Posted by Neil Paine on January 14, 2009
Today we're going to continue our series on the best teams of the 2000s to not win a championship. Sometimes these teams ran into bad luck or bad calls, while some just had the misfortune of coming along at the same time as an even better team, but the common thread they all share is that they were truly championship-caliber squads that just happened to fall short in the playoffs. But before we reveal the decade's Top 10 in the next post, here are some honorable mention "missing rings" teams, ones which barely missed the countdown...
- 2001 and 2003 Sacramento Kings. Not the best of the great early-decade Kings teams, but still a formidable roster. You wouldn't know it from their fast pace, but Sacto owned the league's 7th-best defense in '01, and the 2nd-best D in '03.
- 2000 and 2002 San Antonio Spurs. You can practically pick every Spurs team this decade, and they either won a title or they're on this "missing rings" list. The title defense team in 2K had 58 pythagorean wins and were 3rd in SRS, but they were ousted by the Suns in a 4-game 1st-round upset. In '02, Manu Ginobili hadn't arrived on the scene yet and they were breaking in a 19-year-old starting PG named Tony Parker, but they still managed to finish 3rd in SRS and advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
- 2008 Los Angeles Lakers. File this under the "ran into a better team" category... L.A. was the league's 2nd-best team last year, but unfortunately for them, the best team happened to be one of the decade's strongest squads.
- 2004 Minnesota T-Wolves. Prior to '08, this was KG's best supporting cast by far, but the Lakers kicked them to the curb in a tough 6-game WCF series.
- 2006 Phoenix Suns and 2007 Dallas Mavericks. Without Amare Stoudemire, the '06 Suns weren't expected to go anywhere, but led by MVP Steve Nash (and one of Tim Thomas' vintage contract-year playoff performances), they went all the way to the WCF. Meanwhile, Dallas had won 67 games and were expected to make it back to the Finals with their own MVP, Dirk Nowitzki... Instead, they were unceremoniously bounced in the 1st round by 8th-seeded Golden State.
- 2004 Indiana Pacers. Before Ron Artest threw the NBA's most infamous punch since Kermit Washington, the Pacers were an up-and-coming team that won 61 games and came within a few key plays of giving Detroit all they could handle in the East Finals.
- 2005 Miami Heat. Did you know that the Heat actually had a better overall season in 2004-05, from November to June, than they did in '06? The '06 version won 52 games, was 7th in offense, 9th in defense, and 6th in SRS; by contrast, the 2005 Heat won 59 games, had the league's 5th-best offense, the 6th-best D, and were 4th in SRS.
In the next post, we'll finally get to #1-5 in the missing rings countdown.