The Heat is on: Top 5 NBA Teams of 2011-12

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The 2011-2012 NBA season didn’t exactly start out with a bang. In fact, it almost didn’t start at all. It was the riveting excitement of a collective bargaining dispute (a true fan’s dream) that eventually shortened the season by 24 games and forced a far more condensed schedule than usual.

So, the prospects for a great year didn’t exactly seem too likely. Retirement had rendered the league Phil Jackson-less, Shaq-less, and perhaps most devastatingly (and hard to say), Zydrunas Ilgauskas-less. The clashing players and owners had alienated fans to a point that they were ready to throw in the towel on the entire season. But a last minute collective bargaining agreement and a rushed preseason made a Christmas Day start possible, gifting us one of the most exciting years in recent history.

But who were the best of the best in ’11-’12? Look no further.

5 Chicago Bulls

The 2011-12 Bulls sure seemed like the real deal. They finished the year with a league-best 50-16 record. Derrick Rose had an MVP-like season and looked poised for a deep playoff run. Then they lost 4-2 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. Wait… what?! Oh yeah, because this happened. Derrick Rose’s torn ACL shattered the hopes of Chicago the same way that nightmares of Joakim Noah shatter opponents’ psyches. It was a tough year of wasted potential, but then again, Bulls fans have been kind of spoiled anyway.

4 Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers made their biggest trade in franchise history, landing all-star point guard Chris Paul when David Stern and the NBA pretty much told the Lakers to screw off. The Clips then put together a highlight reel season that saw more “oops” than a virgin on a prom night and ended with their best winning percentage in team history. While they were ousted in the second round of the playoffs, there’s no denying the impact this team had on the perception of the LA Clippers. And if you still feel compelled to ask why the Clippers really on this list, maybe consider when the hell else the Clippers could ever be on a list of the “best anything.” Let them have it.

3 San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are friggin’ old. It wasn’t exactly their team motto, but going into the 2011-12 season that’s pretty much what people thought of them. They were the personification of Manu Ginobili’s ever-expanding bald-spot. But the Spurs had quietly surrounded their veteran core with solid young role players like Dajuan Blair, Kawhi Leonard and some guy named Tiago Splitter (who, it turns out, is a real person and not a Rocky villain). The Spurs youngsters helped along their veteran core and the surprising team ended the regular season tied for the league’s best record. They took that momentum to the postseason, sweeping through the first two rounds before they finally realized they were old and really tired, and succumbed to the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.

2 Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City is home to some of the most promising young stars in the league, and this was their greatest season to date. Kevin Durant led the league in scoring for the third straight year. Russell Westbrook averaged a career best in points. Serge Ibaka led the league in blocks. And James Harden won the Sixth Man of the Year award (his beard won the Seventh Man). In 2011-12 Coach Scotty Brooks took this 4th year franchise and taught them how to play like a team, believe in themselves and get spanked in the NBA Finals. In the end, they had an amazing year, but came away empty-handed. It’s a shortcoming that can almost definitely be blamed on Russell Westbrook’s post-game outfits.

1 Miami Heat

It was the second year of Miami’s “Big Three.” They were the defending Eastern Conference Champions. Everyone outside the Miami-metro area was hoping to see the Heat fall flat, but they did not get what they hoped for. Everything seemed to finally gel for the Heat and LeBron James had a season so spectacular it made people forget how much they hated him for this. King James led the horribly self-named “Heatles” to a division title and took home the regular season MVP, and then he got even better. LBJ’s butt barely touched the bench in the playoffs while he led the league 30.3 points per game, and he steamrolled his way to his first NBA title and Finals MVP. On a related note, on the night the Heat won the city of Cleveland set the Guinness World Record for most collective obscenities screamed in one hour.

Well, that’s all there is to it. The five best teams of the 2010-11 season, wrapped up in a neat little package.

Did we miss anyone? Seems unlikely. What with the level of expertise it takes to Google these teams and arbitrarily decide who was the best. But if you really think so, maybe you should take a shot at making a list of your own, Mr. Perfect!