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If the NBA season ended today, two teams, Phoenix and Utah, would miss the playoffs even though they have a winning record (Phoenix is 31-29; Utah is 31-30). In league history, 26 teams with a regular season winning record did not make the playoffs. In the 1970-71 NBA season, three teams (Boston, Detroit and Phoenix) missed the playoffs yet had a regular season winning percentage over .500; that’s the most teams that have missed the playoffs in a season with winning records.
Six different teams have missed the playoffs two or more times when they finished the regular season with a winning record. Houston tops the list with five; they are followed by Golden State with four, Phoenix with three, and Cleveland, Seattle and Washington with two each.
Following are the times when teams with regular season winning records (over .500) did not make the playoffs.
Winning percentage, team, season
.598 Phoenix, 1971-72
.585 Phoenix, 1970-71… Golden State, 2007-08
.573 Seattle, 1971-72
.561 Phoenix, 2008-09
.549 Detroit, 1970-71… Golden State, 1981-82… Kansas City, 1982-83… Houston, 2000-01
.537 Boston, 1970-71… Golden State, 1973-74… Seattle, 2000-01… Minnesota, 2004-05
.524 Golden State, 1977-78… San Diego, 1978-79… Houston, 2002-03… Houston, 2010-11
.520 Charlotte, 1999-2000
.512 Portland, 1981-82… Washington, 1982-83…. Houston, 1991-92… Cleveland, 1996-97… Washington, 1997-98… Utah, 2003-04… Cleveland, 2004-05… Houston, 2009-10
Did you know? Of the teams that missed the playoffs with regular season winning records, 48% of those teams did make the playoffs the following year. The Golden State Warriors are the only NBA team to miss the playoffs with a winning record one year and then win the NBA title the following season. They won the NBA title in 1975 after missing the 1974 playoffs with a 44-38 record (.537 winning percentage) the previous year.