All-Time NBA Franchise Rankings, 2014 Edition

San Antonio Spurs 2014 NBA champions

The 2014-15 NBA season is officially underway, so I’m just a little bit late with my updated rankings of all 30 franchises. So let’s get started.

If you want to check out my other pro sports rankings — and I know you do — you can find them on this handy page.

The Criteria

The categories and point values are as follows:

  • 30 points for a league championship, and 15 points for a Finals loss.
  • 2 points for a playoff berth.
  • 5 points for each playoff round win (does not include a win in the Finals).
  • 4 points for a division title (starting in 1970-71).
  • 1 point for a winning season, -1 point for a losing season.
  • 3 points for a regular-season winning percentage better than .730 (60 wins with the current schedule), -3 points for a regular-season winning percentage worse than .270 (20 wins with the current schedule).
  • Consecutive winning regular seasons are worth 2 points starting with the second, 3 points for the third, 4 points for the fourth, and so on. The counter is reset after any non-winning season. So if a team has three winning seasons in a row, they get a total of 5 points.

While I may tweak the formula in future years, I think this accomplishes my two most important objectives — to reward consistently good play in the regular season, and to not give older franchises too much of an advantage just by virtue of being around for so many years. I’ve always felt that using NBA titles alone to measure a franchise’s greatness (or badness) is taking too narrow a view.

One final note — as with the NBA, these rankings to not reflect records for teams while in the ABA or NBL.

The Top 10

Boston Celtics#1. Los Angeles Lakers (#1 last year) — 32.00 avg.

#2. Boston Celtics (#2) — 26.25 avg.

#3. San Antonio Spurs (#3) — 23.26 avg.

#4. Miami Heat (#4) — 16.57 avg.

#5. Chicago Bulls (#5) — 14.03 avg.

#6. Utah Jazz (#6) — 11.61 avg.

#7. Philadelphia 76ers (#7) — 11.19 avg.

#8. New York Knicks (#8) — 9.23 avg.

#9. Oklahoma City Thunder (#10) — 9.14 avg.

#10. Portland Trail Blazers (#9) — 9.05 avg.

Despite an off year for the Lakers, they are still comfortably in the top spot on this list. Elsewhere there wasn’t much movement in the top 10, although the Thunder and Blazers swapped spots. Should Oklahoma City continue their great run, they could very well pass the Knicks by next year.

The Mediocre 10

Indiana Pacers#11. Detroit Pistons (#11) — 8.68 avg.

#12. Houston Rockets (#13) — 8.53 avg.

#13. Dallas Mavericks (#12) — 8.46 avg.

#14. Phoenix Suns (#15) — 8.01 avg.

#15. Milwaukee Bucks (#14) — 7.94 avg.

#16. Orlando Magic (#16) — 6.21 avg.

#17. Atlanta Hawks (#17) — 5.71 avg.

#18. Golden State Warriors (#18) — 5.32 avg.

#19. Indiana Pacers (#20) — 5.12 avg.

#20. Denver Nuggets (#19) — 4.57 avg.

Several teams in this group moved up or down one spot this year. The biggest gain in franchise point average was turned in by the Pacers, who moved up by almost half a point thanks to a fantastic regular season and a run all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. They also now boast a streak of three straight winning regular seasons.

The Bottom 10

New Jersey Nets#21. Washington Wizards (#21) — 4.20 avg.

#22. Sacramento Kings (#23) — 3.44 avg.

#23. Cleveland Cavaliers (#22) — 3.31 avg.

#24. Brooklyn Nets (#24) — 2.77 avg.

#25. Charlotte Hornets — 0.43 avg.

#26. New Orleans Pelicans — 0.42 avg.

#27. Minnesota Timberwolves (#26) — -1.37 avg.

#28. Los Angeles Clippers (#27) — -1.40 avg.

#29. Toronto Raptors (#28) — -1.54 avg.

#30. Memphis Grizzlies (#29) — -1.85 avg.

The big shakeup this year had more to do with behind-the-scenes changes than with on-the-court action. The newly rechristened Charlotte Hornets have taken back their franchise records from the New Orleans Pelicans, and by sheer coincidence the two teams now sit next to each other in the bottom 10.

