adjusted Finals appearances (2.19), 15th in win% (.650), 11th in playoff win% (.593), 11th in adjusted Net Rating (+4.5), 11th in Top 5 aNR (+5.0) Avg z-score
The Knicks were terrible
for most of the sixties, never even reaching a .400 win percentage from ‘60 to ‘66. New York had never won a championship, so when the late Willis Reed’s famous heroics helped them beat the Lakers in 1970, it was truly a new leaf to turn over for the club. That season was followed up by a third-straight 50-win season, and then two more consecutive Finals appearances, including another win in ‘73.
10. Milwaukee Bucks, 2019-present Head Coach
: Mike Budenholzer Key Players
: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe Dynastender Rankings
: 17th-20th in Seasons (4), 15th in Points (15), 8th-13th in adjusted Championships (1), 19th-21st in adjusted Finals appearances (1), 7th in win% (.689), 6th in playoff win% (.633), 3rd in adjusted Net Rating (+6.3), 10th in Top 5 aNR (+5.1) Avg z-score
The NBA’s only reigning Dynastender (that we know of) lands just
inside the top ten. All of these numbers are only as of the end of last year, although the Bucks’ run is already confirmed as continuing another season (as they’ve gotten to 50 wins).
A pressing question, of course, might be how the Bucks’ ranking might change depending on their playoff results this year. It’s hard to project, because it depends on some specifics (like how their regular- and post-season records will shake out). However, if I change nothing but seasons/points/champs/finals to account for an NBA championship this season, the Bucks go up to #6 on this list (breaking into what’s currently a pretty solid top-6). Adjusting for a conference finals loss (adding one season and three points) would push them up two spots, to #8.
Looking at the profile of Milwaukee’s accomplishments so far, their net rating (3rd when adjusted for strength of schedule) is what sticks out to me the most. In fact, that’s an area where the Bucks will actually take a hit at the end of this season, because they’ve had a relatively underwhelming net rating this time around.
9. Los Angeles Lakers, 1962-1973 Head Coach
: Fred Schaus, Butch van Breda Kolff, Joe Mullaney, Bill Sharman Key Players
: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Rudy LaRusso, Happy Hairston, Dick Barnett, Jim McMillian, Archie Clark Dynastender Rankings
: 1st in Seasons (12), 4th in Points (23.19), 17th-18th in adjusted Championships (0.75), 1st in adjusted Finals appearances (5.7), 21st in win% (.626), 18th in playoff win% (.552), 19th in adjusted Net Rating (+3.1), 7th in Top 5 aNR (+5.5) Avg z-score
The Lakers of Jerry West’s time represented a kind of dynasty of second-place finishes. Their nine Finals appearances in the 12-year run is incredible, although it’s adjusted down to 5.7 because of the number of teams in the league when they were accomplished.
These Lakers’ ability to contend for a long period of time is impressive, and if I did these rankings by Points alone, they’d be at #4 among Dynastenders on that strength. Weak regular seasons, though, prevent them from reaching thoe heights in my more complicated system.
8. Boston Celtics, 2008-2012 Head Coach
: Doc Rivers Key Players
: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo Dynastender Rankings
: 9th-16th in Seasons (5), 10th-11th in Points (18), 8th-13th in adjusted Championships (1), 9th-10th in adjusted Finals appearances (2), 5th in win% (.693), 15th in playoff win% (.581), 4th in adjusted Net Rating (+6.0), 3rd in Top 5 aNR (+6.0) Avg z-score
Known as a major step forward into the “superteam” era, the Big Three Celtics hit the ground running, posting their best season by far (67 wins and a title) in their first season together. As such, they’re the only NBA Dynastender to win a title in the first season of their run. Perhaps, that might be what contributes to this squad’s legacy; most teams have to build for a couple of years but the Big Three Celtics hit the ground running and made an immediate impression.
They had a chance to make a Dynasty out of it, but a Garnett injury hampered their chances in ‘09, and they couldn't pull out a Game 7 against the Lakers in ‘10. Great regular seasons propel the team into the top-10 Dynastenders, although the short length of the run and underwhelming playoff results limit how high they could rise.
