View Full Version : Hardest and Easiest Championship Runs...

05-23-2016, 04:29 PM
A interesting article I found, thinking about the toughest Finals runs over the years. The writers agenda is to show how lopsided the playoff system is, but still some good info nonetheless.

Makes a lot of sense too, especially with the Spurs sitting at home right now.

What were the hardest and easiest championship runs? A statistical analysis.

There are a lot of things that contribute to the difficulty of a team's playoff run: seeding, conference and luck. I looked through every championship run since 1984 (first year with 16 teams in the playoffs) to rank their difficulty.

SRS measures a team's margin of victory throughout the season, adjusted for strength of schedule. I added together the SRS of the four playoff opponents the champion faced. Let's take a look:

o Year Champ SRS

1 1995 Houston Rockets 23.96
2 2001 Los Angeles Lakers 22.15
3 1997 Chicago Bulls 20.82
4 2002 Los Angeles Lakers 20.77
5 2000 Los Angeles Lakers 18.79

6 2011 Dallas Mavericks 18.43
7 2014 San Antonio Spurs 18.16
8 1994 Houston Rockets 17.86
9 1993 Chicago Bulls 17.77
10 2010 Los Angeles Lakers 16.92

11 2003 San Antonio Spurs 16.6
12 1996 Chicago Bulls 16.5
13 1998 Chicago Bulls 16.31
14 2009 Los Angeles Lakers 15.65
15 2007 San Antonio Spurs 15.36

16 2005 San Antonio Spurs 15.21
17 1989 Detroit Pistons 13.88
18 2006 Miami Heat 13.82
19 2012 Miami Heat 13.69
20 2015 Golden State Warriors 12.65

21 1992 Chicago Bulls 12.01
22 2004 Detroit Pistons 11.58
23 2008 Boston Celtics 11.25
24 1986 Boston Celtics 10.26
25 1990 Detroit Pistons 9.82

26 1999 San Antonio Spurs 9.63
27 1991 Chicago Bulls 8.99
28 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 8.98
29 1984 Boston Celtics 8.79
30 2013 Miami Heat 8.16

31 1988 Los Angeles Lakers 6.99
32 1987 Los Angeles Lakers 2.97

Why are playoff runs from the 80's so easy? When the league first expanded to 16 teams in the playoffs, the league only had 23 teams, meaning that playoff runs would often contain series against losing teams.

Where did you get all the data? basketball-reference

How does this compare to this season? If Golden State wins the championship this year through the expected path (HOU, LAC, SAS, CLE) they will face a combined SRS of 20.2, fifth hardest all time. If San Antonio does it (MEM, OKC, GSW, CLE) they will face 20.78 total SRS, fourth hardest all time.

So is the west harder? In addition I wanted to test the hypothesis that Western Conference runs have been significantly harder than Eastern Conference runs over the past few years.

I added up the opponent SRS in the first three rounds of both finalists for the past five years:
SRS of conference run
2015: GSW (8.57) vs CLE (6.89)
2014: SAS (14.01) vs MIA (1.17)
2013: SAS (7.11) vs MIA (1.49)
2012: OKC(11.02) vs MIA (7.24)
2011: DAL(11.66) vs MIA (12.33)

Other than 2011, the team coming out of the west has had a harder run to the finals, sometimes ridiculously harder.

So? While no playoff system can be perfect, I think the one the nba uses is broken, as can be seen if you look at this year's bracket. There are largely thought to be 4 true contenders this year GSW, SAS, OKC and CLE. These are the top four teams by SRS (10.38, 10.28, 7.28 and 5.45 respectively.) With our current playoff system, San Antonio fought their way to a better record than Cleveland, yet in order to win a championship they will have to likely beat the three other contenders, while Cleveland will only have to beat one.


05-23-2016, 04:38 PM
As a team or for certain individuals?

05-23-2016, 04:44 PM
As a team.

I guess you were right, the West was kindof a cake walk during Showtime.
The fact that we had to best Boston and the Bad Boys to get it still compensates tho, imo...

05-23-2016, 05:03 PM
I generally knew the information above, but what is the fix? Do you reward the west for having better front offices, or punish the east for having worse front offices? That is the only fix

05-23-2016, 05:05 PM
also, by the OP's results, does Bron now jump Bird? You know, seeing as the C's chip runs were easier....

Supreme LA
05-23-2016, 05:16 PM
In comparison to the West, it's basically any road through the Eastern Conference has been the much easier road to a title for more than a decade.

05-23-2016, 05:32 PM
Cool to see it all listed out here to see. One thing that I will say is I would rather go through a harder total road with a lesser top opponent than an easier road with a better top opponent. Obviously it is harder when you have both but just saying that sometimes the net total of their regular seasons might not be as important as the best team they faced when judging. Also part of the reason for having a tougher road could be because a team wasn't as successful in the regular season forcing a harder road on themselves.

For example I don't think the 95 Magic/Jazz (not sure who was rated higher) were necessarily the toughest opponents ever beaten on the way to a title. They also had to play the Jazz first round because they only secured a 6 seed that season I believe. That's just opinion on how to judge hardest/easiest run though and takes nothing away from their run which was impressive or what this article is measuring.

As to the point about the conferences I think since like 2000 we have seen multiple lop sided playoff brackets with more talent in the West. I actually think it is getting better overall though despite again not having a top contender with Cleveland (might be due to injury depending on what you though of Heat when healthy). The middle of the east is finally caught up (maybe even passed west this year) and there are some good young teams who could make some moves to get there. So yes it is/has been lop sided but I'm not necessarily someone who thinks we need to even it up right now and eliminate conferences.

05-23-2016, 06:16 PM
Can people finally see how easy LeBron has had it easy almost every season now? Wonder how the 2016 numbers will look like. This also confirms how great those 00-02 Lakers were. If pre-prime Kobe and prime Shaq were that dominate, imagine how dominate they would be if they both were in their prime at the same time. Also, gotta give props to that Houston Rockets team, they're very underrated, just wish MJ never retired would have loved to watched them play against the Bulls.

05-23-2016, 06:42 PM
If OKC can pull it off win the title they will be at the top of the list. Combined for about 26 if they beat the Cavs there (only like 1-2 less if Toronto).

05-23-2016, 07:27 PM
If OKC can pull it off win the title they will be at the top of the list. Combined for about 26 if they beat the Cavs there (only like 1-2 less if Toronto).

Yeah I noticed that too.

That would be impressive basically anyway you can look at it.

05-23-2016, 07:29 PM
Already figured those 3peat Lakers would be near top the list. We were going through Spurs, Kings, Blazers...sometimes all 3 in the same playoffs....that's just insane. That's like 3 Finals series.

05-23-2016, 11:05 PM
Already figured those 3peat Lakers would be near top the list. We were going through Spurs, Kings, Blazers...sometimes all 3 in the same playoffs....that's just insane. That's like 3 Finals series.

Those were all championship contending teams too, if it weren't for the Lakers each one of those three teams would have made the Finals during those 3 years.