The NBA is one of the toughest and deepest sports in all of North America, but in the past few years, it has been Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the Warriors battling it out with the King and Kyrie Irving of the Cavs, both with one Championship each during this intense yet incredibly enjoyable battle. Not everyone’s enjoyed it, however, as we’ve seen the Spurs, Rockets, Wizards and even Celtics all step up to the plate to challenge this unprecedented dominance. And while we don’t know how the 2017 NBA playoffs is going to pan out, we know that Curry, LeBron and their respective teams can’t keep up this pace forever.
But which NBA All-Stars will succeed in this pursuit of Championship glory, and which will fail? Will we see an upstart Celtics team led by Isaiah Thomas dethrone the King? Will we see Russell Westbrook turn his triple-double dominance into the ring he so desperately seeks? Which one of the former Thunder All-Star trio will be the first to raise the coveted trophy above their head? Read on to find out.
15 Will Win – Chris Paul
This one may look beyond possibility now, as Paul can rarely get through a season with his health intact at this point, but his contract with the Clippers is now up, and there will be plenty of contenders vying for his services, and that last ditch effort at a Championship may just come up fruitful. He is as close to an old-school type point guard as there is left in the game today, and with teams like the Pelicans, Spurs, or even his current Clippers looking like contenders who need a solid point guard, he would fit in and quite possibly add to their potential. At best, the injury-riddled CP3 has three to four years left, and with the Warriors and Cavs looking primed for runs over that time, it won’t be easy. Still, Chris deserves some championship success in the NBA.
14 Won’t Win – Carmelo Anthony
The 2003 NBA draft was one of the most stacked in the history of American sports, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and even Chris Bosh entering the game, and all of the top 5 (yes, even Darko Milicic) have tasted title success, except for the Nuggets/Knicks offensive weapon, Carmelo Anthony. He’s not been surrounded with the talent that those other players have since his days in Denver (where they probably should have at least reached an NBA Finals), and with his "selfish" game, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be able to steer a team to the promised land. With the Phil Jackson drama looming large, we may see a playoff contender trade for Melo, but it’s still unlikely that he gets there. Also, with the current Knicks lineup, it’s unlikely they even make the playoffs at all.
13 Will Win – Hassan Whiteside
When talking about the plethora of young stars in the NBA, people often look to guys like Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns or Steph Curry, but one player that is always overlooked is Miami Heat big man Hassan Whiteside. He is developing a great offensive game, but his strength is in the defensive presence he brings to any team, and he is looking fantastic leading a struggling Heat team. With a few new pieces around them, and a developing big man in Whiteside, the Heat could move up in the top-heavy East. Still, his chances will be much better if he looks to move teams once his deal is up. There are plenty of teams just a dominant defensive center away from true contenders (Washington, OKC, Toronto, Portland, Houston), and his services will be heavily fought over, but whoever wins his services will no doubt go on to victory.
12 Won’t Win – DeMar DeRozan
The Toronto basketball scene had been quite below average for the past decade (ever since Vince Carter left), but with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the team has been able to build a contender in the west that Canada can finally be proud of. Even then, they have unfortunately been obliterated by the Cavs, leaving the future of the team up in the air. Lowry’s future is quite uncertain at this point, and with a lack of star power around DeRozan, who just signed a long term contract, it’s very unlikely the team will ever get to the finals, especially with the Wizards, Cavs and Celtics all standing in their way. There have been many great players and scorers in the history of the game who’ve never won an NBA title, and unfortunately for Toronto and DeMar, he won’t be the one to bring championship glory to the city of Toronto and the country of Canada as a whole.
11 Will Win – Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal got PAID in this past offseason, and although you can look at guys like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant and think they deserve that kind of money, Beal has become an elite scorer alongside John Wall, and that may lead to an NBA Championship in the very near future. With a great three point shooting ability off the catch or dribble, as well as a good all around game including passing and defense, and if the team can continue building their elite chemistry, they will be a favorite to dethrone the King and the Cavs in no time. Alongside Wall, the two have become a great duo, and if they can infuse the team with more young, energetic talent, the sky is the limit for a Washington team starving for continued success in the NBA.
10 Won’t Win – Damian Lillard
The 2012 NBA draft looked to be one of the most talented in history, but Lillard stood out among the pack, winning the Rookie of the Year, showing that he is very clutch in the biggest moments. Unfortunately, losing LaMarcus Aldridge hasn’t helped, and the Blazers again missed the playoffs in 2017. Paired with C.J McCollum, they have combined to make one of the best backcourts in the NBA, just as good as Curry-Thompson and Wall-Beal, but in a deep, tough Western Conference, they just don’t have enough depth and firepower to compete with the heavy hitters. Lillard may look to move on once his rookie deal is up, but until that point, it’s unlikely that Damian will be able to lead the Trail Blazers to the heights that the team once soared at.
9 Will Win – Gordon Hayward
Gordon Hayward has always been a serviceable NBA player, but he has recently bulked up and taken his game for the Utah Jazz to a whole new level, and with that new level of consistent play, he was able to represent Utah in the 2017 NBA All-Star game. Unfortunately it looks like the team will be run over by the Golden State Warriors, and from all reports and rumors, it looks like Hayward may jump ship, with many teams on his radar. Boston seems to be the most likely landing spot, and someone with the all-around talent of Hayward being added to such a stacked roster will make them a huge contender. No matter where he lands, Hayward will make his new team a serious contender.
