Ranking all eight of Warriors' NBA Finals teams since 1962
This is a bit harsh. These Warriors included four players whose number the organization ultimately retired (Al Attles, Rick Barry, Tom Meschery and Nate Thurmond) and seven double-digit scorers. San Francisco swept the Elgin Baylor and Jerry West-led Los Angeles Lakers in its first playoff series, winning 44 games and leading the NBA in pace that season.
The 1966-67 Warriors were very good, and they undoubtedly would’ve been higher on this list had they beaten former Warrior -- and future Basketball Hall of Famer -- Wilt Chamberlain in the NBA Finals. They also had the worst regular-season record of any team here and beat two below-.500 teams to make The Finals, and one team had to be last.
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This team looks a lot like the ‘67 iteration, with Chamberlain swapped out for Barry. Chamberlain, Attles, Meschery and Thurmond all played, and six Warriors scored at least 10 points per game this season. They wouldn’t be confused with their Steph Curry-led successors, ranking seventh out of nine NBA teams in offensive rating, but Chamberlain led a defensive juggernaut (88.9) to The Finals.
The Warriors won 48 games in 1963-64, losing in five games in The Finals to Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics at the peak of their powers. The Celtics won their sixth of eight consecutive Finals in 1964, so Chamberlain’s Warriors got a slight nod over their 1960s counterparts for having the misfortune of running into the dynastic Celtics.
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Last season’s Warriors prove, as well as any other team in NBA history, just how difficult it is to three-peat. Golden State’s roster in 2018-19 might’ve been the best of any Warriors team to make The Finals, assuming health. The Warriors didn’t get much of that, losing Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to season-ending injuries in The Finals and nearly having the same happen to an already-hobbled DeMarcus Cousins.
The Warriors never quite clicked last season. You can point to trying to integrate Cousins, general fatigue at the end of a championship window or Durant’s pending free agency hanging over the team like a dark cloud all season, but the Dubs never really put it all together in 2018-19. Having Durant in The Finals would’ve changed a lot, but the Warriors fell short and didn’t seem to have much fun doing it a year ago. That makes them a clear anomaly in the Steve Kerr era.
Image courtesy: AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer
Durant’s second season in the Bay looked a lot like the best-case scenario for his third. The 2017-18 Warriors were Kerr’s first team that failed to win at least 60 games, dealing with bouts of inconsistency as Steph Curry missed 31 games due to injury. Golden State finished just 11th in defensive rating (107.6), then the worst mark of a Kerr-coached team.
The Warriors flipped a switch in the playoffs, completing the gentleman's sweep of the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans. An epic, seven-game series with the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference finals had the Dubs on the ropes, but Golden State passed one of the toughest tests of its title runs before sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in The Finals. The Warriors didn’t quite reach this era’s previous heights, though, ensuring their spot below all but one other Curry-led Western Conference winner.
Image courtesy: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Warriors fans won’t forget their first (in the Bay Area). Playing at the Cow Palace rather than the Ice Follies-booked Oakland Coliseum Arena only adds to the charm, but these Warriors were damn good. Golden State ranked in the top five in offensive and defensive rating, playing at the NBA’s third-fastest pace that season.
Attles and Barry finally got over the hump with the 1975 title. The former coached, and the latter averaged 29.5 points per game in The Finals to win their only NBA championships. The culmination of that journey is a distant (if not forgotten) memory for most of the Warriors’ fan base, but the 1975 NBA Champions set a four-decade reached a height that many Golden State teams fell miles short of. The Warriors’ first title in the Bay Area showed better days were possible.
Image courtesy: AP Photo/Robert H. Houston
You can’t say Kerr’s first team came out of nowhere, even if they took the league by storm. Curry, Thompson and the Warriors were favorites of #NBATwitter lurkers and “NBA League Pass” watchers during the preceding two seasons, making the playoffs both times. The Warriors put it all together in Kerr’s first season, though, winning 67 games as arguably the NBA’s best team on both ends of the floor.
Curry won his first MVP, Thompson scored 37 points in a damn quarter, Green made The Leap and the Warriors’ deep bench allowed them to overwhelm opponents with “Strength in Numbers.” It wasn’t always easy, as Golden State overcame two-games-to-one deficits in both the second round and NBA Finals that spring. They’ll be remembered as a turning point in NBA history, too, rapidly pulling the rest of the league into the 3-point revolution.
Image courtesy: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
When you add Durant to a team that won more games than any other in NBA history the previous season, you’ve built a Death Star without a fatal design flaw. The 2016-17 Warriors blitzed the rest of the league that season, ranking first in offensive rating (115.6) and second in defensive rating (104.0). Golden State had hiccups that season, but they still won 67 games.
Kerr told Monte Poole on the “Warriors Insider Podcast” last summer that these Warriors were “as good as any team that’s ever played.” He has a convincing case, as it took a LeBron James triple-double and a Kyrie Irving 40-burger for the Warriors to lose one game that postseason. Golden State was a knife through butter in the playoffs, going on an historic run.
It’s not enough for first place on this list, however.
Image courtesy: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
I can already hear the counter-arguments. They finished better than their expected win-loss record! They didn’t win the title! They blew a three-games-to-one lead!
Blah. Blah. Blah.
The 2015-16 Warriors won more regular-season games than any other team in NBA history (73), started the season with the third longest-winning streak ever (24 games) and they were a Game 7 -- or a James-baited suspension for Green, if you’re a truther -- away from winning a title. Golden State came back from the brink of elimination against Durant, Russell Westbrook and their best Oklahoma City Thunder squad just to make The Finals, and it took arguably the most iconic moments of James and Irving’s careers to lose.
The regular season always will be valued less than the playoffs, but 82 games of sustained excellence is no less difficult. The 2015-16 Warriors cemented their place in NBA history by breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ seemingly unbreakable record. Four losses to a team led by the greatest player of all time don’t diminish 73 wins.
Image courtesy: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu