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NBA PM: Best Starts in NBA History

In 2002-2003, the Mavericks started the year 14-0, but that wasn’t the best start in league history.

Joel Brigham



The Houston Rockets (9-1) and Memphis Grizzlies (8-1) are off to very hot starts this season, posting the two best overall records in the NBA while playing in the league’s most challenging division. There’s no question that these starts are good ones, but they aren’t anywhere close to the best starts in NBA history.

The easiest way to assemble a list like this would simply to be as a list rattling off the top five winning streaks to start a season. However, the competition and style of play in professional basketball when the 1948-1949 Washington Capitols set the season-starting undefeated record at 15-0 doesn’t really put them in a place to be rated among the better teams on this list.

So, to make it work, we will consider a few different things:

Unexpected hot starts are more noteworthy than predictable ones. Memphis are Houston are teams that we expect to be good, but if, say, Atlanta had started 9-0, they’d be worth talking about.

Secondly, some weight will be placed on what these teams did with that hot start. What was their final record? How deep did they get into the playoffs? That sort of thing.

With those criteria set, let’s have a look at the best starts in NBA history:

#5 – 1964-1965 Boston Celtics
Started: 11-0
Finished: 62-18
Postseason: Beat the L.A. Lakers in five games for the NBA Championship
What Did We Expect? As far as living up to expectations, the Celtics did a pretty good job of it in 1965. They came into this season having won seven of the last eight NBA titles, so 11-0 shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Finishing the season 51-18 and eventually winning the championship wasn’t all that shocking either.

#4 – 1957-1958 Boston Celtics
Started: 14-0
Finished: 49-23
Postseason: Lost to the St. Louis Hawks in the NBA Finals
What Did We Expect? A championship, honestly, which they didn’t end up winning. In fact, 1958 was the only year between 1957 and 1966 in which the Celtics did not win the championship, which leaves this particular season as a relatively disappointing one compared to the string of dominance they put together throughout the ’50s and ’60s. Also, a 35-23 record the rest of the season isn’t particular glowing either. It’s the second-best win streak to start a season in league history, but in terms of where it ranks objectively among the best starts ever, it’s a little bit lower than one might expect.

#3 – 1996-1997 Chicago Bulls
Started: 12-0
Finished: 69-13
Postseason: Beat the Utah Jazz to win their second consecutive NBA title and Michael Jordan’s and Scottie Pippen’s fifth ring overall.
What Did We Expect? The season before, a nearly identical Chicago team won a league record 72 games, so if anything, it’s a little disappointing they didn’t start something like 20-0 that season. They did everything they were supposed to do, including starting the follow-up to the most dominant regular season ever by losing only one game in the first 13 contests of the year.

#2 – 2002-2003 Dallas Mavericks
Started: 14-0
Finished: 60-22
Postseason: Lost in the Western Conference Finals to the San Antonio Spurs
What Did We Expect? The year before, the Mavs had won 57 games, so coming into the new season hot wasn’t too big a story. But when they kept winning and winning, falling only one game short of tying the NBA record for a winning streak to start the season, it quickly did turn into a big story. That Mavericks team is the only squad of the new millennium to make the list, which some would argue came at the expense of a watered-down league. Still, 14 wins in a row to start a season is pretty impressive. No team this season got even halfway to 14 before earning their first loss.

#1 – 1993-1994 Houston Rockets
Started: 15-0
Finished: 58-24
Postseason: Beat the New York Knicks in the Finals in seven games.
What Did We Expect? This was the year after Michael Jordan retired (the first time), and somebody was going to have to win the championship that year. Houston was certainly a strong candidate, but not the only one. Clearly, their 15-0 start was impressive, but so was a championship year led by Hakeem Olajuwon and little else. The second and third top scorers on the team that season were Otis Thorpe and Vernon Maxwell, so while a good season was expected, 15-0 very likely was not. But what 15-0 did do was place the Rockets squarely as favorites to win the championship, which of course they did.

Honorable Mention:

1948-1949 Washington Capitols
Started: 15-0
Finished: 38-22
Postseason: Lost the BAA Finals to the Minneapolis Lakers
What Did We Expect? Coached by Red Auerbach in his time before the Boston Celtics, the Capitols (who only lasted as an organization for six years) won their division and finished the season about where they were expected to finish. This was the in the ’40s, before the modern NBA had even been formed, so it’s hard to take a 15-0 start too seriously. Plus, to finish the season just 23-22 doesn’t look very good either.

