Forget the Warriors: The Spurs Are on Pace to Be the Best Regular Season Team of All-Time
There has been an immeasurable amount of digital (and real) ink spent on the Golden State Warriors this season.
The defending champs are on pace to be even better than they were last year during their record-setting title run, and Stephen Curry's 2015-16 to date has forced us to consider him seriously in the "best individual season of all time" conversation.
The Warriors are hip, fun, exciting, novel, etc., and it's easy to understand why hoops fans, both diehard and casual, are so enamoured with them. Meanwhile, with little fanfare, the San Antonio Spurs are quietly going about their business, and having not only the best season in their storied franchise's history, but also one that is arguably outshining what the Warriors are doing.
Oh, and it's also on pace to be the best regular season by any team in NBA history.
When the Warriors were kicking all that butt last year, the stat du jour became Margin of Victory (MOV). More specifically, the fact that the Warriors joined an exclusive club of teams that managed to finish a season with a MOV over 10 just gave everyone the vapors. Admittedly, 10 is an arbitrary cut-off point between good and historically great, but damn if that stat doesn't seem important once it hits double digits.
The list of teams that have finished a season with a MOV north of 10 is essentially a who's who of the best teams of all-time. The 1971-72 Lakers, the 1970-71 Bucks, a slew of Jordan's Bulls teams (including 1996-96's 72-10 effort, of course), and even the 2007-08 Boston Celtics super-team. There are clear omissions when it comes to being a definitive "best of all-time" list (the 1985-86 Celtics come to mind), but it's safe to say that inclusion in this group is an accomplishment of historical proportions.
The Warriors just made it last season with a MOV of 10.10 and have amazingly improved on that this year with a mark of 11.97. If they can pull off back-to-back plus-10 seasons, they'll join the 1970-72 Bucks and the 1995-97 Bulls as the only franchises to ever do so.
Meanwhile, without much attention being called to it, the Spurs are crushing the NBA record for MOV by almost two frickin' points.
|1||San Antonio Spurs||2015-16||31-6||.838||14.22|
|2||Los Angeles Lakers||1971-72||69-13||.841||12.28|
|5||Golden State Warriors||2015-16||33-2||.943||11.97|
|10||Golden State Warriors||2014-15||67-15||.817||10.10|
Even if you consider the fact that the Spurs have had the easiest schedule in the NBA to date (Strength of Schedule of .470), they are still on an all-time best pace; they are on track to post the best Simple Rating System mark -- a team rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule -- of all time at 12.46.
If you're about to point to team records and think the Warriors have been a more dominant team this season because their 33-2 record and ridiculous .943 win percentage overshadows the Spurs at 31-6 and .838, think again: the Spurs have an Expected Win-Loss record (using Pythagorean Wins to relate a team's points scored and points allowed to its win-loss record) of 34-3 and Expected Winning Percentage of .919, compared to Golden State's marks of 30-5 and .862, respectively.
The Spurs currently have an otherworldly team nERD of 90.6, which is our in-house metric that is meant to be predictive of the team's ultimate winning percentage. They lead the league in Defensive Rating at 95.4, while coming in third in Offensive Rating at 110.5. That defensive mark is among the best of all-time, while their Relative Defensive Rating (a team's Defensive Rating relative to the league at the time) of -9.5 is unmatched in the history of the NBA.
Listen, this isn't an attempt to belittle what Golden State is doing. It's simply an attempt to appreciate properly how great the San Antonio Spurs have been and how much they belong alongside the Dubs when debating the best team in the league.
The Spurs have had a winning percentage over .600 for 19 consecutive seasons with five titles sprinkled over that span, and this is somehow shaping up to be their best season ever.
And that, my friends, is flat out bonkers.