Feb 12 2013 11:04AM

Winning Formula

Who are the three best teams in the NBA this season?

Heat, Thunder and Spurs.

Who were the three best teams last season?

Heat, Thunder and Spurs.

Now, I ask you, who are the only three 2012-13 teams that will have six-plus teammates together for at least 5,000 regular season and postseason minutes by playoff time?

Again the answer: Heat, Thunder and Spurs.

It's no coincidence the same three teams with their steady Big 3's along with three longtime role players keep on winning and contending, while others fit seamlessly into their systems.

Simply put, chemistry counts when it comes to winning NBA championships.

Every 21st Century NBA champion, with the exception of two, had at least five players log 5,000-plus minutes with that team by the time they won a championship (the 2008 Celtics and 2005 Heat--both veteran-laden teams--were the outliers).

It really is an interesting statistic and further testament that a little chemistry goes a long way in the NBA postseason.


Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Sport

MIAMI HEAT

Dwyane Wade 28,118 minutes and 10th season with Heat
Udonis Haslem 21,396 minutes and 10th season with Heat
Mario Chalmers 10,772 minutes and 5th season with Heat
LeBron James 9,141 minutes and 3rd season with Heat
Chris Bosh 7,591 minutes and 3rd season with Heat
Joel Anthony 7,166 minutes and 6th season with Heat

The Heat's Big 3 is relatively new in their third full season together, but the team's cadre of role players along with Wade have some pretty long roots. Haslem was a rookie alongside Wade in 2003, while Chalmers and Anthony have been around long enough to experience team president Pat Riley as a head coach. Those four have been through the down years before the Heat became a global sensation and are well indoctrinated into the "Riley Way" of doing things. It's likely that this nucleus made things easier for LeBron and Bosh to come in and transition the team to an instant Finals contender with minimal growing pains.


Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Kevin Durant 18,244 minutes and 6th season with Thunder
Nick Collison 15,774 minutes and 9th season with Thunder
Russell Westbrook 14,093 minutes and 5th season with Thunder
Thabo Sefolosha 8,371 minutes and 5th season with Thunder
Serge Ibaka 8,108 minutes and 4th season with Thunder
Kendrick Perkins 4,443* minutes and 3rd season with Thunder

Much like the Spurs (no surprise since GM Sam Presti plied his trade with the San Antonio Spurs before becoming the architect of the team), the Thunder have a team built strongly through the draft. Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka were all first-round picks that have panned well (especially if you include James Harden who was traded for Kevin Martin) and Collison, the 12th pick in the 2003 draft dating back to the Seattle days serves as a solid glue guy. Defensive mainstays like Sefolosha and Perkins were shrewd pickups through trades. Like school children in elementary school, the team has grown up together, making the success now more a family feeling.


Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Sport

>SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Tim Duncan 38 908 minutes and 16th season with Spurs
Tony Parker 33,689 minutes and 12th season with Spurs
Manu Ginobili 23,782 minutes and 11th season with Spurs
Matt Bonner 8,499 minutes and 7th season with Spurs
DeJuan Blair 5,334 minutes and 4th season with Spurs
Stephen Jackson 4,841*# minutes and 4th season with Spurs
Gary Neal 4,262* minutes and 3rd season with Spurs

If it seems like nothing changes much with the Spurs, it's because it doesn't. Kids have graduated junior high school, high school, college, gotten married and even had kids of their own and the core of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have remained untouched. All three were sourced from the draft.Duncan was a no-brainer at No. 1 in 1997, but Parker and Ginobili were diamonds in the rough at pick 28 ('01) and 57 ('99). Blair was a pleasant surprise pick at 37 in '09, while Bonner, Jackson and Neal were free agent castoffs of other teams that the Spurs saw value in. It should also be noted that they are the team with the longest tenured head coach in Gregg Popovich, offering stability in the person who wields the stable roster.



* player is on pace to reach 5,000 minutes before or during the 2013 NBA Playoffs

# player did not play all minutes and seasons with team in consecutive years

All minutes as of February 11, 2013