NBA: Title Contenders that Fell Short

With superstars like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant and the San Antonio Spurs dominating the last decade, it was hard for teams to push through and realize the dream of winning a championship. Here are some of the best teams that fell short over the last 10 years.

1. 2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder

After losing in his first ever NBA finals to the Dallas Mavericks, James won his  ever-so-elusive first title by beating the young star-studded Thunder in six games. The team included Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, who has gone on to be one of the best players in the world, Russell Westbrook, who just averaged a triple-double for the second consecutive year, and Kevin Durant, who is now a two-time NBA champion and a MVP. Each of them averaged over 30 minutes per game and over 15 points with Durant finishing second in the MVP voting behind James.

Serge Ibaka, who finished second in Defensive Player of the Year, Kendrick Perkins, Derek Fisher, Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha rounded out some of the other key contributors.  

Unfortunately, we never got to see that young team continue to grow together. Before the next season, OKC traded Harden to the Houston Rockets as his free agency loomed large.

2. 2012-13 Indiana Pacers

The Pacers were probably the closest team to dethroning James in the East besides the Celtics this past season. After getting bounced in the second round in six games, the Pacers meant business in the 2012-2013 season. But with their leader Danny Granger out with a knee injury that cost him all but five games, the Pacers used a group effort to arrive at the Eastern Conference Finals. The player that stood out from the rest, was a 22-year old Paul George.

George led the team in scoring during the season with 17.4 points a game, just beating out David West who averaged 17.1 points a game. Along with George and West, Roy Hibbert and George Hill both averaged double figures.

They took the Heat to seven games. The first four games were split until Miami blew out the Indiana in games five and seven to head to the Finals.

3. 2015-16 Los Angeles Clippers

For a lot of their history, the Clippers have always been the second thought in Los Angeles. That changed in the summer of 2011 when Chris Paul was traded to the Clippers after David Stern vetoed the trade to the Lakers. The Clippers made the playoffs that year for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

Fast forwarding to 2015-16, it seemed like the Clippers were about to make a huge jump into the Western Conference Finals, but injuries ruined their chances. With a 2-1 lead in the first round over the Trail Blazers, Paul broke his hand while Blake Griffin hurt his quad earlier in the series.

Overall, the team was solid with a group of stars and veteran leaders that mixed well with its’ young players and Doc Rivers. Alongside Paul and Griffin, the Clippers had DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Reddick, Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, Jamal Crawford, and Austin Rivers.

Griffin led the team in scoring with 21.4 points a game, while five other players averaged double-figures. Jordan and Paul each averaged a double-double during the season.

4. 2008-09 Denver Nuggets

Even though they have missed the playoffs the last five seasons, the Nuggets were a force in the league from the time they drafted Carmelo Anthony till he was traded to the Knicks. The most successful run the team had was in the 2009 playoffs where Denver fell just one game short of the NBA Finals.

The 2008 season started with a huge blockbuster trade that sent Allen Iverson to Detroit for Chauncey Billups. Billups was second on the team with 17.9 points a game behind Anthony who averaged 22.8 points a game. Along with the two stars, Nene, Kenyon Martin ,and Dahntay Jones rounded out the starting five. J.R. Smith, Linas Kleiza, and Chris “Birdman” Andersen were also huge factors to finishing with the second seed in the Western Conference.

5. 2009-10 Phoenix Suns

After missing the playoffs in 2009, Shaquille O’Neal left the Suns for the Cavaliers, opening the door for Amar’e Stoudemire to become the team’s lone big man once again.

He led the team in scoring with 23.1 points a game and just under nine rebounds a game. Paired alongside the 27-year-old was Steve Nash who scored 16.5 points a game and 11 assists.

Grant Hill, Jason Richardson and Channing Frye rounded out the rest of the starters, while Robin Lopez, Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, Lou Amundson and Jared Dudley were the key bench players. Richardson, Hill and Frye all averaged double digits in points per game that season.

They lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Lakers, who won their second-consecutive championship.


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