Thirty NBA teams will enter the 2014-2015 season with the goal of making the playoffs. Nearly half will fall short. For some, just getting to the postseason is a thrill in itself. For others, playoff appearances are nearly expected at this point, and only a championship would mean a successful season.
We took a look back into recent postseason history to see which NBA franchises have been to the playoffs the most years in a row, and we will be counting down the five longest current streaks. Number one on the list probably won’t surprise you at all. Number two? It might shock you. (It shocked us.)
5. Oklahoma City Thunder, five straight playoffs
While Oklahoma City is still looking for its first NBA championship, the Kevin Durant-led Thunder have been a mainstay in recent playoffs. OKC has been to five straight postseasons, a feat only one other Western Conference team can match, and won at least one playoff series in each of the last four years. The Thunder advanced to the NBA Finals in 2012 and will be looking to repeat that feat — with a different outcome — in 2015.
4. Chicago Bulls, six straight playoffs (tie)
After missing the playoffs six years in a row post-Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls have rebounded nicely, with nine postseason appearances in the last 10 seasons, including each of the last six campaigns. For a franchise that’s been without its best player for almost all of the last two years, that’s an impressive accomplishment. Chicago is hoping a healthy Derrick Rose can get the team to its first NBA Finals since 1998, and a seventh consecutive trip to the playoffs — at the very least — seems a near certainty.
4. Miami Heat, six straight playoffs (tie)
The Bulls have been joined in the postseason each of the past six years by the Miami Heat, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh taking Miami to four straight NBA Finals and a pair of championships. If Miami is going to extend that playoff string in 2015, Wade and Bosh will have to lead the way without the biggest star of the “Big Three.” Adding Luol Deng should help too, but still, he’s no LeBron. (Who is?)
2. Atlanta Hawks, seven straight playoffs
You might be surprised to learn that the only team to appear in the Eastern Conference playoffs for each of the past seven seasons is none other than the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks haven’t been a dominant franchise during that stretch, averaging only 43 wins a season and undergoing two coaching changes in the process. However, seven straight is seven straight. The next step for Atlanta is to advance deeper into the month of May: The Hawks have never — never — played in the Eastern Conference Finals.
1. San Antonio Spurs, 17 straight playoffs
One of the longest all-time streaks of playoff appearances belongs to the San Antonio Spurs, who have been a model of consistency under longtime coach Gregg Popovich. In 17 full years as Spurs coach, Pop has taken the team to the playoffs 17 times. The dynasty includes five championships in six trips to the NBA Finals, most recently in 2014. San Antonio’s string is a full decade longer than the next-closest franchise, which speaks to the year-in, year-out greatness of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and, of course, their future Hall of Famer coach.