Which NBA Teams Are Having Their Best or Worst Season Ever?
Last night, the Toronto Raptors secured their 50th win of the season with a 105-97 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. That marks the first time in their 21-year history that a Raptors team has reached 50 wins, and they've still got eight games left on their schedule.
Fans and pundits alike are calling this the best Raptors team of all time, and it's hard to argue with that based on the record.
But if you wanted to look beyond record and judge a team on some deeper numbers, there are several things at which you could look. Margin of victory is a popular one because it expresses how much better a team was than their opponents in a given season with a bit more accuracy than simple wins and losses.
One could go even a step further and look at Simple Rating System (SRS), a team rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule (denominated in points above/below average, where zero is average).
There are four teams that are currently registering the best or worst SRS mark in franchise history.
As mentioned, with eight games to go in the regular season, the Toronto Raptors have already set a franchise record for wins this year with 50. Their current 67.6% win-loss percentage is a 7.8% leap over their previous best set last year, and their SRS of 4.00 convincingly beats out their 2013-14 mark of 2.55.
They currently have a 4.2 Net Rating (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions), which represents the best efficiency differential mark they've ever had as well, beating out the 3.5 they achieved in both 2013-14 and 2007-08.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors finished among NBA history's most elite teams in most metrics last season, cementing their place as one of the best teams of all-time. This season, they've somehow raised the bar even higher across the board, while making a serious push to beat out the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and their 72-10 record to become the first team ever to top 73 wins.
After becoming only the eighth team in NBA history to join the exclusive club of teams finishing a season with an average margin of victory north of 10 last year at 10.10, they're about to submit another entry this season with a mark of 11.04. Their 10.39 SRS this year is on pace to top last season's franchise-record-setting 10.01, and their 90.7% winning percentage will set an NBA record if it holds. They currently have a home record of 36-0 and have a legitimate shot at becoming the only team ever to go a perfect 41-0 at home in a single season.
They're not only having the best season in their franchise's history but also arguably the best season of any team in NBA history -- period.
San Antonio Spurs
The interesting thing about the Warriors having what could arguably be called the best season by any team ever is that there's an argument to be made that they're not even the best team in the NBA this season.
At 63-12, the San Antonio Spurs won't top the 72-10 record set by the Chicago Bulls in 1995-96, but they could very well beat out this and last year's Warriors team when it comes to their 11.67 average margin of victory and 10.84 SRS -- both of which would place the Spurs fourth on the all-time lists in those categories if they hold and would represent the best marks recorded by any team in either since those aforementioned Bulls two decades ago.
So, the Spurs are somehow having the best campaign in a franchise history that includes 49 seasons spread out over the NBA/ABA, 19 straight years of 50 wins (if you prorate the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season), and five NBA titles.
With a 100-92 win over the New Orleans Pelicans last night, the Spurs both tied their franchise record for wins in a single season with 63 (with seven games left on the schedule) and set the NBA record for the most consecutive home wins to start a season with 38. Like the Warriors, they too have a chance to become the first NBA team to go 41-0 at home in a season. Interestingly enough, both teams have a home game remaining against the other on their schedule getting in the way of setting said record.
The Spurs -- again, just like the Warriors -- are not only having the best season in their franchise's history but also arguably one of the best seasons of any team in NBA history.
Los Angeles Lakers
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the Los Angeles Lakers. One of the league's most storied franchises, the Lakers have had 60 playoff appearances in 68 NBA seasons, culminating in 16 championships. Not only will they miss out on the playoffs for only the eighth time in franchise history and for the third consecutive year, but this year's team is also setting franchise records for their worst win-loss percentage (21.3%) and SRS (-8.72) ever in the process.
Both Offensive and Defensive Rating are hard to compare over eras, but in terms of Relative Offensive Rating (a team's Offensive Rating relative to the league average) and Relative Defensive Rating (a team's Defensive Rating relative to the league average), the Lakers are putting up their worst marks ever in both at -4.3 and +5.3, respectively. That's a pretty convoluted sentence, but it's important to realize how terrible it is to set the worst mark in both of those categories in the same one season out of 68.
So, amidst Kobe Bryant's historically inefficient farewell tour and enough TMZ-style drama to break Twitter, one of the best NBA franchises ever is officially bottoming out and having their worst season ever.