Adam Silver is taking over the NBA at a good time.
In fact, for five teams, it’s a really good time.
The Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers all enter the week with winning percentages of .700 or better, and that’s significant.
Only one other time in league history — 1997-98 — have as many as five teams won at such a rate, that coming in a season when the Chicago Bulls, Pacers, Utah Jazz, Seattle SuperSonics and the Los Angeles Lakers did the honors. It’s not inconceivable that more than five finish with that good a record, with the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets still having realistic shots, too.
So in a season in which so much of the narrative has been about how bad many NBA teams are, and with good reason, there’s another end of the spectrum to consider as well.
At their current rates, the Pacers and Thunder are on pace to finish with two of the top 25 records in NBA history. The Milwaukee Bucks, meanwhile, would have the 11th-worst mark ever if the season was ending now. And going back to last season, including playoffs, the Bucks have lost 55 of their past 67 games (while the Heat have won 63 times in that same span, starting on March 20).
Yes, there are some very bad teams in the league, and that obviously plays a role in helping everyone else’s record.
But there are probably very few people who would deny that the top of the top in the NBA this season is as good as the league has seen in quite some time. And the first championship that will be awarded in Silver’s era as the league’s commissioner could very well go to a team with a case to say that it had one of the best seasons the NBA ever saw.
Four things to watch in the NBA this week:
It really doesn’t matter who the opponent is anymore. When the Thunder is playing, Kevin Durant needs to be followed, period. His scoring average in January, nearly 36 points per night, was seven points better than anyone else in the league.
They play Wednesday night, a matchup of two teams that might very well wind up making big noise in the Western Conference playoffs. The Suns started 9-9. Through Sunday, they’re 20-9 since, the NBA’s third-best record in that span behind only the Thunder and Pacers.
This one will be worthy of watching Friday night for many reasons, foremost the clash of styles. The Blazers have the NBA’s highest-scoring offense. The Pacers allow fewer points than any other team in the league. The Blazers won the season’s first meeting 106-102, representing the only time this season the Pacers scored more than 100 points and lost anyway.
The Bulls enter the week with 1,998 regular-season victories. The Bulls will be the 11th team in league history to get the 2,000 mark.