Basketball players, generally, have one goal: to win a championship. While there are few unmotivated players playing professionally in the NBA, the vast majority of athletes want to win it all. This list compiles eight players who will one day win a championship and seven who won't. I have made this article based on stats, team situation, and from general knowledge of individual players.
Here is what Bill Russell has said about winning.
“To me, the most important part of winning is joy. You can win without joy, but winning that’s joyless is like eating in a four-star restaurant when you’re not hungry. Joy is a current of energy in your body, like chlorophyll or sunlight, that fills you up and makes you naturally want to do your best.”
In all facets, it appears that Russell is communicating to people that winning needs to be accomplished with joy. In actuality, he is commenting on the fact that happiness is actually accomplished, by a player, when they succeed in the sport of their choosing - with their team. It is fun for one athlete to be insane his entire career, but if he does not have support on his team, he will become bored of everything very quickly.
15 Will Win: Devin Booker
Booker will not be a Phoenix Sun forever. When he leaves the organization, as I believe he will, the guy will have a lot of opportunities opened up for him. Big name organizations and championship contending teams will go after him, as he has emerged as a player with immense potential. The 6'6 guard has been doing very well with the Suns, which has caused fans of the NBA to consider that he will leave the team and move on elsewhere. Regardless of the team Booker plays for, he is the type of player that has the will to win. Whether in three, five, or seven years - Devin Booker will one day help his team (not necessarily Phoenix) win a championship. He shows maturity and nice athleticism, especially for his age and limited experience at the professional level.
The reason I put him so low on this list is because he is young and not in a situation where he can seriously compete for a title. Give him a couple of years - and the guy will be in a more favorable circumstance.
14 Will Never Win: Al Jefferson
At 32 years old, Jefferson has limited time left in the NBA. He entered the league after being drafted 15th overall, by Boston, and ended up being a very good big man. His best season was in 2008, in which he averaged 23.1 PPG and 11 RPG.
I am not sure how much longer Al will be playing basketball, at least in America. The Pacers have struggled as of late and are currently sitting at ninth in the Eastern Conference - which is not very promising if Jefferson is trying to win a championship late in his career. If Al wants to truly win a championship, he needs to try to get on a contending roster like the Cavaliers or Warriors. While Jefferson will be valued upon his retirement, for his successful career, he will probably never get to have the unbelievable feeling of raising a trophy with his teammates.
13 Will Win: Deron Williams
Deron Williams did what Al Jefferson should do: get on a great team. He is the second point guard for the Cavaliers, behind Kyrie, and has been helpful to mentoring the younger guys. I think the Cavaliers have a good chance of going back to back this year, and if not, Williams will always have next year to potentially win a championship. Fortunately, he has placed himself in a situation where he has a chance to finally hold the trophy. Previously, he has been on the Jazz, Nets, and Mavericks - which were three teams that did not have the players to win it all.
With LeBron beginning to play a little more intensely, the Cavaliers are primed for a deep playoff run. Fans want to see them play in the finals again, if not win it all, and LeBron and Kyrie will do anything in their power to give the fans of Cleveland another championship.
12 Will Never Win: Serge Ibaka
While Ibaka was a pretty solid big man, his career has taken a downturn with the Raptors. His numbers are down, but more importantly, he doesn't really fit in the offensive structure. Ibaka joined the league after being drafted 24th overall by the SuperSonics - the Thunder to be. He played seven seasons in Oklahoma City and regularly was a major part of their defensive and offensive approach. On the Magic, Ibaka was doing pretty solid as well, averaging 15.1 PPG - his career high in point total. While he offers the NBA talent, he has yet to be on a team that I feel will, or has a good shot of winning the championship. The Raptors are a deep team that can challenge some teams in the East, but as long as LeBron is playing in the league, the Eastern Conference will struggle to ever get past him. Ibaka will probably never win a championship: it seems unlikely.