7. Detroit Pistons, 2002-2008 Head Coach
: Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown, Flip Saunders Key Players
: Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Jon Barry Dynastender Rankings
: 4th in Seasons (7), 3rd in Points (25), 14th in adjusted Championships (0.98), 11th in adjusted Finals appearances (1.98), 12th in win% (.669), 16th in playoff win% (.579), 10th in adjusted Net Rating (+4.8), 6th in Top 5 aNR (+5.7) Avg z-score
What really carries this Pistons team is their Point total, which is buoyed both by their longevity (7 seasons is a fairly good length for a run) and the streak of six straight conference finals appearances for which they are somewhat famous. Six straight three-point seasons (in the Dynasty Point system) has only been equalled by the Jazz (six straight), Russell Celtics (eight straight), and the Showtime Lakers (ten straight), so it’s a very impressive feat that’s worthy of putting the ‘00s Pistons in this kind of tier.
Because of how many deep runs the Pistons made, it’s not that hard to imagine a couple years going differently resulting in a Dynasty; like ‘05 (losing in Game 7 of the Finals), or ‘06/’08 (two six-game losses to the eventual champions).
Somewhat surprisingly, they don’t rank very highly in playoff win percentage, due to the fact that they won some surprisingly close series (like TOR ‘02, ORL ‘03, CLE ‘06) and lost a couple of lopsided ones (BOS ‘02, NJ ‘03).
6. Detroit Pistons, 1987-1991 Head Coach
: Chuck Daly Key Players
: Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, Adrian Dantley Dynastender Rankings
: 9th-16th in Seasons (5), 5th in Points (21.68), 4th in adjusted Championships (1.86), 6th in adjusted Finals appearances (2.74), 11th in win% (.678), 3rd in playoff win% (.678), 9th in adjusted Net Rating (+4.9), 12th in Top 5 aNR (+4.9) Avg z-score
The second straight Pistons team on the list is the closest Dynastender to being on the Dynasty list. The ‘88 Finals ended with two very close games (that weren’t
either), both of which could have won the Pistons the championship. Had they done so, and still won the next two, they would get the requisite three titles (in six or fewer seasons) for the Dynasty label. However, this team fails to resemble Dynasties in both number of championships and in length; every post-merger Dynasty lasted at least nine seasons by mysystem, where Detroit lasted only five. The Pistons got their two titles, got eclipsed by the Bulls, and disappeared.
Playoff success carries this run, as the Bad Boys nearly
had as good of a win percentage in the second season as in the first. Unlike their ‘00s successors, they dominated series, winning 9 series by three games or more in this Dynastender run, losing only once by such a margin.
5. Dallas Mavericks, 2001-2011 Head Coach
: Don Nelson, Avery Johnson, Rick Carlisle Key Players
: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Erick Dampier, Josh Howard, Jason Kidd, Shawn Bradley, Tyson Chandler, Antawn Jamison Dynastender Rankings
: 2nd in Seasons (11), 2nd in Points (27), 8th-13th in adjusted Championships (1), 9th-10th in adjusted Finals appearances (2), 8th in win% (.687), 22nd in playoff win% (.512), 7th in adjusted Net Rating (+5.4), 2nd in Top 5 aNR (+7.0) Avg z-score
The Mavericks’ relative absence from the later rounds of the playoffs might have made you think that the 2011 team was a one-year wonder. However, that’s not the case. It was a year that topped off what was a very impressive run of success up to that point, at least in the regular season.
Every season in this run, Dallas had a record good enough to earn them points for my system (a 50-win pace). That’s 11 straight seasons, a very impressive feat that’s only been bettered by the Showtime Lakers, the Russell Celtics, and the Duncan Spurs. Dirk and co. were consistently good year in and year out, which is the driving force behind them making the top 5 of the Dynastender list.
Of course, what came between the Mavs and the very top of this list (or even a part of the Dynasty list) is a lack of playoff success. The playoff record (65-62) sticks out like a sore thumb, an atrocious 22nd out of 23 qualifying Dynastenders. The biggest symbol of said disappointment is the infamous series they lost to the 8-seed Warriors in 2007, following a 67-win regular season that featured an MVP from Nowitzki.
