1.14.2017

Apparently the 1988-89 Celtics were the best team ever (???)



The New York Times Blogs

July 23, 2012 Monday

HEADLINE: Best N.B.A. Team Ever (Bench Included)?

BYLINE: EVIN DEMIREL

The Celtics in 1988-89? The Knicks in 1972-73? The Pistons in 1992-93? Which N.B.A. team had the most impressive roster?

BODY:

James-Wade-Bosh; Pierce-Garnett-Allen; Olajuwon-Pippen-Barkley.

N.B.A. superteams, or more accurately supernuclei, are far from new. Larry Bird doesn't win three titles without Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson by his side. Magic Johnson doesn't two up him without the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and Bob McAdoo. A decade before, Wilt Chamberlain teamed with Jerry West, Gail Goodrich and Elgin Baylor.

In this way, Los Angeles's recent landing of Steve Nash seems to secure only the latest iteration of a long-running theme. Still, the Lakers stand out in one regard: they may have the most talented starting lineup, top to bottom, in decades. Every starter - Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant and Nash - has been an All-Star. The last team that consistently unleashed starters with similar all-around excellence might have been the 1972-73 Knicks with Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier.

From a pure talent standpoint, these starting lineups are among the most impressive in league history. What about entire rosters, though?

Which N.B.A. teams have had the most talent, top to bottom?

It's tricky to find appropriate metrics here. Since various eras are taken into account, it is best to throw the sabermetricians' usual toolbox out the window. For decades, after all, the N.B.A. did not keep track of stealsor blocks; 3-pointers did not arrive until 1979.

With such a dearth of cold data, I will rely on the opinions of players' contemporaries. The first all-N.B.A. team was selected in 1950. All-Star games began the next year. If enough fans, coaches and sportswriters deemed someone worthy of either of those teams, chances are that player had more natural basketball ability than those not chosen. Granted, an enforcer type like Bill Laimbeer occasionally topples the apple cart as a multiple All-Star, but, by and large, crowdsourcing is a valid way to gauge pure (realized) talent for a particular sport.

And so, on with it: Here are some of the most talented teams in N.B.A. history.

1. 1988-89 Boston (7): Danny Ainge, Larry Bird*, Otis Birdsong, Dennis Johnson, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Jim Paxson (Reggie Lewis would be a future All-Star).

2. 2007-8 Dallas (7): Josh Howard, Juwan Howard, Eddie Jones, Jason Kidd, Jamaal Magloire, Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse (Devin Harris would be a future All-Star).

3. 1985-86 Philadelphia (7): Maurice Cheeks, Julius Erving, Bobby Jones, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney, Charles Barkley, Bob McAdoo.

4. 1972-73 Knicks (7): Dick Barnett, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, Jerry Lucas, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed.

5. 2010-11 Miami (7): Chris Bosh, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, LeBron James, Jamaal Magloire, Jerry Stackhouse, Dwyane Wade.

6. 1992-93 Detroit (7): Mark Aguirre, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Alvin Robertson, Dennis Rodman, Jeff Ruland, Isiah Thomas.

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