Top 4 Winning Season Turnarounds by an NBA Team

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The Boston Celtics seeing action during the 2008-09 NBA season.
(Wikimedia Commons/Eric Kilby)
Anatoly Pimentel @AnatolyPimentel Aug 01, 2023, 11:01 PM
  • Here are the top four NBA winning season turnaround.
  • The Boston Celtics lead the list.
  • Other teams on the list are the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns.

Big NBA turnarounds are one of the most interesting storylines in the league, especially if it is about winning. A losing season converted into a winning season can be attributed to a team’s ability to pull off big-time trades and pick up generational talents in the NBA Draft.

This blueprint worked a lot of wonders for a few teams who made bold moves because it resulted in a big jump to their basketball odds via title contention and even a championship. We will dive into the top four winning season turnaround in the NBA and how big moves have changed their teams’ fortunes.

Boston Celtics – 2007-08 season

After making it to the postseason for four straight years in 2002 to 2005, the Boston Celtics became a cellar-dweller team in 2006 and 2007 by only winning 33 and 24 games, respectively. But a couple of big trades in the 2007 offseason has landed them with two new superstars on the roster. They were able to partner Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett with Paul Pierce to create their version of a big three.

This drastically changed the franchise’s fate. They recorded the league-best record of 66 wins and 16 losses, thus engineering a team’s most significant winning turnaround in just one season with 42 more wins from the year prior. Making this turnaround even more legendary is their triumph as champions in the same season by continuing their dominance in the playoffs and eventually beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals in six games to become the winningest NBA franchise in history.

San Antonio Spurs – 1997-98 season

The San Antonio Spurs had a forgetful 1996-97 season after their superstar David Robinson went down with a foot injury which only allowed him to play in six games. Due to this, the hapless Spurs team only managed to win 20 games and missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1988-89 season. However, it was a blessing in disguise as they could get the top overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft.

They used that number one pick to draft Tim Duncan (who also bagged the Rookie of the Year award) and pair him with David Robinson. That duo has helped them win 36 more wins and get back to title contention as the fifth seed team in the Western Conference. Although they lost in the second round to the Utah Jazz, San Antonio became perennial contenders and recorded 22 straight postseason appearances (the most in NBA history), including five NBA titles.

San Antonio Spurs – 1989-90 season

Before the 1997-98 season turnaround, San Antonio experienced this incredible one-season transformation in 1989-90. The Spurs only won 21 games in 1989, which allowed them to gain the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft. This pick was used to select David Robinson, who immediately became the franchise’s cornerstone by averaging a monster number of 24.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game.

It was a 35-win turnaround for San Antonio, and Robinson led them to the second-best record in the Western Conference with 56 wins and 26 losses. They also swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs before bowing out at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, 4-3, in a hard-fought second-round series against the Clyde Drexler-led team.

Phoenix Suns – 2004-05 season

The homecoming of Steve Nash to the Phoenix Suns in the 2004-05 season was magical because he helped the team collect 33 more wins en route to the best record of 62-20 (they only won 29 games during the 2003-04 season). This was also the first season that Steve Nash won the season MVP honor as he orchestrated the offense for the team.

Phoenix’s offense was even coined as the ‘’Seven seconds or less,’’ and they were famous for running it smoothly. One solid evidence of that is the league-leading offensive rating of 114.5 points per game and the third-best assist average of 23.5 per contest. However, they failed to get past the eventual NBA Champions, San Antonio Spurs, in the Western Conference Finals, losing the series in five games.

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About the Author

Anatoly Pimentel

Read More @AnatolyPimentel

Anatoly Pimentel is an NBA and MMA writer previously featured in ASEAN Sports, Asian Persuasion MMA, and Overtime Heroics MMA. He graduated from Adamson University with a B.A in Communication and is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM.

Anatoly Pimentel is an NBA and MMA writer previously featured in ASEAN Sports, Asian Persuasion MMA, and Overtime Heroics MMA. He graduated from Adamson University with a B.A in Communication and is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM.