LeBron’s team is out in the first round for the first time ever. The team he plays for, the Lakers, are a perennial playoff team and have won 17 NBA championships throughout their storied history. The Celtics, who also have 17 titles, are already out.
The Warriors missed the playoffs. The Miami Heat are already out. The Spurs missed the playoffs.
It’s a whole new group of teams in the NBA now, with lots of new faces at the table while the blue bloods are long gone:
The Nuggets have never made a Finals. The Clippers have never even made a Western Conference Finals. The Jazz were great in the 1990s and got to the Finals twice but lost to the Jordan-Pippen Bulls both times and haven’t been back since. The Suns made their only Finals appearance in 1993 with Charles Barkley, but lost to the Bulls in six games and haven’t been back since. The Suns haven’t even really been good since they had Steve Nash in his prime with Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion back in the mid-2000s.
Consider that since 2000, only a few teams have won the West: the Lakers (8 times), the Spurs (5 times), the Warriors (5 times), the Mavericks (twice) and the Thunder (once). All of those teams are out of it now.
In the East, the Nets used to be good in the early 2000s and made a couple of finals, but got smoked by the Lakers and the Spurs. They haven’t done anything since they moved to Brooklyn.
The Atlanta Hawks have been bad for a very long time. They had a few good years 6-7 years ago but never made a Finals. And I guess they won a Title back in 1958, but they were the St. Louis Hawks back then—they only moved to Atlanta in 1968. So effectively the Atlanta Hawks have never won a Championship.
The Bucks haven’t won a title since they had Kareem in the early 1970s. And the Sixers haven’t won one since they had the Dr. J/Moses Malone super team in 1983.
So somebody is about to win their franchise’s first title in either a very long time or ever.
It’s good to have some parity in a sport that is typically dominated by dynasties and super teams, although I do think that as much as we all hate dynasties, they are good for the sport because they provide us with a villain.
Now, we still do have a Super Team out there in Brooklyn, and they should be the overwhelming favorites to win it all. But with James Harden’s injured hamstring, they’re beatable. I think it’s possible we don’t see him for the remainder of the playoffs when you consider he missed 18 games with a hamstring injury during the regular season, and this injury is a re-aggravation of that earlier injury. I’m sure he’s going to try to get back out there, but his body might have other plans. I think there’s a very real chance we don’t see Harden again in these playoffs.
So the whole thing feels pretty wide open as of right now.
On top of this, a lot of these teams feel like they’re set up to be really good for a long time. The Nuggets are good and young. So are the Suns, although Chris Paul is 36. The Jazz are fairly young. The Bucks are set for a while. The 76ers are young. The Hawks are young. And Kawhi & PG still seem to have a lot left in the tank.
Within the next 5 years, LeBron, KD, Harden, Steph, CP3 and Westbrook will all either be retired or way past their primes. We all knew there was going to be a major changing of the guard in the NBA once these guys all get old. Even Kawhi is 30, Paul George is 31, Dame is 31–the day is coming very soon when these guys no longer dominate the league.
But it might be happening sooner than we all thought.