Last year, we waited until after the NBA Draft and after LeBron James had shifted the entire power structure of the league by returning to Cleveland before putting together our annual NBA Tortured Fan Base Rankings. This year -- even though LeBron is filing for free agency and, at least theoretically could go to another team (though if he did this it's possible people would buy tickets to "Trainwreck" just to throw eggs at the screen) -- the league seems a bit more stable in the days after the season ended. So we can go ahead and do this list now.

To remind, here are the parameters:

This is a ranking of every team's fan base, from most to least spoiled. I want to find out who deserves a title the most: who you, as a disinterested party, should be cheering for next year. Lots of factors are involved here: fan loyalty, passion, historical success, particularly painful eras, near-miss title chances, current roster, any ineffable notion that just occurs to me while I'm putting this list together. I'm doing my best to give an honest accounting here. This ranking will get a lot better once all of you have had a chance to look at it and tell me what I got wrong.

One thing I've learned from doing these is that every fan base is more upset if you refer to them as less tortured than they actually feel, which seems backwards but probably isn't. Your input is the only way these improve.

So let's dig in.

30. Golden State Warriors

Last year's ranking: 7
Last title: 2015

The only possible blemish on what was truly a dream season is that they didn't win the championship at Oracle Arena … but if that's your "blemish," I'd say you had a happy year indeed. After some 30-plus years of causing their fans as much sadness as a team could, the Warriors paid everybody back this year … and might just be getting started. This is as much fun as this gets. Congratulations, Warriors fans: You earned this.

29. San Antonio Spurs

Last year: 30
Last title: 2014

That first-round loss to the Clippers this year was frustrating, particularly because the Clippers turned around and lost in the next round. (You lose a series like that so early in the playoffs, you want to lose it to a team that wins the whole thing.) The Spurs appear to be revving it back up for one last run with Tim Duncan and the gang, though, to be fair, people have been saying the Spurs are making "one last run" for about half a decade now.

28. Miami Heat

Last year: 29
Last title: 2013

And, still, Dwyane Wade has more titles than LeBron James. That's unlikely to stay the case for too much longer, and the Heat's next title will be won by a bunch of guys whose names none of us have heard of yet, but for now, Heat fans are still plenty spoiled.

27. Boston Celtics

Last year: 28
Last title: 2008

There are two ways to look at the Celtics. On one hand, their "bottom out for a potential return to the elite the next go-around" project is far ahead of schedule, with a feisty playoff appearance, some young talent and a head coach who is starting to look like the game's next great strategist and motivator. On the other hand, that bottoming out hasn't really produced any top-shelf, franchise-player talent, which could potentially put the Celtics in that dreaded "No. 6, No. 7 playoff seed" no-man's land. (Read Zach Lowe for the full dossier on this idea. Read Zach Lowe on everything.) Still: The 76ers and Knicks have tanked and been nearly impossible to watch. The Celtics are rebuilding and still one of the quietly fun team to watch in the league. Boston fans get everything.

26. Dallas Mavericks

Last year: 26
Last title: 2011

Well, that Rondo business didn't work, and while you understand why they just said "what the hell" and went for it, it still felt desperate enough that you wonder what comes next for this franchise. The Mavericks have only three players under contract for next season (a league-low), so the next two years -- perhaps the last years of Dirk Nowitzki's career -- will set the stage for the next decade-plus. It's a good thing the Mavs sneaked out that title in 2011, because had they wasted Dirk's whole career without winning one, they might be in the top five of this list.

25. Los Angeles Lakers

Last year: 27
Last title: 2010

No one will ever, ever, feel bad for Lakers fans, but we may know by Thursday just how much we'll be able to ignore them for the next decade. This is the final year for The Kobe Experience, but on Thursday, we'll see who they're able to pair with Julius Randle for the next Lakers dynasty. It looks like the Lakers will continue their tradition of superstar centers, probably with Jahlil Okafor, and if so, they'll have a foundation -- with the ability to bring in free agents eager to play with a signature franchise, particularly now that Kobe will be gone -- that most in the league will envy. It has been two years since the Lakers have made the playoffs, their longest drought since 1976. If they miss them this year -- and they almost certainly will -- it will be the first time they've missed three straight years in franchise history.

Kobe Bryant likely won't be around to see the next contending Lakers team. (Getty Images)

24. Houston Rockets

Last year: 21
Last title: 1995

The Rockets made their first conference finals in nearly 20 years this season, but you can't help but wonder if this is the peak for a while. Not because Houston should be appreciably worse next year, but because everyone else in the conference's top tier should take a step forward (not to mention the Thunder's return). It all fell just right for the Rockets in the playoffs this year … and it might not all land that way again. Hakeem Olajuwon will turn 53 in January, by the way.

