Head-to-Head: Best NBA Team of the Last Decade

Who is the best team of the last decade? Jessica Camerato, Jabari Davis and Moke Hamilton debate between the Lakers, Spurs and HEAT.

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Basketball Insiders’ Jessica Camerato, Jabari Davis and Moke Hamilton go head-to-head over which NBA team has been the best over the last decade:

Los Angeles Lakers

If one were to go back and peruse NBA history, with a few exceptions, the Los Angeles Lakers could be argued that have been the team of any decade.

Since the franchise was founded back in 1948 as the Minneapolis Lakers, it has missed the playoffs a grand total of just six times. The Lakers have won 16 league championships and only failed to win the ultimate prize in the 1960s and 1990s.

Since 2000, the Lakers have won five championships—more than any other NBA franchise. Over the same duration, the San Antonio Spurs have won four and the Miami HEAT three. The Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics have each won one, and the Mavericks certainly warrant some sort of credit for the success that they have had since the turn of the century, but still, the Lakers are the easy choice here.

First led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and then Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Lakers have amassed a 690-442. They failed to make the playoffs twice over that span, first in 2005 and most recently this past offseason. However, if there is one thing we have learned over the course of their long history is that the Lakers do not rest on their laurels when it comes to contending for championships.

As the team prepares for the 2014 draft, Klay Thompson and Kevin Love’s names have been mentioned as potential targets for the Lakers. Even as the Sun sets on Bryant’s long and storied career, he still has basketball left to play. But thanks to the basketball he has already played, a very respectable argument can be made that the Lakers are the team of the decade.

If things break right this summer for general manager Mitch Kupchak and the franchise, who knows? Maybe the Lakers can also be the team of this decade—especially if the HEAT’s star-studded trio decides to put an end to their partnership.

– Moke Hamilton

Miami HEAT

When the Miami HEAT established the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Both in 2010, the intent was very clear — win a championship, soon and often. It took a season for the lineup to gel, and once they did they became a dominant force throughout the league. The Heat accomplished their mission in 2012, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games to capture the NBA title. James escalated his game and won NBA Finals MVP, Wade earned another ring, and Bosh was the final piece to their tandem. Behind the headliners was a deep bench of proven veterans and developing talent. The HEAT had a complete roster, one that could contend for the future. The following season the HEAT played with a target on their back (bigger than the one that existed before they won). Defending a title presents a set of challenges than winning initially, and they rose to the challenge. They pursued new pieces to bolster their arsenal, the most notable being Ray Allen. Like the previous season, they were tested in seven games of the Eastern Conference Finals and prevailed. This time, though, the last few games would not be as easy to conquer. Just seconds away from losing the series to the San Antonio Spurs, Allen hit a dagger three-pointer to send the game into overtime, setting up a HEAT comeback and Game 7 win. Once again, the depth of the roster set them apart from the competition and earned them the distinction as back-to-back champions. Many teams go years without winning a title. This group achieved that after only one season and did it twice in as many years.

– Jessica Camerato

San Antonio Spurs

While there are several organizations that deserve strong consideration for the proverbial “Team of the Decade” discussion, the San Antonio Spurs are the one franchise that stands firmly above the rest over the last ten-year stretch. The notion of discrediting them for not winning consecutive titles may hold weight in a barbershop (or Twitter) discussion about dynasties, but their consistency throughout the past ten years simply cannot be ignored. The 2008-09 Lakers and 2012-13 HEAT may have been two of the better individual teams over the decade, but each of those franchises has experienced their own ups and downs throughout the period.

The Lakers were excellent over the four-year stretch from 2007-10, but the run was book-ended by trips to the lottery in 2005 and this season. Contrary to what has become a peculiar current trend of almost dismissing Kobe Bryant’s career arc, it still holds up relatively favorably in comparison to that of Tim Duncan or LeBron James on an individual level. That said, it is fair to mention the fact that his teams – much like most Phil Jackson-led squads – tend to make 3-4 year runs before needing to reboot or reload.

Not only did the HEAT lose in the first round in three consecutive trips to the postseason (’07, ’09 and ’10), but they also endured that horrendous 15-67 season in ’08. Taking nothing away from their most recent success, but the stretch that preceded the “Big 3” negates any claim they might have in terms of this discussion.

Of the three realistic candidates (Spurs, Lakers and HEAT), San Antonio is the only of the trio to qualify for the postseason in each of the past ten seasons. They’ve won three of the four Finals’ they competed in, and also qualified for two additional Western Conference Finals’ in 2008 and 2012. Beyond the ultimate prize, the Spurs have also been a model for regular season success over that stretch, boasting a .711 winning percentage; compared to .585 and .604 for the Lakers and HEAT, respectively.

This level of consistency is by no means a thing of luck or chance fortune, as it is no coincidence the Spurs are also the one team that has enjoyed the same coach and core group for the duration as well. The familiar faces and lack of overall drama may ‘bore’ some, but you’d figure any opposing fan base would be elated with these results if their preferred team(s) could match them.

2013-14 62-20 W/L, Result: Won NBA Title
2012-13 58-24 W/L, Result: WC Champions
2011-12 50-16 W/L, Result: WCF
2010-11 61-21 W/L, Result: First Round
2009-10 50-32 W/L, Result: Semifinals
2008-09 54-28 W/L, Result: First Round
2007-08 56-26 W/L, Result: WCF
2006-07 58-24 W/L, Result: Won NBA Title
2005-06 63-19 W/L, Result: Semifinals
2004-05 59-23 W/L, Result: Won NBA Title

– Jabari Davis

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