NBA standings: As the 2020-’21 NBA season approaches, the league is ripe with talent after a busy offseason that saw some huge moves. With teams loading up to try and take down the Los Angeles Lakers, we expect the NBA standings will be closer than ever this season in the hunt for playoff spots.
Winning over the course of an 82-game regular season as a team takes hard work, chemistry, skill and a little bit of luck. Every team will have its peaks and valleys in the name of winning an NBA championship. It will be especially true this upcoming season, with some teams coming off deep playoff runs and others have not played since March.
While we won’t get to see a team make history this year, with a shortened 72-game schedule, we will see new definitions of team success. Before the 2020-’21 season begins, let’s look back at the NBA standings from the past with every NBA team’s best win-loss record.
NBA standings: Every team’s best win-loss regular-season record
25. Brooklyn Nets: 52-30, 2001-2002
This season was Brooklyn’s first of consecutive NBA Finals appearances and Jason Kidd’s first season with the team. The Nets finished the previous year 26-56, making this one of the greatest season turnarounds in NBA history. As a result of the tremendous success, Kidd finished second in NBA MVP voting. Brooklyn’s season ended to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, with Los Angeles earning its third straight championship.
24. Charlotte Hornets: 54-28, 1996-1997
The 1996-1997 season was infamous for many reasons for the Hornets. In the offseason, the Hornets traded away the draft rights to the No. 13 overall pick, Kobe Bryant, for Vlade Divac. It would also mark Charlotte’s first season without Larry Johnson. In the playoffs, the Hornets were swept in the first round. In a fitting end, Johnson’s New York Knicks ended his former team’s season.
23. New Orleans Pelicans: 56-26, 2007-2008
Chris Paul became a star for New Orleans in 2007, finishing second in MVP voting. He led his team to their lone 50-win season in franchise history and their first Northwest Division crown. New Orleans nearly clinched a spot in the Western Conference Finals, but fell short in a seven-game series to the San Antonio Spurs.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: 56-26, 2012-2013
The Grizzlies’ “Grit and Grind” era was the best in the team’s brief history, highlighted by three consecutive seasons with 50-plus wins. The 2012-’13 season was their best regular-season record and their best playoff finish. The Grizzlies made their lone Conference Finals appearance, but the Spurs quickly swept them away.
21. Denver Nuggets: 57-25, 2012-2013
Denver is the only team on this list that set their franchise single-season wins records without an All-Star on their sister or a player averaging 20-plus points that season. The Nuggets were unable to make it past the first round of the playoffs, with the Golden State Warriors dispatching of them quickly
20. Los Angeles Clippers: 57-25, 2013-2014
CP3’s trade to the Clippers allowed the team to reach a level of success that the franchise never experienced. The 2013-’14 campaign was their best regular-season run. Of course, because it’s the Slippers, they couldn’t make it out of the second round. Los Angeles lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals in six games, continuing a tradition that haunts this franchise.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves: 58-24, 2003-2004
After seven straight playoff appearances, the 2003-’04 season was Minnesota’s best chance to compete for a championship. Kevin Garnett won NBA MVP, Sam Cassell made his only All-Star appearance and the T-Wolves finished with the best record in the Western Conference. They finished the season short of an NBA Finals berth, losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Since then, the Timberwolves have only made the playoffs once and have only had a record of over .500 in just two seasons.
18. Toronto Raptors: 59-23, 2017-2018
Before winning their first NBA championship, the Raptors won a franchise-record 59 games in Demar Derozan’s final season with the team. Beloved in Toronto for his play across nine years, DeRozan was outstanding throughout this remarkable season. Unfortunately, for the third straight season, the Raptors were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round in back-to-back years.
17. New York Knicks: 60-22, 1969-1970/1992-1993
In the Knicks’ first 60-win season, center Willis Reed won NBA MVP, Hall of Fame forward Dave DeBusschere played his first full season with the team and Walt Frazier made his first All-Star appearance. They ended the season winning their first NBA championship, beating the Lakers in seven games. Meanwhile, the 1992-’93 season saw the Knicks continue a turnaround for the franchise, with head coach Pat Riley in his second year with New York. Ultimately, the Knicks lost to the Chicago Bulls in a six0game Eastern Conference Finals.
16. Washington Wizards: 60-22, 1974-1975
This season was notable for being the first season in Washington, DC as the Washington Bullets which would remain their team name for the next 23 seasons. This was also Hall of Fame forward Elvin Hayes’ first season with Washington joining Hall of Fame center Wes Unseld. They would make it to their second of four NBA Finals in the 1970s but were again unsuccessful losing to the Golden State Warriors via sweep.
15. Orlando Magic: 60-22, 1995-1996
A year after making its first NBA Finals appearance, Orlando had a memorable season. THe 1995-’96 campaign was particularly notable, since it was the last for Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando. What makes the Magic winning 60-games this season more impressive is that they did so despite Shaq missing 28 games. Unfortunately, they were unable to make it back to the NBA Finals following a sweep in the Eastern Conference Finals.
14. Atlanta Hawks: 60-22, 2014-2015
Of the seven NBA franchise around when the league adopted its current name, the Atlanta Hawks were the last to win 60 games. Not only that, it took them 65 seasons to do it. Atlanta finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, enjoying a 22-win improvement and seeing four players make All-Star appearances (Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver). In the playoffs, the Hawks were swept by the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
13. Sacramento Kings: 61-21, 2001-2002
While Shaq and Kobe were dominating the NBA with back-to-back championships, the Kings began their rise as an NBA contender. Led by All-Star Chris Webber and rising sensations Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby, Sacramento had something special. A season after tying their franchise record with 55 wins, the Kings shattered it with 61 wins. They finished with the best record in the NBA, but it all fell apart in the end. The Kings fell just short, in controversial fashion, losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
12. Indiana Pacers: 61-21, 2003-2004
As Reggie Miller’s neared the end of his NBA career, Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) and Jermaine O’Neal emerged as stars for the Pacers. Artest made his lone All-Star appearance and won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2003, while O’Neal made his third straight All-Star appearance. In the playoffs, the Pacers lost the Eastern Conference Finals in six games to Detroit Pistons, who went on to win it all.
11. Phoenix Suns: 62-20, 1992-1993/2004-2005
The Suns made it to the NBA Finals after their first 62-win season, but lost to the Chicago Bulls in six games. In the 2004-’05 campaign, Steve Nash returned to the team that drafted him. He won his first of two MVP awards, while Amar’e Stoudemire made his first All-Star appearance. The Suns’ season ended in the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in five games.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: 63-19, 1990-1991
Following an unsuccessful NBA Finals run the previous year, the Blazers came into the 1990-’91 season seeking redemption. They finished the regular season with a franchise-record 63 wins, the NBA’s best record that year. Portland couldn’t make it back to the NBA Finals, losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder: 64-18, 1995-1996
In the 1993-’94 season, the Seattle Supersonics finished the regular season with a then franchise-best 63 wins. Sadly, they also made some history. Seattle became the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Fast forward to the 1995-’96 season and the Sonics finished the season with 64 wins. All-Star guard Gary Payton was named Defensive Player of the Year, making him the only true point guard to win the award. The Sonics made the NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Bulls.
8. Utah Jazz: 64-18, 1996-1997
Two seasons removed from their first 60-win campaign, the Jazz would set a franchise record with 64 wins. It was a remarkable year, highlighted by two 15-game winning streaks. Karl Malone edged out Michael Jordan for the NBA MVP award, averaging 27.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Utah made its first NBA Finals appearance, but lost to the Chicago Bulls in six games.
7. Detroit Pistons: 64-18, 2005-2006
The 2005-2006 season saw the Pistons looking to make their third straight NBA Finals appearance in the first season with head coach Flip Saunders. They finished with the best record in the NBA, with Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups all being named All-Stars. The Pistons’ bid for a third straight Finals appearance came up short, losing to the Miami Heat in a six-game Eastern Conference Finals series. Wallace left Detroit in the following offseason, joining the Bulls after spending six seasons in Detroit.
6. Houston Rockets: 65-17, 2017-2018
The Rockets came into the 2017-’18 season with championship hopes after trading for Chris Paul. They finished the regular season with a franchise-record 65 wins and All-Star James Harden won NBA MVP. “The Beard” was beloved in Houston, especially after averaging 30.4 points, 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds. But, Harden’s struggles and CP3’s injury proved too much to overcome. The Rockets lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals in seven games.
5. Milwaukee Bucks: 66-16, 1970-1971
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 56-win season as a rookie, a sign of big things to come. The Bucks aimed to build a championship contender around him, adding Hall of Fame guard Oscar Robertson. Milwaukee won a franchise-record 66 games, featuring a 16- and 22-game win streak. Kareem also earned his first of six NBA MVP awards. In the playoffs, the Bucks won the NBA championship, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals.