23. New Orleans Pelicans

Last year: 20
Last title: None

The Pelicans drop back in the rankings a little bit because they might have the best big man in the NBA for the next decade. It is nearly impossible to get one of those guys, and New Orleans has one to build their entire franchise around. The Pelicans haven't had much success so far, but it's coming. This is a stock to buy.

22. Chicago Bulls

Last year: 24
Last title: 1998

If the Bulls were ever going to beat a healthy LeBron, this was the year, and it didn't happen. That's frustrating, and it's sad that Derrick Rose, finally having a flash of playoff health, couldn't break through. Maybe Fred Hoiberg will make all the difference, but it's beginning to look like maybe the Bulls' window has closed, or is about to. They still can't get too much lower in these rankings as long as that Jordan statue is still outside the arena. (Wait: Is it back yet?)

21. Detroit Pistons

Last year: 19
Last title: 2004

Detroit is the most tortured fan base on the list that has won a title this millennium, which sounds about right.

20. Brooklyn Nets

Last year: 23
Last title: None

Prediction: This team is going to be in the top 10 within the next 15 years. The Nets are set up with the worst cap situation and worst draft pick situation in the NBA moving forward, and now not even the owner looks all that interested anymore. That playoff loss to the Hawks is going to have to be the highlight for this fan base for a long, long time. Congratulations, Nets: You're actually worse off than the Knicks right now.

19. Charlotte Hornets

Last year: 22
Last title: None

That Michael Jordan says he could beat every player on his team one-on-one, that he "wants them to think they're good," and that he is the one who picked those players in the first place … this makes me think I have the Hornets way, way too low on this list.

18. Memphis Grizzlies

Last year: 17
Last title: None

There was a brief moment when the Grizz had the Warriors on the ropes, in a way that was even more convincing that the Cavaliers' later 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals. As long as Marc Gasol stays, this core has a year or two left of contention, and it shouldn't be shocking if one of these years, they finally reach that next tier.

17. Orlando Magic

Last year: 14
Last title: None

The Magic haven't gotten appreciably better since their whole post-Dwight Howard rebuild … but there is considerable talent here, plus a Top Five pick on Thursday. If you're a Magic fan, you can't be unhappy with where they stand moving forward … and hey, look, Scott Skiles is back! At the very least, that should be entertaining.

16. Philadelphia 76ers

Last year: 16
Last title: 1983

So! Where are we going with this? I had to keep the Sixers in the same spot as last year because the whole franchise is in the same spot as last year … and they seem perfectly comfortable being in the same spot next year. Some Philly fans are more optimistic about what Sam Hinkie and company are building than the national consensus is, but eventually, you'd like something worth watching. If the Sixers haven't made any progress by next year's draft, it will have been three years of 60-plus losses. Even if you're numbed and prepared … it's still torture.

15. Atlanta Hawks

Last year: 25
Last title: 1958

The Hawks shoot up (down? Honestly, I'll never figure out the terminology on these rankings) after a year that provided their fans with as much joy as they have had in 40 years. Many had doubted whether Atlanta could ever be a substantial NBA market again, but this year's delightful Hawks team answered that question with a resounding swish. It's a little frustrating that a four-game sweep by the Cavaliers could end up being the peak of what the Hawks are doing -- though we don't know that yet -- but the giddiness of the Hawks' season proved that the fan base is devoted … and thus capable of pain.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last year: 18
Last title: None

The perpetually impossible-to-rank franchise reaches the top half of the list this year. To remind, we do not include the Thunder's history in Seattle as part of this formulation: They have to be considered a different franchise all together, or these rankings don't make sense. (Inevitably, half the comments on this piece will say, "Seattle should be No. 1!" And they would likely be up there, if Seattle had a team. But Seattle doesn't, at least not yet.) Anyway, the Thunder are in danger of wasting away this whole era: Kevin Durant is a free agent after this season, James Harden is gone and Russell Westbrook is a crazy person. Billy Donovan will try to wrangle it together this season, but if it doesn't work, and Durant bolts after this season, this could be a historic missed opportunity.

13. Denver Nuggets

Last year: 13
Last title: None

New coach Michael Malone, whose firing from Sacramento felt more like an escape, is a step in the right direction, but all that excitement that Masai Ujiri once brought to this franchise seems like a long time ago.

12. Toronto Raptors

Last year: 15
Last title: None

Speaking of Ujiri, his current team completely imploded in the playoffs, and all the momentum the team had supposedly been building has vanished. It's possible this franchise could get a total overhaul, which means it's possible that these two first-round playoff exits over the last two seasons was the peak of this Raptors permutation. Which is awfully depressing. At least the Velociraptor has at last returned to our movie screens?

11. Milwaukee Bucks

Last year: 11
Last title: 1971

The Bucks stay steady in the rankings, but all told, the pleasant surprise is that Jason Kidd appears to be a much better coach than he was in Brooklyn. Imagine what they can do when Jabari Parker returns. The Bucks are quietly fascinating.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves

Last year: 12
Last title: None

As it turns out, after all that, the Timberwolves handled the Kevin Love business perfectly. Not extending him back in the day, when everyone wanted them to, allowed them to trade Love to Cleveland for Andrew Wiggins, the Rookie of the Year who might just be the next superstar. Plus, they've got tons of young talent around him and they have the No. 1 pick in the draft. Minnesota has to be patient, but this team could be absolutely loaded in a couple of years. Until then, the Wolves and their fans get to say goodbye to Kevin Garnett together. Now, let's see what they do next.

Andrew Wiggins represents some hope for Minnesota fans, even if the team is still raw. (Getty Images)

9. Indiana Pacers

Last year: 10
Last title: None

The 2014-15 season was a lost year, so we'll have a better idea of where the Pacers stand after a full slate with Paul George. But still: It is very possible that the Pacers will have had three different generations of top third-of-the-league talent … and only have one NBA Finals appearance (2000) to show for it. That's tough to stomach.

8. Phoenix Suns

Last year: 8
Last title: None

Does the fact that Mike D'Antoni and those old run-and-gun Suns were a bit vindicated by the Warriors this season make it better, or worse, for Suns fans? Does it hurt more or less, not ever breaking through with those gloriously entertaining teams? Either way: It's painful. Particularly when ESPN's Tom Haberstroh showed that the team, historical performance-wise, should have two titles by now.

7. Portland Trail Blazers

Last year: 9
Last title: 1977

Oh, but for that Wesley Matthews injury. The Trail Blazers looked to be a legitimate championship contender until Matthews, the team's emotional leader, went down in March. After that, the team was obviously never the same, and what could have been the Portland renaissance flittered away. The LaMarcus Aldridge decision -- his, and the team's -- is the next big moment for this whole franchise … but you can't help but worry that a window just closed.

6. Utah Jazz

Last year: 5
Last title: None

There are some happy signs in Utah. The team was dramatically better after the All-Star Break, and Rudy Gobert was a revelation. There are pieces in place here. But this isn't a championship core, and that's what the Jazz fans have been waiting for. Haberstroh had the Jazz second in underachieving franchises, and if I'm a Jazz fan, I'm still angry with Michael Jordan. That might have been a once-in-a-lifetime chance for these guys.

5. Washington Wizards

Last year: 4
Last title: 1978

It's cruel that the Wizards had every window open for them during the playoffs -- they had a weaker No. 1 seed in Atlanta, and a Cavaliers team racked with injuries -- and then John Wall fractured his damned wrist. The Wizards are run by smart people now, and Wall is an all-world player, but still, this is a team that barely hung on thanks to Paul Pierce playing like a lunatic, and he'll likely be gone next year. Not everything will fall so perfect for them next year.

4. Sacramento Kings

Last year: 6
Last title: None

The Kings move into the top four because, well, it's starting to look like the supposed groundbreaking new brain trust might have no idea what it's doing. The Michael Malone whirlwind, the "Wait, is Vlade Divac really in charge or not?" drama, the weird soap opera of George Karl's hiring … there are just a ton of messes here. It's a shame, because there's real talent on the roster, and Karl's still a terrific coach. If they can get their front office in order, when they get into their new building in 18 months, they could be the closest thing we have to a Warriors-like turnaround. But that's a big if.

3. Los Angeles Clippers

Last year: 1
Last title: None

The victory over the Spurs in the first round, along with the ascendance of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and the lack of that Horrible Human Being in the owner's box, made life much happier for Clippers fans this season. They need to hang onto DeAndre Jordan and somehow get enough depth that the team doesn't go only seven deep in the postseason, but as long as Paul and Griffin are here, and Donald Sterling isn't, things are better than they have ever been. (Which is not a high bar to clear.) Get excited.

2. New York Knicks

Last year: 3
Last title: 1973

So, here's what it's like to be a Knicks fan now. Not only did you just suffer through as wretched a season as any Knicks fan ever has -- and there have been plenty! -- you ended up with the fourth overall pick. But the worst of it is that you finally got Phil Jackson to run your team, something you've been trying to make happen for about 30 years, and the Jackson you get isn't the Zen Master, but instead an old crank "goink" on and on about offensive principles the NBA discarded years ago. And you're still owned by Jim Dolan and built around an aging star who still can't create for other people. Seriously: The highlight for this franchise over the last 15 years has been Linsanity. Which is insane.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Last year: 2
Last title: Never

They've seen Golden State go out and end decades of suffering. Now it's their turn. The Cavaliers made it back to the Finals only to have their two other stars leave LeBron stranded on the biggest stage. The franchise is set up to finally bring an NBA championship to the city. But if it doesn't? If it somehow doesn't work out for LeBron here? Then Cavs fans may never forfeit this spot.


What'd I miss? Did we improve on last year? Email me at, follow me @williamfleitch or just shout out your window real loud, I'll hear you. Point is, let's talk.