Under The Bleachers: Best NBA Season Ever?

Above: Golden State Warriors guard, Stephen Curry
Above: Golden State Warriors guard, Stephen Curry

Did the NBA just finish its best season in history?

Before shouting “recency bias” and pointing to half-a-dozen years where things were great, think about this season in totality for a couple minutes and see how those others measure up.

First and foremost, the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors completed the greatest regular season ever, going 73-9 to beat Michael Jordan and the 1996 Chicago Bulls’ mark by one, with reigning MVP Stephen Curry legitimately contending for Most Improved Player this year in a second-straight MVP season where he had one of the most ridiculous seasons ever.

Over 79 games, Curry averaged 30.1 points, 6.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals, while joining the exclusive 50-40-90 Club while connecting on five three-pointers a game and 402 triples total for the year.

The Warriors have been the story from Day One, but there have been amazing secondary plots all year that elevate the level of this season.

San Antonio went 67-15. Any other year, that’s the best record in the league by a four or five wins and we’re talking about how the Spurs are better at basketball on both a year-to-year and long-term basis than everyone else. That still might be the case, too.

Kawhi Leonard had an “If Not for Steph” MVP season (and could win Defensive Player of the Year again) and LaMarcus Aldridge integrated into the team without much trouble. Gregg Popovitch remains the best coach in the league and the foundational stars of the team – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – all happily took a step back to help the franchise move forward, while remaining serious title threats.

Five teams finished with 55 wins or more and they weren’t all from the Western Conference, exactly zero teams with sub-.500 records made the playoffs and the competitive balance in the middle pack of playoff teams was better than it has been in recent memory, with the likes of Boston, Detroit and Portland each becoming miserable teams to play against every night, even for the established elite.

Individually, you had Russell Westbrook collect 18 triple-doubles, LeBron James have another otherworldly all-around season in Cleveland and Chris Paul continue to be the most consistent elite player no one talks about as a Top 50 all-time player, putting up 19.5/10.0/4.2 and 2.1 steals while leading a Clippers team that only got 35 games from Blake Griffin to a No. 4 seed in the West and 53 wins.

And oh by the way – the future is ridiculously bright as well.

Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are the best young one-two punch since Westbrook and Durant first linked up in OKC. While the latter upped his game to average 20.7 points, the former is the real one to watch, as Towns started every game and dropped 18.3/10.5n with two assists and more than 1.5 blocks per while shooting .542 from the floor, .811 from the line and .341 from deep, which is only going to get better as he continues to develop.

He’s going to be everything that Chris Webber could have been and probably more and he’s going to get there by next year; two years, tops.

Kristaps Porzingis looks like the real deal, Justise Winslow is a Swiss Army knife brought to life on the basketball court, Giannis Antetokounmpo can play all five positions and there are a handful of teams loaded with young talent and good foundational pieces – Minnesota, Utah, Portland, Orlando, Detroit – that all should continue to get better over the next couple years.

Sure, there was a historically bad team (Hi Philly! Bye Sam!) and a couple underachievers (Washington, Chicago), but even those teams finished at .500 or better and have pieces in place to make Indiana-like turnarounds from this year to next year.

Add it all up and you have an outstanding season on the hardwood. Was it the best ever? Opinions will vary, but I think it was very close.

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