1982-1983 Seattle SuperSonics
Started: 12-0
Finished: 48-34
Postseason: Lost in the first round to the Portland Trail Blazers
What Did We Expect? The Sonics, led by Gus Williams and Jack Sikma, added David Thompson in the offseason, and that extra boost is likely what led a good team to experience a great start. But finishing the season 36-34 and bowing out in the first round of the postseason doesn’t bode well for their standing on this list. They squandered their great start worse than just about any other team on this list.

1990-1991 Portland Trail Blazers
Started: 11-0
Finished: 63-19
Postseason: Lost to the L.A. Lakers in the Western Conference Finals
What Did We Expect? This was an extremely talented Portland team coming off an NBA Finals appearance, led by all-stars Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter. With talent like that starting 11-0 isn’t particularly shocking, especially when you see how well they played the rest of the season. In fact, just a year later, they’d be back in the Finals again, this time losing to Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

1997-1998 Atlanta Hawks
Started: 11-0
Finished: 50-32
Postseason: Lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Charlotte Hornets.
What Did We Expect? Having won 56 games the year before behind the offense of Steve Smith and the defense of Dikembe Mutombo, the Hawks came into the ’97-’98 season with huge expectations. They did manage 50 wins, but finished only fourth in the Central Division and bowed out in the first round of the postseason. By no means did they make the most of their hot start. Not even close.

1997-1998 L.A. Lakers
Started: 11-0
Finished: 61-21
Postseason: Got swept in the Western Conference Finals by the Utah Jazz
What Did We Expect? We expected a huge step in the right direction for a team led by Shaquille O’Neal and a burgeoning Kobe Bryant, and that’s what the Lakers did in 1998. They added five wins to their previous season’s total and got a round further in the playoffs than 1997, getting all the way to the Conference Finals. The rings, obviously, were coming.

So yes, while this season got off to a great start for the Rockets and Grizzlies, there hasn’t been anything close to some of the tremendous starts we’ve seen in the league’s past. Will that 15-0 season-beginning win streak ever be broken? Probably, but we know 2014-2015 won’t be the year it does finally happen.


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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18

With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.

Steve Kyler



A Lot of Mock Movement

With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.

It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.

Here is this week’s Mock Draft:

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects –

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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future

Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.

James Blancarte



On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.

Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.

Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with the season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.

Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.

“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”

Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.

“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”

Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.

“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.

While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.

“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.

Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.

There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.

“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”

Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.

“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”

Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.

“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.

Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.

“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.

When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.

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Tyronn Lue’s Health Concerns Latest Bump In The Road For Cavaliers

Spencer Davies outlines Tyronn Lue’s decision to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues and covers the reaction around the NBA.

Spencer Davies



The win-loss record is not where they want it to be.

The performances have not been up to par with what they expect.

With that said, one thing is for certain: There is no other team that will have been more battle tested going into the playoffs than the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Day after day and week after week, there’s always something going on with the team. Between in-house arguments, on-court miscommunication, roster turnover, and more, it has been one giant roller coaster of a season.

Monday morning, another twist was added to the ride. In a statement released by the Cavaliers organization, Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman announced that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence to address his health:

“After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.

“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is. While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team.

“I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards. I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”

There were multiple instances where Lue either missed part of a half or an entire game this season. The symptoms are definitely not to be taken lightly. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lue attempted to return to the bench Saturday night in Chicago but the team didn’t allow him to. Evidently, Lue was “coughing up blood” some nights.

Seeing it first hand after postgame press conferences, Lue was visibly exhausted and stress could likely be playing a part. He’s been fighting through the tough times the team has been going through and avoided stepping away twice this season.

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford had his own battle with health problems earlier this season and temporarily left the team for those reasons. He has attempted to reach out to Lue, a friend and former player of his.

Other head coaches around the league—Joe Prunty, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton—have all gone to bat for Lue when discussing the rigors of an NBA schedule and the toll it takes.

Altman supports the decision for Lue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” he said.

LeBron James is glad that Lue is going to take some time to get better.

“Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life,” James said Monday after shootaround. “Not surprised by it at all. I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around.

“It doesn’t matter what’s going on here. We play a great sport, our coaches get to coach a great sport, and you guys get to cover a great sports. But health is most important right now and that’s what our coach is doing right now and we’re all in favor for it.”

The latest piece of news is a blow to the already injury-ridden Cleveland group. Assistant coach Larry Drew will take over duties until Lue returns.

The good news for the Cavaliers is that Kevin Love can potentially return to the mix as soon as Monday night against Milwaukee.

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