Related: Best No. 1 picks in NBA history
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: 66-16, 2008-2009
The 2008-’09 season saw LeBron James take home his first NBA MVP award, averaging 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists in a franchise-record 66-win season. Prior to LeBron being drafted, the Cavs only won 50-plus games three times in 33 seasons. In LeBron’s first seven years with Cleveland, the Cavs won 50-plus games four times. Cleveland ultimately lost in in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Orlando Magic, depriving NBA fans of a potential LeBron vs Kobe NBA Finals matchup.
3. Miami Heat: 66-16, 2012-2013
Coming off their second championship (LeBron’s first), the Heat enjoyed a franchise-record 66-win season in 2022. It was highlighted by a 27-game win streak, the second-longest win streak in NBA history. Ray Allen’s first season with the team went well and LeBron James won his fourth NBA MVP. The Heat pulled off back-to-back championships, beating the San Antonio Spurs in seven games and all thanks to Allen’s unforgettable shot.
2. Dallas Mavericks: 67-15, 2006-2007
The Dallas Mavericks followed up a season in which they made their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history with a franchise-record 67 wins. This led to Dirk Nowitzki winning his only NBA MVP award. The Mavericks went on to lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Golden State Warriors (the only team they did not beat in the regular season). This makes them the only team to ever lose in the first round of the playoffs after finishing the regular season with 65-plus wins.
1. San Antonio Spurs: 67-15, 2015-2016
In each of Tim Duncan’s 19 seasons in the NBA (not including the 1999 lockout season), the San Antonio Spurs won at least 50 games in each season. However, it was in his final season that the Spurs set a franchise record for wins in a season. The 2015-2016 season was notable for being LaMarcus Aldridge’s first with the Spurs and emerging star Kawhi Leonard making his first All-Star team. Their 67 wins are the most a team has ever had that did not have the best record in the NBA, while their 40-1 home record tied an NBA record. The Spurs season ended losing in the Conference Semifinals to the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games.
NBA standings: Best 5 seasons in NBA history
5. Philadelphia 76ers: 68-13, 1966-1967
This is the only entry on this list that did not occur in an 82-game season. Wilt Chamberlain led the 76ers averaging 24.1 points, 24.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists. In the playoffs, the 76ers became the only team to beat the Boston Celtics in a playoff series in the 1960s. Philadelphia went on to win the NBA championship, beating the San Francisco Warriors, Chamberlain’s former team, in six games.
4. Boston Celtics: 68-14, 1972-1973
The Celtics’ best single-season win-loss record did not come in the Bill Russell era or the Larry Bird era, it came in the Dave Cowens/John Havlicek era. Dave Cowens, in his third NBA season, led the Celtics averaging 20.5 points 16.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists on his way to winning NBA MVP. Meanwhile, John Havlicek averaged 23.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists in his 10th season. The Celtics lost in the Conference Finals to the New York Knicks, becoming the only team to lead the NBA in regular-season wins and not making the NBA Finals.
3. Los Angeles Lakers: 69-13, 1971-1972
Nine games into the 1971-1972 season, Lakers star forward Elgin Baylor retired due to knee injuries after spending his entire 14-year NBA career with the team. The Lakers achieved an NBA record 33-game win streak, including a 16-0 record in December. They went on to win the NBA championship, beating the Knicks in five games. This was their first championship since 1954, with eight unsuccessful attempts in between.
2. Chicago Bulls: 72-10, 1995-1996
Not only was the 1995-1996 season Michael Jordan’s first full season back in the NBA after retiring to play baseball, this was also Dennis Rodman’s first season with the Bulls. Jordan and the Bulls took the league by storm becoming the first team in NBA history to win 70 games finishing the regular season record of 72-10, including a home record of 39-2. The Bulls finished off their historic regular season with an NBA championship beating the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals in six games. Michael Jordan became the second player in league history to win NBA MVP, All-Star MVP and Finals MVP all in the same season.
1. Golden State Warriors: 73-9, 2015-2016
One season after winning their second NBA championship, their first since 1975, the Golden State Warriors followed that up with some NBA history. Golden State delivered the greatest regular-season performance we’ve ever seen, setting NBA records in the process. The Warriors broke the single-season record for wins, started the year 24-0 and never lost consecutive games in the regular season. Stephen Curry set the single-season record for three-pointers (402), averaging 30 points per game and winning NBA MVP unanimously. Golden State’s dream ended in a nightmare in the playoffs, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals by blowing that infamous 3-1 series lead to the Cavaliers.