There have been many teams that have had amazing regular seasons, only to collapse in the playoffs and be known as one of the best NBA teams that never won a championship. A great regular season will be quickly diminished if a team doesn’t finish it off by winning the NBA Finals.
Best NBA teams that never won a Championship
The greatest NBA teams to not win a title are those projected to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy even before the season begins. These teams have the most star power, the deepest bench, and great coaching that put it all together in the regular season but fell short come playoff time.
Had some of these teams won the championship that season, they would be regarded as one of the best teams ever. Unfortunately, they have to settle for being one of the best NBA teams that never won a championship.
10. 2015-16 Spurs
The Spurs were led by superstar Kawhi Leonard that season. They also had a lot of other key players which included LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Danny Green, Patty Mills, and a 39-year-old Tim Duncan. San Antonio finished with the 7th best record in NBA history at 67-15.
The Spurs won their first 39 games at home in 2015-16, which is the most to start a season in NBA history. They had the best defensive rating and best net rating in the NBA. After sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies in round one, the Spurs bounced out of the playoffs with a 4-2 series loss to the Thunder.
9. 1971-72 Bucks
Unfortunately for Milwaukee, they had to go up against a stacked Los Angeles Lakers team in 1971-72.
The Bucks finished the regular season with a record of 63-19, which was second behind the Lakers. Milwaukee was the best defensive team in the league due to the performance of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lucius Allen, and Bob Dandridge. The team was also scary on the offensive end with those three and Oscar Robertson.
Had it not been for Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West’s Lakers, the Bucks would have cruised to the NBA title that year. Instead, the Bucks would fall to Los Angeles in six games in the Western Conference Finals.
8. 2008-09 Cavaliers
It looked like LeBron James finally had a chance to win a championship with the Cavaliers in 2008-09.
Cleveland finished with a record of 66-16 in the regular season. Although the team wasn’t as good as their record showed, LeBron was carrying the team all season long. In addition to James, the Cavaliers had Mo Williams, Delonte West, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
The Cavaliers swept their first two opponents in the playoffs but couldn’t do enough to beat the Orlando Magic. Despite averaging 38.5 points per game in the series, LeBron didn’t get much help as Cleveland fell in six games.
7. 2001-02 Kings
One of the best NBA teams that never won a championship, the 2001-02 Kings had the best record in the league that season. They finished the regular season at 61-21.
Sacramento had their leader in Chris Webber but also had a great supporting cast. They were the most balanced team in the league, with seven players averaging more than 10 points per game throughout the regular season.
The Kings cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs. In the Western Conference Finals, Sacramento found themselves up 3-2 against the two-time defending champion Lakers. Unfortunately for the Kings, they would lose the next two games by a combined 10 points as Los Angeles would go on to win a third straight championship.
6. 2017-18 Rockets
The 2017-18 Houston Rockets had a great opportunity to win the title. It was game seven of the Western Conference Finals that eventually cost them a chance at a championship.
The Rockets finished the regular season with a record of 65-17, which was six games better than the next best team. The team featured stars James Harden and Chris Paul, along with key players in Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and Trevor Ariza.
After rolling through the first two rounds, Houston had to take on the defending champion Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Had Paul not been out for game seven and the Rockets didn’t miss 27 consecutive three-pointers at one point in the game, Houston would have most likely been NBA Champions that year.
5. 1994-95 Magic
An offensive powerhouse filled with young stars, the 1994-95 Magic were one of the best NBA teams to not win a title.
The two leading scorers for the team that season were 22-year-old Shaquille O’Neal and 23-year-old Anfernee Hardaway. The team also featured Horace Grant, Nick Anderson, and Dennis Scott. Orlando went 57-25 in the regular season, which was good enough for first place in the East.
Orlando made it to the NBA Finals but was stopped by Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets as Houston swept the series.
4. 1972-73 Celtics
The 1972-73 Celtics had one of the most balanced teams in the league. They had six players who averaged more than 10 points per game.
Boston finished the regular season with a record of 68-14. Their winning percentage of 82.9% is the 6th best in NBA history for a single season. The Celtics were led by John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, and Jo Jo White.
In the playoffs, the Celtics played against the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals. After going down 3-1 in the series, Boston battled back to force a game seven. However, the Knicks dominated in the deciding game as Boston’s amazing season was cut short.
3. 1992-93 Suns
If it wasn’t for Michael Jordan, the 1992-93 Suns wouldn’t be on this list of best NBA teams that never won a championship.
Phoenix finished with a 62-20 record in the regular season. The team was led by superstar Charles Barkley, who averaged 25.6 points per game. Barkley won Most Valuable Player for the regular season.
In the playoffs, the Suns won two elimination games on their way to the Finals. In the Finals, Phoenix pushed the series to six games, but it wasn’t enough to stop Jordan, who averaged 41 points per game in the series.
2. 1996-97 Jazz
The Jazz put it all together during the 1996-97 season, and yet it wasn’t enough to win the title.
Utah finished the regular season with a record of 64-18. Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, and Bryon Russell led the way as the Jazz looked like a serious threat to the Chicago Bulls. The Jazz got through the first three series with ease to set up a battle against the Bulls in the NBA Finals.
Unfortunately for Utah, they just couldn’t solve Michael Jordan. Jordan averaged 32.3 points per game in the series, and although each game was tight, the Bulls would be crowned champions with a 4-2 series victory.
1. 2015-16 Warriors
The 2015-16 Warriors top the list of best NBA teams that never won a championship.
Golden State had the best regular season of any team in league history. They finished with a record of 73-9, winning 24 straight games to start the season. The Warriors were stacked with talent, which included Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
After escaping a 3-1 series deficit against the Thunder to keep their record season alive, the Warriors let it slip away in the NBA Finals. Golden State would go up 3-1, but LeBron and the Cavaliers came storming back to make history. The greatest regular-season ever would not have a happy ending as the Warriors fell in seven games.