Only 11 teams in NBA history have improved by 25 or more victories in one season. Take a look:
▪ 2007-08 Celtics: After Boston won just 24 games in 2006-07, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce to give the Celtics one of the best trios in league history. The Celtics went 66-16 and won the NBA title. Boston improved from 24-58 in 2006-07 to 66-16.
▪ 1997-98 Spurs: With center David Robinson missing most of the regular season, the Spurs won just 20 games in 1996-97. That awful season led to the first pick in the NBA draft, forward Tim Duncan. The Spurs were 56-26 in Duncan’s rookie season, with Robinson and Duncan combining for 42.7 points and 22.5 rebounds a game.
▪ 1989-90 Spurs: After winning just 21 games in the 1988-89 season, the Spurs improved to 56-26 when Robinson joined the team following his two-year military commitment. Robinson averaged 24.3 points and 12 rebounds, and Terry Cummings, also in his first season with the Spurs, averaged 22.4 points and 8.4 rebounds.
▪ 2004-2005 Suns: After Steve Nash came to Phoenix from the Mavericks, the Suns won 62 games after going 29-53 in the 2003-04 season. Nash, who averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 assists, had help from Amar’e Stoudemire (26 points, 8.9 rebounds) and Shawn Marion (19.4 and 11.3).
▪ 1979-80 Celtics: After winning just 29 games in the 1978-79 season, the Celtics needed something special to return them to prominence. And Larry Bird was special, leading the team in scoring (21.3), rebounds (10.4) and steals (1.7) and earning Rookie-of-the-Year honors to lead the Celtics to a 61-21 record.
▪ 1969-70 Bucks: As an expansion franchise, the Bucks won just 27 games in 1968-69. But then they added draft picks Lew Alcindor (who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bobby Dandridge and improved to 56-26. Abdul-Jabbar averaged 28.8 points and 14.5 rebounds, and Dandridge chipped in with 13.2 points and 7.7 rebounds.
▪ 2008-09 Heat: Without injured guard Dwyane Wade, the Pat Riley-coached Heat won just 15 games in the 2007-08 season. Wade returned better than ever, averaging 30.2 points and 7.5 assists to lead the Heat to a 43-39 record.
▪ 1988-89 Suns: The Suns, 28-54 in the 1987-88 season, acquired point guard Kevin Johnson during the season and signed free agent Tom Chambers after the season. With Chambers averaging 25.7 points and Johnson averaging 20.4 points and 12.2 assists, the Suns went 18-4 down the stretch to finish 55-27 and advanced to the Western Conference finals.
▪ 2001-02 Nets: After winning just 26 games in the 2000-01 season, the Nets acquired Jason Kidd from the Mavericks. Kidd led the Nets in scoring (14.7 points) and assists (9.9) as New Jersey went 52-30 and reached the NBA Finals.
▪ 2003-04 Nuggets: After going 17-65 in the 2002-03 season, the Nuggets drafted Carmelo Anthony with the third pick. As a rookie, Anthony averaged 21 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists to lead the Nuggets to 43 victories.
▪ 1995-96 Bulls: In Michael Jordan’s first full season after returning from his first retirement, the Bulls improved from 47 victories in the 1994-95 season to an NBA-record 72 victories and won their fourth title. Jordan, who averaged 30.4 points, had plenty of support from Scottie Pippen (19.4 points, 6.4 rebounds), Dennis Rodman (14.9 rebounds) and Toni Kukoc (13.1 points).