11 Will Win: Jimmy Butler
I am not really convinced Butler will stay with the Bulls much longer. This being said, he will land on a solid team - potentially the Celtics. Jimmy has emerged as one of the best players in the NBA and has been a driving force for Chicago's run this year. I don't see him winning a championship in Chicago, especially because of limited assets, but he will win one elsewhere. Once LeBron retires, whenever that truly is, Butler will most likely still be playing in the NBA. At this time, he could take over as the best forward/sometimes SG in the NBA. With proper coaching and roster depth, Butler could take the league by storm, more so than he already has. Certainly, Butler could even win a championship with LeBron James still being active. One day, James will slow down and not be his old self. At this time, Butler and other forwards, will battle for dominance in the Eastern Conference.
10 Will Never Win: Roy Hibbert
Hibbert has been a total bust, which was unexpected because of his successful NCAA career at Georgetown. Now 30, Roy has limited time to help any organization win a championship. He is on the Nuggets, who currently sit at 9th in the Western Conference. Last season was horrible for him, as he averaged 5.2 PPG with Charlotte. While Hibbert may not be a good player, he will have limited opportunities after this season. No good team will be looking for his services in the near future and he will not be considered by a contender at all. Hibbert has proven to be a solid defender but his offensive rebounding and down low post moves are insufficient. If he is lucky, he ends up with a one year contract on a team like the Warriors. Truthfully, though, I do not see this happening in any way. Roy Hibbert will never win a championship, better yet, he will probably be out of the league by next season.
9 Will Win: Julius Randle
While the Lakers are in a rebuilding phase, soon enough the organization will be back to its successful state. They are in the process of stockpiling draft picks and picking up great prospects. Kobe Bryant may have left L.A., but the Clippers will soon be the worst team in the city.
Randle is a pretty versatile big man. He can shoot well from past the free throw line, is a strong rebounder, and spreads the ball around to his teammates. The Lakers are certainly not in a position to contend for a title now, they will be an NBA force to be reckoned with soon enough. Randle is a real asset for the young team, as he put up 11.3 PPG and 10.5 RPG a year ago. He played big minutes as well, averaging 28.2 MPG in the 2015-16 NBA season. I think Randle will probably stay in L.A. It is too appealing to have the opportunity to live in Los Angeles, and better yet, play basketball for a living in the sunshine state. He will win a championship at some point, just this time is not yet in the making.
8 Will Never Win: Jameer Nelson
Nelson has had a hell of a career, though he is not a superstar by an means. For a couple years, or so, he had a chance at winning a championship with Orlando. Currently, he is not in the best position to contend for a title with the Denver Nuggets. The organization sits at ninth in the conference and is 15-22 on the road.
At 35 years old, Jameer should be trying to get on championship contending rosters. Unfortunately, his time in the NBA is ticking away: he may have two or three years, but ultimately, his retirement will be expected very soon. Nelson's stats are also beginning to trickle down, as he averaged 7.7 PPG last season and 9.6 PPG the year before that. Nelson opted out of his Nuggets contract in 2015, but he ended up re-signing with the organization. Why? Teams were not necessarily looking to add him to their roster. Nelson has a slim chance of ever winning a title.
7 Will Win: Isaiah Thomas
Thomas is doing very well on the Celtics. While the team may not be ready to dethrone the Cavaliers, they certainly have a lot of potential. Once James is out of the East, at some point in the near future, there will be hope in Boston. The Celtics will hope to bank on a free agent this offseason like Blake Griffin or Jimmy Butler and extend their organization to a point where they feel they are comfortable. Thomas was doubted early on in his career because of size, but he has easily proved people wrong. He is a very hardworking player who does not take his time in the NBA for granted. Last season, he averaged 22.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG. The team has a lot of potential and I especially like how management is handling the rebuilding process. While the team is not ready to contend for a championship, they will attract free agents this offseason.
6 Will Never Win: Derrick Rose
I feel really bad for Derrick Rose. He was arguably the best player in the NBA during the 2010-11 regular season, but after multiple injuries, his career has suffered. Most recently, he got ruled out for the season because of a torn meniscus. While I would have predicted that he would one day win a championship, he is struggling to stay healthy. Rose has been very different since his first injury against the Philadelphia 76ers, and consequently, he has not been the same athletic and versatile guard. Without question, teammates and NBA players alike have voiced their concerns about Rose. Most recently, Isaiah Thomas tweeted "Prayer up for D-Rose."
