Power Rankings: NBA Finals Teams of the Past 15 Years

Many people have expressed frustration that injuries to superstars derailed the 2021 NBA Playoffs. We didn’t get the much anticipated Nets-Lakers Finals matchup that seemed inevitable. Not a soul would have predicted that the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns would be the last two teams standing.

I will concede that the series (thus far) has delivered. Both teams are led by a controversial (though mostly lovable) superstar seeking their first ring. The games have been competitive and entertaining. But what’s the best Finals in recent history?

I mean, KD is unquestionably wrong here. But putting entertainment value aside, few would argue that this Finals matchup is one of the weakest in recent memory.

Looking back at the previous 15 years, I divided the 30 teams that made the NBA Finals into five tiers: 1) All-Time Great Champions; 2) Worthy Champions; 3) They Won, But How?; 4) They Lost, But Deserved More; and 5) Congrats, you made the Finals! The teams are then ranked within each tier.

Let the heated debate begin!

1) All-Time Great Champions

1. 2017 Golden State Warriors

The most talented NBA team ever assembled. KD, Steph, Klay, Dray, Dre, Javale, Looney. OK, I took it too far.

2. 2014 San Antonio Spurs

The most beautiful basketball of the 21st century. A bunch of European guys made Prime LeBron’s Heat look like a JV team (Oh, I forgot to mention Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Kawhi).

3. 2018 Golden State Warriors

See (1) except everyone was one year less young.

4. 2012 Miami Heat

Apex LeBron waxed a team that included KD, Westbrook, and Harden. Enough said.

2) Worthy Champions

1. 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers

“CLEVELAND, This is for you!” LeBron and Flat Earth Kyrie erased a 3-1 deficit to topple the 73-9 Warriors. Worthy in a nutshell.

2. 2013 Miami Heat

“Rebound Bosh. Back out to Allen. His three-pointer…BANG!”

3. 2008 Boston Celtics

The OG Big 3!

4. 2007 San Antonio Spurs

Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and a whole lot of brooms.

5. 2009 Los Angeles Lakers

Let’s pay our respects to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.

6. 2010 Los Angeles Lakers

Let’s pay our respects to Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, and Adam Morrison.

3) They Won, But How?

1. 2015 Golden State Warriors

What if Kyrie and Love weren’t injured? I mean, the Warriors had trouble stopping Dellavedova.

2. 2019 Toronto Raptors

They lose if KD and Klay aren’t injured. Shoutout Kawhi but the truth is the truth.

3. 2021 Buck/Suns Winner

The Bucks/Suns winner is a solid team. But three or four teams in the league had more talent.

4. 2011 Dallas Mavericks

LeBron faltered. Jason Terry stepped up. Above all else, the basketball gods wanted to give Dirk and J-Kidd a ring.

4) They Lost, But Deserved More

1. 2016 Golden State Warriors

They had a 73-9 regular season record and blew a 3-1 lead. Very possibly one Draymond Green groin kick away from basketball immortality.

2. 2019 Golden State Warriors

Their roster was stacked. But their training room staff…not so much.

3. 2013 San Antonio Spurs

Why was Duncan out of the game? Kawhi, make a free throw!

4. 2010 Boston Celtics

Metta World-Peace crushed their dynastic aspirations with a jab step three from the wing. Gut-wrenching stuff.

5. 2011 Miami Heat

“Not one, not two, not three…” Oh, so just none? The ultimate karma-is-against-you team.

6. 2015 Cleveland Cavaliers

Poor LeBron.

5) Congrats, you made the Finals!

1. 2017 Cleveland Cavaliers

This team was solid but never stood a chance against the Warriors–especially with JR Smith on the floor in crunch time.

2. 2008 Los Angeles Lakers

Close but no cigar. They lost the decisive Game 6 by 39 points.

3. 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder

Yes, they had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. None of them were older than 23. 

4. 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers

2018 Playoff LeBron has a legitimate claim to the greatest stretch of individual basketball ever played. But alas, he had no help.

5. 2021 Bucks/Suns Loser

Both solid ball-clubs. Wouldn’t go much further than that.

6. 2020 Miami Heat

Remember when the consistently excellent play of Tyler Herro was the talk of the NBA Playoffs?

7. 2009 Orlando Magic

Did anyone really believe a team led by guys named Dwight, Rashard, and Hedo could take home the Larry O’Brien?

8. 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers

22-year old LeBron and some local rec-league boys made the Finals?


So there you have it – the 2021 Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns aren’t the weakest Finals teams in the last fifteen years. But regardless of ranking, a championship is a championship.

Who will capture their first ring: Giannis or CP3?