Who are the six best active NBA players to never win a title?
Who are the six best active NBA players to never win a title?
BOSTON – The list of good, but not-good-enough-to-win-it-all NBA players just got a little shorter with Kevin Durant leading the Golden State Warriors to the franchise’s fifth NBA title, and second in the last three years.
In doing so, his name is removed from having the dubious distinction of being among the game’s all-time greats who never won an NBA title.
And with the Warriors as front-loaded with talent as any team we’ve seen in decades, it’s not looking good for a status change for current title-less elite players in the NBA.
So who are the best bling-free ballers in the NBA now?
6. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
He would be higher, but he just completed his first season as the face of his respective franchise so the challenge of competing for a title as the undisputed go-to guy, is still relatively new to him in comparison to the others on this list. To say Westbrook had a good season would be an understatement, right up there with LeBron James and Kevin Durant being you know, decent NBA players. Westbrook did the seemingly unimaginable in averaging a triple-double this season (31.6 points, 10.4 assists and 10.7 rebounds), the first time since Oscar Robertson did so in 1962. That speaks to more than just his ability to impact the game in many ways, but more so to his absolute next-level desire to win at all costs. But for him to leave this list, he’ll have to either take his talents elsewhere a la ex-teammate Kevin Durant, or the Thunder will have to undergo some amazing growth internally. There’s little doubt that guys like Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo will get better in time. But will that be enough to make them a legit competitor for an NBA title? I have my doubts about that.
5. James Harden, Houston Rockets
There’s no mistaking how dominant a scorer and playmaker Harden has been since he was traded to the Houston Rockets from Oklahoma City in 2012, and became the face of their franchise. And while the Rockets have made tremendous strides in surrounding him with the kind of talent that has played well off of what he does best, they haven’t been able to get any further than the Conference finals (2015). They seemed poised to potentially take that next step this past season when they finished with the third-best record in the NBA. But they succumbed to a San Antonio Spurs team that was severely undermanned in their second-round series with Tony Parker (torn left quadriceps muscle) having his season end prematurely, in addition to Kawhi Leonard (ankle) missing time only for the Spurs to not miss a beat in eliminating the Rockets in six games. While there will certainly be the temptation to make significant offseason changes, Houston would be wise to stay the course. They did a lot of good things this past season, and if they can keep their core group together, another run at the Conference finals isn’t out of the question.
4. Dwight Howard, Atlanta Hawks
It’s hard to believe that Howard will be entering his 14th NBA season this fall. And then you watch him play and realize, yup, he’s coming up on season number 1-4. Howard still has the ability to dominate games at both ends of the floor from time to time, but he just doesn’t do it nearly enough or as often. And with him being on an Atlanta Hawks team that’s looking more like one that’s rebuilding than reloading for a championship run, he very much looks like a player who will join the elite, Hall of Fame big man class of Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing to finish their NBA careers without ever winning an NBA title.
3. Vince Carter, Memphis Grizzlies
There are few players in this generation who brought more excitement with above-the-rim exploits, than Vince Carter. The entire NBA landscape at one point in time was overcome with Vince-sanity, for sure. But as good as he was at putting players on a poster with rim-rattling facial dunks, he too is likely to walk away from the game without an NBA title. He’s a free agent this summer and it would come as a surprise if he tried to latch on with Cleveland or Golden State, the prohibitive favorites to win it all next season. Short of that, Carter’s career will be remembered for what he did as an individual far more than what the teams he played for accomplished.
2. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
It’s sad how things are playing out with the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony, with Phil Jackson trying his best to get rid of Melo despite the perennial all-star having a no-trade clause in his contract. Melo’s desire to push Denver to trade him back home to New York has been on so many levels, an absolute disaster. It was a smaller market, for sure. But he had better players around him, a group that included an elite point guard in Chauncey Billups who was a proven leader and NBA champion. And at that time, the Western Conference was a lot more wide open than it is now. There wasn’t a huge window, but there was a clearer path towards at least competing for an NBA title at that time, then there is now. Melo knows the Knicks aren’t even a playoff team, let alone one that can compete for a title. And there’s no one or two or even three moves they could make that would change that. If he wants to have one last shot at competing for an NBA title, he’s going to have to leave New York – and to play for a team of his choice, probably leave some money on the table by way of a buyout. So far, it doesn’t look like Melo is seriously considering any of those options which is why that national title he won at Syracuse in 2003 will likely be the last time he’ll know what it feels like to be a champion.
1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
You can make a case that Chris Paul has been the best point guard of his era. He can score, has great court vision, defends and maybe more than anything else, is everything you want in a leader. And yet despite all those great qualities, he has never come close to winning a championship. He has in effect taken the reigns from Kevin Durant as the most accomplished, still-got-game talent in the NBA without an NBA title to list of accomplishments. But that may change this season if Paul does what makes sense from a basketball standpoint and that’s to latch on with the San Antonio Spurs. The future of Tony Parker is shaky right now. But even if he was back next season, that wouldn’t have an impact on Paul’s role with the team. And when you look at all that Paul brings to the game, it seems the Spurs are exactly the kind of team that Paul needs at this point in his career. He has had a great run with the Los Angeles Clippers, but that team’s window – whether they want to accept it or not – has closed. They have an aging core, most of whom are free agents or can opt-out and become free agents this summer. And when you look at the bench, they’re either too old to build around or not talented enough to step in and supplant the veterans they played behind this past season. For Paul, he has to do what’s best for him from both a financial and basketball standpoint. And while his love and loyalty to Doc Rivers and the Clippers has never been an issue, there’s little doubt that him signing with the Spurs gives him the best shot at this point in his career, to compete for an NBA title.