The Bulls were a championship team with Rose, especially as the one seed in the East, but all is going poorly for his career at this point. For his health and wellness, he may want to consider retiring from the NBA or going overseas which would demand way less work.
5 Will Win: James Harden
Harden is bound to win a championship at some point. The Rockets guard has been insane this season, averaging a near triple double of 29.2 PPG, 11.2 APG, and 8.1 RPG. The Rockets rely on him heavily, obviously, as he had averaged a substantial 36.9 MPG in the past 10 games. Harden may not necessarily win a championship this year, but I trust that, at some point, he will get a ring. The guy is too unbelievably talented and skilled to never get close to a title. I don't see Harden leaving the Rockets, but if he did, it may be possible that he could combine star forces with another great player.
While it is a bold prediction to assume a player will definitely win a championship, his level of play, to me, indicates that he will someday help his team win it all. He may not be a Houston Rocket for the remainder of his career, but I don't see Houston going anywhere endless they get some much needed talent in the free agency.
4 Will Never Win: Kyle Lowry
Lowry became really good too late in his career. He has averaged 22.8 PPG and 6.9 APG this regular season, proving that older players can still be dominant at the guard position. He is 31 years old, and while the Raptors have somewhat of a chance in the East, they are not getting past LeBron James and the fierce Cavaliers. Also, I don't see a reason why Lowry should leave the Raptors. The organization hasn't been this good in a very long time, so leaving Toronto would be a bad move. The organization is doing well, but them winning a championship while James is still active is improbable. He may have a better chance competing in the Western Conference, but either way, Durant and the Warriors are a strong-willed team. Lowry does not have a substantial amount of time left to play, but he has certainly proved himself to be more valuable than he was previously thought of on the Grizzlies and Suns.
3 Will Win: Kevin Durant
Now that Kevin Durant is on the Golden State Warriors, he is bound to win at least one championship in the near future. I am still under the impression that LeBron and Kyrie will help the Cavaliers capture another title, but Durant, Draymond, Klay, and Curry will surely make it difficult for Cleveland. The Warriors are like a fantasy team, in all truthfulness. If LeBron was not still active, I would not be able to name any legitimate reason as to why they would not capture the title for the next five years. Durant had a chance of winning a championship with the Thunder, but he decided to leave Russell and join a deeper team. KD may be ridiculed and be the subject of hatred by Thunder and other NBA fans, but the truth cannot be denied. Durant will, at some point, finally win a championship - something he has wanted for a very long time.
2 Will Never Win: John Wall
Wall is making a boatload of money with the Washington Wizards.
Why is this relevant?
Wall is on a five year contract, which means that he will grace free agency in 2019. While it is interesting to imagine him leaving D.C., the organization could be quick to offer him even more money to remain there. If he stays with the Wizards, he has a minimal chance of winning an NBA championship. Sure, they are having a great season, but I find the regular season to be irrelevant - as kind of stupid and cliche as it sounds. Once LeBron and Durant turn up their level of play in the playoffs, it will be clear that both of these teams are the only true contenders. The real teams that have a shot this year, next year, and maybe the year after that, are the Spurs, Warriors, and Cavaliers. John is a great and versatile player, but he seems to be on a contract that makes no sense for him to ever get out of. The Wizards will keep paying him, in my opinion.
1 Will Win: Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook - now bitter because his co-star Kevin Durant left him in Oklahoma City - is one of the best guards the league has ever seen. Night after night, the guy has triple doubles and helps his team win big games. He has averaged 31.9 PPG, 10.4 APG, and 10.6 RPG this season - number that make an NBA fan gasp. Westbrook has a great shot at winning the MVP award this year, an award he may have been due for last season. While it was nice having KD around, Westbrook can win without him. The two actually did not have great chemistry and his absence has given room for Westbrook to take more control of the offense. Without question, I would shocked if Russell never won a title. He may not win this year, but surely, his level of play leads me to believe that he will make an insane and unmatched impact in the playoffs one day.
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