The new era in the National Basketball Association. It’s finally here. Last night, we witnessed the 2016 Golden State Warriors break the all-time season win record against the mediocre Memphis Grizzlies closing the season with 73 wins.
In April of last year, the Warriors ended the season with 67 wins. Only two squads before then ever hit more than that number – the 1996 Chicago Bulls (69 wins) and the 1997 Chicago Bulls (72 wins). Last season, we thought that 67 was a historic mark, matching the record of only 5 other teams; 1986 Boston Celtics, 1992 Chicago Bulls, 2000 Los Angeles Lakers, and the 2007 Dallas Mavericks. All of which went on to win the Finals.
Some people asked how could they do better? Myself, Bill Simmons, Zach Lowe all thought it couldn’t be done – how could it be possible? Well, Steph Curry and the 2016 Warriors proved us all wrong.
The table above shows two things. Let me break it out for you in two separate sections.
The trend of win percentage for the top 5 teams that year are shown in the line graph (highest record in blue vs. lowest record in orange). You can see that there was a peak in the mid-90s with the two historic Bulls regular seasons, then the 2000 Lakers, then a lull over the next four years. The next highest were the 2007 Mavs, 2008 Celtics and 2009 Cavs, but nothing close to what we saw from Jordan’s Bulls.
Last year, we started to see the same spikes we saw back in the 90s – just in reverse order. Is this because the Warriors constructed a better team or are they competing against lower skilled teams?
The light gray columns indicate the difference between the team with the best record in the NBA vs. the average of all the NBA playoff teams that year. This would essentially show how competitive the league was in that particular year. For example, in 2011 when the Mavs beat the LeBron and Wade Heat, that was the lowest difference between the best playoff team and the average playoff team. On the other hand, in 1996 and 2016, we saw the highest difference between the best playoff team and the lowest playoff team. It could indicate that the Chicago Bulls in 1996 and Golden State Warriors in 2016 were that much better than their competition, and while that may be true, the average playoff team seemed to have a much worse record than other years.
I applaud the accomplishment of Steph Curry and the 2016 Warriors reaching this crazy season milestone. They wanted it more than any other team to play the game in the last 36 years.
In the last twenty years, the teams that have finished the season with the best record won the Finals 12 out of 20 times, so there are no guarantees that the Warriors will have the best complete season.
The NBA playoffs start this Saturday with the Pacers playing the Raptors around noon. The next thing to do is to just sit back and see if the Warriors can win 16 more.
Be sure to check back during the playoffs as I’ll be covering Round 1 action next week. Also, be on the lookout for more articles on the NBA – they’ll be more… many more.