By the numbers
Comparing championship teams across different seasons is difficult, and comparing 21 different NBA champions over the span of two decades is nearly impossible. But looking at some raw numbers is probably the best place to start.
Of the 21 NBA champions from 2000-20, the 2020 Lakers have the 8th best regular-season win percentage, the fourth-best playoff record, and the 13th best adjusted net rating, which is an estimate of point differential per 100 possessions adjusted for strength of opponent.
At face value, those numbers don’t tell us much, but it does allow us to find comparable seasons which can be a good way to look at all of these different teams. In fact, the 2020 Lakers season is almost identical to the 2003 Spurs. Both teams had the same regular-season win percentage and an adjusted net rating difference of just 0.06. The only notable difference between the two was that the 2003 Spurs lost eight games during their championship run while the 2020 Lakers lost just five times in the playoffs.
And if you dig a little deeper, the similarities go beyond just the numbers. Both teams had the best big man in the league (Tim Duncan, Anthony Davis) and an aging superstar (David Robinson, LeBron James) steadying the ship. Obviously, David Robinson in 2003 is nowhere close to LeBron in 2020, but the subplot of the older superstar wanting to hand the keys to the franchise over to the younger superstar is an interesting parallel for both teams.
Of course, numbers can’t tell us the full story for all 21 champions. For example, the 2001 Lakers are probably the second-best team since Jordan’s Bulls in the 90’s (2017 Warriors being the best) but they have the 3rd worst win percentage and 2nd worst adjusted net rating of any team since 2000. A team like that who can flip the metaphorical switch is difficult to capture with numbers. It’s just a piece to the puzzle.