Greatest teams by peak value

Which would be best modern-era rosters if ranked by players in their prime?

Updated: January 13, 2014, 8:07 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesAre the 2010-11 Boston Celtics one of the greatest teams in terms of peak value?

It's a compelling, fun hypothetical: If every NBA team had its players in the prime of their careers, which would be the best?

For instance, what if the Brooklyn Nets had Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson et al. during their absolute peaks? Where would that team rank among all such teams?

Readers enjoyed Friday's column attempting to answer this question by ranking this season's teams, and many of them raised the same follow-up question: What about the all-time best teams? In truth, we can't rank the best "peak value" teams ever because my wins above replacement player (WARP) metric dates only to 1977-78, when the league first tracked player turnovers. But here are the star-studded leaders since then, including a No. 1 that might surprise you.

The method remains the same as Friday's column. For each player, I've taken their best season in terms of WARP as their "prime" value, and the team's rating is made up of the 12 best players by this measure. For the purposes of this ranking, teams were only ranked once if mostly similar over the course of a few seasons.