A disparity between regular season and playoff success that’s this large is really astounding, and the large sample calls into question the conventional analytic wisdom that the playoffs are basically just a noise-fest. Here are some highlights (or lowlights), as not everyone might know/remember much about Dallas’ playoff journey (I know I didn’t before researching):
- 2001: The Mavs overcome a big deficit at Utah in a decisive Game 5, but get destroyed by San Antonio in Round 2.
- 2002: A sweep against Minnesota, but a 5-game loss against the memorable ‘02 Kings team (including an OT Game 4 loss)
- 2003: Dirk gets injured during the WCF, and the Mavericks lose to the Spurs (although they benefitted from a Chris Weber injury the round before).
- 2004: Another loss to the Kings, this time in Round 1. Dallas misses two opportunities at the end of one-possession Games 4 and 5 to end the series.
- 2005: A comeback from a 2-0 deficit against McGrady and Yao’s Rockets, followed by an OT Game 6 loss at home to Phoenix to end the season (a Steve Nash three ties it with 6 seconds left, followed by a near-miss from Stackhouse at the buzzer).
- 2006: This run is fairly well-known, so I’ll ignore it.
- 2007: This one’s also pretty well-documented. It’ll also make you cry if you think about it enough.
- 2008: A convincing loss against Chris Paul and the Hornets in the first round.
- 2009: An impressive five-game win against the Spurs, followed by a five-game loss to Carmelo and the Nuggets, with three double-digit road losses and two close home games that the teams split (including a Carmelo game-winner after an uncalled intentional foul)
- 2010: Yet another series against the Spurs (the fifth in ten years); this one a 4-2 win for San Antonio as the 7-seed.
Dallas entered 2011 having lost in the first round three times in four years, and this long stretch of playoff failure made their great championship run all the sweeter.
4. Los Angeles Lakers, 2008-2012 Head Coach
: Phil Jackson, Mike Brown Key Players
: Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum Dynastender Rankings
: 9th-16th in Seasons (5), 6th-7th in Points (21), 1st-2nd in adjusted Championships (2), 5th in adjusted Finals appearances (3), 4th in win% (.703), 8th in playoff win% (.618), 5th in adjusted Net Rating (+5.8), 4th in Top 5 aNR (+5.8) Avg z-score
Fittingly, the Celtics and Lakers had Dynastenders spanning the exact same five seasons. The Lakers’ version gets the nod both because they won the 2010 matchup, and because the Lakers had more consistent postseason success, winning 62% of their playoff games (and making three Finals) to the Celtics’ 58% (and two).
There might be some quibbles about this run not being connected to the Shaqobe era, but the consensus seems to be in separating the two, and my system concurs (the ‘05-07 run of seasons is enough disappointment to put the kibosh on the initial Dynasty).
3. Philadelphia 76ers, 1977-1986 Head Coach
: Gene Shue, Billy Cunningham, Matt Guokas Key Players
: Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney, Steve Mix, Charles Barkley, George McGinnis, Doug Collins Dynastender Rankings
: 3rd in Seasons (10), 1st in Points (30), 15th in adjusted Championships (0.88), 4th in adjusted Finals appearances (3.46), 10th in win% (.683), 9th in playoff win% (.603), 13th in adjusted Net Rating (+4.3), 5th in Top 5 aNR (+5.8) Avg z-score
Moses Malone’s “Fo Fo” Sixers only won one championship, but they had an extended period of relevance of which it was a part. In ten seasons, they made it to four NBA Finals and seven conference finals, only losing in the first round once. They also won 50 games in all but one season, the 47-win ‘79. In total, their 560 wins in these ten seasons ranked first in the league, with only two other teams (BOS 539, LAL 552) even getting to 500.
This team might slip through the cracks a bit, because apart from their one title, they’re often remembered in the contexts of their losses; they lost
to Bill Walton’s Blazers, they lost
to Magic’s iconic Game 6 performance, and they lost
the 3-1 lead against the ‘81 Celtics. These Sixers had the definite potential for a Dynasty if a couple of these (or other) losses went the other way.
My Point system loves this team’s longevity and consistency, as can be seen from their top rank in that category. They only end up outside of the top spot on this list because there’s two other teams who were particularly excellent over smaller periods of time.
2. Milwaukee Bucks, 1970-1974 Head Coach
: Larry Costello Key Players
: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Dandridge, Oscar Robertson, Jon McGlocklin, Lucius Allen, Flynn Robinson Dynastender Rankings
: 9th-16th in Seasons (5), 14th in Points (15.66), 17th-18th in adjusted Championships (0.75), 17th in adjusted Finals appearances (1.51), 1st in win% (.741), 7th in playoff win% (.632), 1st in adjusted Net Rating (+7.6), 1st in Top 5 aNR (+7.6) Avg z-score
Of the teams you were anticipating on this list, the ‘70s Bucks might not have been one of them. They were from the “dark ages” of the ‘70s that everybody forgets about. There’s a chance that you knew they had a great ‘71 season, but not much else.
However, these Bucks had a heck of a run. They hit the ground running their first season without Kareem, immediately winning 56 games, losing in the Division Finals. Then followed one of the greatest seasons of all time
, where they posted a net-rating record that wouldn’t be broken for 21 years (and their aNR still hasn’t been beaten by a non-Dynasty), and dominated the postseason to boot. ‘72 was the Lakers’ year, but the Bucks were still nothing to sneeze at; 63 wins and a second-straight double-digit net rating (only the ‘15-17 Warriors and ‘96-97 Bulls can boast the same). Not only that, but they actually outscored the Lakers in their playoff series that year! ‘73 saw a disappointing first-round upset loss to Golden State (in which the Bucks also scored more points), but after a third-straight 60-win season (another feat only Dynasties share). Finally, the Bucks narrowly missed what would have been the NBA’s only four-season streak of 60+ wins (they won 59), and an iconic Kareem shot
forced a seventh NBA Finals game which they ended up losing.
I was originally as puzzled by the Bucks’ high ranking as you all might have been, but actually going back and breaking down all of their seasons has sold me on them. 304 regular-season wins over a five-year period is incredible, and they were just a few playoff games away from a Dynasty that would’ve potentially been remembered among the best.
1. Miami Heat, 2011-2014 Head Coach
: Erik Spoelstra Key Players
: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh Dynastender Rankings
: 17th-20th in Seasons (4), 6th-7th in Points (21), 1st-2nd in adjusted Championships (2), 2nd-3rd in adjusted Finals appearances (3.46), 3rd in win% (.718), 2nd in playoff win% (.678), 2nd in adjusted Net Rating (+6.4), 9th in Top 5 aNR (+5.1) Avg z-score
While this team isn’t the closest on this list to being a Dynasty (the Pistons are), in some ways they might be the team that feels
like a dynasty the most, or that most had the aura that many dynasties share.
From the moment Miami’s Big 3 was official, everyone knew it was the Heat against the world. LeBron infamously made a tongue-in-cheek allusion
to a mega-dynasty, and it was up to everyone else to try to stop it. The fact that this run has an air of disappointment about its final results, despite four Finals and two rings in four tries, is almost the biggest testament there is. Out of 16 playoff series, they only lost twice to two very good teams, but it’s still not quite good enough, precisely because this team was so good that perfection was their standard.
The Heat are a good example of the upside of my final ranking system, and its general favoritism towards short but great runs. Now that I’m looking at the list, it would feel a little wrong for the Heat to be 6th-7th, and not even make the top 5 Dynastenders, as would be the case if I went on Points alone. Yes, they only lasted for four years, but the way they defined the NBA for that stretch goes beyond most other Dynastenders.
We could, perhaps, touch on how much of a footnote 2012 should be, where there could be some arguments back and forth. On the one hand, I don’t really believe in footnotes based on shortened regular-seasons (at least in the NBA’s cases, where we were still left with decent regular seasons that were >half of a normal one), and also history bore out that Derrick Rose getting injured was more of a norm than an exception. On the other hand, the ECF we got was pretty close, which could lead one to wonder whether Chicago with home court could have tipped the balance in the other direction.