7 thoughts on “All-Time NBA Franchise Rankings, 2014 Edition

  1. Matthew Jones

    I was a little surprised that the Hawks landed in the middle once again. I know only the two Finals appearances in their history (only winning one), but they’ve gotten into the playoffs a ton in their history. I guess enough really terrible years brought them down?

    1. Chris Holmes

      Actually they have 4 Finals appearances when you include their time in St. Louis (1957, ’58, ’60 & ’61). As far as their average, they are dragged down by having almost as many losing seasons as winning, and for the fact that they haven’t really had more than one sustained stretch of winning seasons. Also, for all the times they’ve made the playoffs (43 times) they only have 24 series wins to show for it. The Pistons, for one comparison, have made the playoffs 40 times but have 39 series wins.

      1. Matthew Jones

        First of all, I saw that with the finals. What a run, right?! If I did my research right, almost all of those finals were against the Celtics, right? And good point on the series wins. I guess that a lot of winning seasons don’t necessarily mean a great team in the long run…

  2. Alan Christensen

    What about deducting a few points for a franchise move?

    1. Chris Holmes

      Ah, but what about franchises that move due to lack of fan support?

      1. Alan Christensen

        Since we’re trying to measure relative success of franchises, I guess I wouldn’t exclude lack of fan support. I’d say a team with more fan support is, by definition, more successful.

        1. ldcy

          That’s not the case. San Fransisco loves the Warriors unconditionally either they win or lose. Boston also has great fans that have one eye in the past and understandably so, demanding to relive past greatness.

          But fan support doesn’t indicate how successful a franchise is at a moment in time.

          You just have cities that are great sports cities and cities that not a great % of people have sports as their no1 priority on their leisure time.

          Teams that moved had a difficult time finding great and continuous success After their relocation.

          13 of the current 30 teams relocated one or more times in their NBL/BAA/ABA/NBA history.

          Three of them don’t have a league championship as we speak. (Clippers, Grizzlies, Jazz)

          Another four won one or more championships at their original location, didn’t won after. (Kings, Nets, Thunder, Hawks)

          That’s 7 out of 13 teams not winning after they relocated.

          Spurs spent their first six seasons at Dallas without winning an ABA title, before relocating at San Antonio. They might be one of the most successfull teams in NBA history right now but they spent 25 years after relocating to win their 1st championship.

          Wizards started at Chicago and they relocated to Baltimore after two years and then to Washington after a decade without a title. They won a championship on their 4th season there, never won since.

          4 of the 12 teams that relocated at least once, found success in more than one cities. Only one of them did it exclusively in the NBA. Two of them exclusively in what the NBA counts as its official history (BAA/NBA 1946-2014):

          Pistons had great success as an NBL team playing at Fort Wayne, winning back-to-back NBL titles. After they relocated to Detroit in 1957, they won back to back titles after 32 years and won again once after 15 years.

          76ers won a title playing at Syracuse in 1955. After they relocated in 1963 they won two titles in 51 years.

          Warriors won the 1st BAA title and an NBA title in 1956. After they relocated they won one championship in 52 years.

          They Only team that had much success (more than 1 title) in two cities as an NBA team (something that this page discusses) is the Lakers.

          After their dismal 1st year at Detroit they earned the rights to draft George Mikan, if he was available. Minneapolis businessmen knew that, they bought the franchise and they quickly started a dynasty putting talent around him.

          They won 5 NBA titles in Minneapolis and 6 total professional titles. After losing the attention of the fans and relocated, they found great success but they struggled before they could win continiously and have the right to have the city of Los Angeles behind the team. They won 1 championship in their first 19 years in the city before a draft pick from the Jazz allowed them to pick the player that officially mad the Lakers a show and the franchise part of the community.

          And of course i’m speaking about Magic Johnson. And that’s maybe the reason why,

          -even though Mikan made the Lakers an important part of the leagues history as the face of its first dynasty

          -even though Baylor and West were those who introduced the Lakers to the city,

          -even though Wilt was the one that a allowed the team to go all the way for the first time in LA

          -even though Shaq spent his prime in a purple and gold uniform

          -even though Kareem might be the greatest Laker of all in terms of leading the franchise to relative success even by himself for a number of years

          -and even if Kobe is the most durable of all the great players that played for the franchise

          Magic is the most Important Laker of all time. He was the missing link that bounded the city and the franchise forever.

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