8 Won’t Win – DeMarcus Cousins
When it comes to pure talent alone, no center in the game today matches the Pelicans' DeMarcus Cousins, but the game of basketball is a team sport that requires than just skills, and Cousins has become famous for lacking in those other departments. He’s now teamed up with Anthony Davis in New Orleans after being traded away from the Kings team he had made his home for the last few years, and with the incredible hype around the team, it seems like the Twin Towers in New Orleans are now in championship-or-bust mode. Unfortunately, Cousins' personality isn’t the right fit for a championship contender, and although they may have added another superstar to challenge the Warriors, Spurs or Rockets out West, it’s not going to be enough with such a combustible element at the back.
7 Will Win – James Harden
James Harden is a major contender for the MVP of this last season, going up against former teammate Russell Westbrook, and whether he gets it or not, there’s one thing for certain, he has a much better chance of winning an NBA title than Westbrook, whose Thunder team he dispatched of in the first round. With a heavy arsenal of three-point shooters surrounding him at the Rockets, he has a major chance of doing it this year, but if they can add some defense to the squad in the upcoming years, their chances will continue to increase. With his move to the point guard position, Harden has stepped up his game, with the amazing assist numbers adding onto his uncanny ability to score. Further, with Mike D'antoni leading the team, their unstoppable offense will always give them a chance to go all the way with Harden at the point.
6 Won’t Win – Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is one of the brightest stars the NBA has seen in quite some time, with an all-around skill set that hasn’t been seen in quite some time (if ever), and with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans, their fans seem to be quite excited about the near future with their dynamic Twin Tower combo. This is quite unfortunate, as Davis is a once in a generation talent, but after committing to a small market team like the Pelicans, his chances of Championship success is very minimal, especially with the Rockets, Warriors, Spurs and Thunder all out West. With Cousins by his side (assuming he re-signs next offseason, which would be the smart move), these towers will form the cornerstone of a team that will compete for quite some time, but with too much competition in the West, they will unfortunately fall short each and every time.
5 Will Win – John Wall
John Wall is one of the most athletic players in the NBA today, and although he lacks complete consistency with his shooting stroke, he is a great leader and no doubt has the talent to lead a team all the way to the NBA Finals one day, even in-the top heavy Eastern Conference. With Bradley Beal beside him and a young core with great chemistry, the Wizards are locked in a battle to earn a place in the Eastern Conference Finals, and while they may not represent the East in the NBA Finals this year, it will happen in the near future. With the team coming together well, I could see this happening in the next three to four years if they can get a big free agent or draft pick, but one thing's for sure, John Wall is a star that could finally bring Washington some great success.
4 Won’t Win – Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin came into the NBA with incredible amounts of hype surrounding him, and thus far, he has lived up the hype, and he has also improved immensely as an offensive player, transitioning from a simple leaper in "Lob City" to an all-around offensive threat. Unfortunately, the Clippers teams he has been on, despite having a deep bench and Griffin starting alongside DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul, managed to blow a lead in the playoffs five straight seasons, and it looks like the team won’t ever experience the postseason success they desire. He may look to move teams this upcoming offseason, but even if he does, Griffin has become too injury-prone to help a team go all the way, especially with the inexperience throughout a long postseason. Unfortunately, he’ll never be a champion, just a great individual player.
3 Will Win – Isaiah Thomas
If he doesn’t win the NBA Championship this year, it’s clear that Isaiah will win it eventually, as he plays very hard with the heart and emotion of a champion, and it is clear that the players love him, meaning superstars will be lining up to join the Celtics alongside him. After being picked last in the 2011 NBA draft, Thomas has continually played with a chip on his shoulder, and he has become one of the best players in the entire league, and without a doubt the best in clutch time when it matters. “Mr. 4th Quarter” is firing on all cylinders this postseason after the tragic death of his sister, using that emotion to fuel him to play at his very best, and it may very well lead the Celtics to a Championship. But if they fall to the Cavs or a better Western Conference team, it’s clear that we may see a superstar join them in this offseason, which will give them a much better chance going forward.
2 Won’t Win – Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook had an incredible, record-breaking regular season this past year, but surrounded by a less than average Thunder team, they petered out in the playoffs, losing to the Rockets in five games. He didn’t have an ounce of support around him throughout the season, which increased his level of play, but the mark of a Championship leader is that he makes the team around him better, and even if he gets the help he desires, it’s unlikely he will be able to become a team player. Russ is eligible for a five-year, $217 million contract beginning next season, so if he would like some help, the stars will have to come to him. And with the Warriors, Rockets and Spurs all still residing in the Western Conference, it’s very unlikely that Russ will ever win a title (although he will still have a stellar career as an individual player).
1 Will Win – Kevin Durant
This one is definitely most likely to happen this season, as Durant left the team he began his NBA career with, the Oklahoma City Thunder, to chase a ring by joining the already 73-9 Golden State Warriors, as they are looking incredibly dominant thus far. The team will no doubt have a battle against the Rockets/Spurs and the Celtics/Cavs to get that ring, but with all the shooting and star power the team possesses, it looks very unlikely that anyone will be able to take that ring away from them. Fans may dislike him for his tactics, as he could have joined any team in the league, yet sold out to join the already dominant Warriors. Still, his "ring chasing" efforts will pay off immediately, as he adds even more punch to the Warriors team who look to, and should successfully avenge their loss to the Cavs from a year ago.