After covering the NFL teams that have never made it to the Super Bowl yesterday, we move on to the six NBA teams that have never been to the finals of the best basketball league in the world.
The Raptors have been around since 1995 so it’s not such a big surprise that the only Canadian franchise still hasn’t made it to the finals, but about a decade ago, with a high flying Vince Carter and an up an coming Tracy McGrady, you’d think the future should be very bright for the Raptors.
Wrong… Carter became an often injured an unhappy player, eventually leaving. McGrady left to Orlando and it took the Raptors quite a few years before they got to where they are today – a solid team in the East but far from a deep playoff run threat.
The Denver Nuggets have been in the NBA since coming from the ABA in 1976, but still, despite being in the post season 20 times, they haven’t made it later than the conference finals. The Nuggets were maybe the most fun team to watch in the NBA during the 1980’s, led by Alex English on court and Doug Moe off the bench with their high scoring motion offense which made them the highest scoring team in the league, but never enough to go all the way. Then came the 90’s and early 00’s drought but things changed with the 2003 draft and the arrival of Syracuse star, Carmelo Anthony.
The number 3 pick of the ’03 draft has led the Nuggets to the playoffs in each of the six seasons since entering the NBA, but it seems that only last year everything started coming together for Antony, personally and team-wise. They were stopped in the conference finals by the Lakers, and although they’re not the favorites out West, the Nuggets are a dangerous and strong team, probably the second or third best team in the western conference. Don’t be surprised to see them playing the Lakers in the conference finals again this year.
The Timberwolves playoff experience can be summed up in two words : Kevin Garnett. Eight consecutive seasons Garnett led the ‘Wolves into the post season, only once making it past the first round (2003-2004, making the conference finals). After that? Three seasons with Garnett missing the playoffs.
Then came the trade that brought back Minnesota to their early franchise state – Garnett was traded to Boston and won a title with the Celtics in 2008, the Timberwolves are again one of the weakest teams in the NBA.
Los Angeles Clippers
Probably the worst and unluckiest franchise in the NBA’s history – the Clippers started out as the Buffalo Braves, turned into the San Diego Clippers and in 1984 became the legendary bad LA Clippers. Twenty six years since moving to LA, the Clippers have made the playoffs four times and have had only three .500+ seasons.
When Mike Dunleavy Sr. was made head coach of the Clippers in 2003, things started looking better. Not a huge impact, but a significant 9 improvement in 2004-2005 was followed by the fantastic 2005-2006 season, winning 47 games, the most since the 1974-1975 season when the team was still in Buffalo. The Clippers made it to the conference semi finals, dragging the Suns to a seven game series before bowing out. Since then? Same ol’, same ol’. Lottery picks a’plenty and no playoffs, although this season things seem to be a bit better.
Another team that had a very short period of success in the first decade of the 2000’s, but were never close of getting to the NBA finals. In fact, they still don’t have a playoff win, 15 years since the franchise started it’s NBA road in Vancouver.
Pau Gasol came from Spain to the Grizzlies in 2001, winning rookie of the year and two years later led the team to it’s first playoff appearance followed by two more in the next two years. Then came the Gasol injury, then came him being unhappy and in 2008 came the amazingly one sided trade that sent him to the Lakers for almost nothing. Gasol pretty much helped revive the Lakers and won the title with them last season, while the Grizzlies totally revamped the team and are currently surprising most fans by being very strong in the playoff race, with Gasol’s brother Marc having a very good season.
New Orleans Hornets
Once the young Charlotte Hornets got Larry Johnson in the 1991 draft, things immediately started looking much better. Then came Alonzo Mourning, and the Hornets became one of the better teams in the Eastern conference and one of the more popular sides in the NBA, especially in international markets.
The Hornets, despite being an almost constant post season qualifier even after the team was drastically changed with LJ and ‘Zo leaving the team, were ranked among the worst in attendance, partly due to the Owner George Shin’s bad reputation in the Charlotte community. The Hornets moved out West to New Orleans, having a successful first two seasons in Louisiana, making the playoffs twice. The team was moved to the Southwest division, which included Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, making life very hard for the Hornets. The Chris Paul draft pick changed everything, as Paul slowly developed into the best point guard in the league and the Hornets into one of the best teams in the West in the last couple of seasons. Still, an NBA finals appearance looks far away with the current lineup, despite Paul’s heroics.