The Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight to win the 2012 NBA Championship. The pressure is now off Lebron James and Chris Bosh. The NBA is filled with young stars who have played past the age in which people expected them to already have a ring. It is hard to win a championship when you have Kobe Bryant, Boston’s “Big Three, and now Miami hogging up all the titles.
Lebron got the monkey off his back and he has given it to a few other NBA players. I’ve scoured through rosters and made a list of players who are now pressured to win an NBA Championship.
The 2011 Dallas Mavericks had many players who had to wait 10+ years to win their first title (Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, etc). There is hope for these players and odds are a few will win a ring in the next few seasons.
Kevin Durant (age 23) – I guess that I should start off with a couple players who just lost in the NBA Finals. Kevin Durant has a couple scoring titles under his belt and had a great postseason. He will have many other opportunities to get his ring and maybe he needed this loss to help push him to the next level. Durant is locked up with the Oklahoma City Thunder long term. They have some nice pieces around him and they will get even better.
Russell Westbrook (age 23) – Westbrook and Durant play really well together, but they came up just a bit short in the 2012 NBA Finals. James Harden and Serge Ibaka didn’t have a strong series, but they have both of them signed through next season. If OKC can sign them for three or four year deals, this team will be even scarier. Russell Westbrook is a turnover waiting to happen, but fixed that problem in the postseason. OKC will have Eric Maynor back next season and could give Westbrook some time at two-guard.
Dwight Howard (age 26) – The Orlando Magic center (for now) has already made a NBA Finals appearance and lost. His current contract situation has made the news over the last 18 months and painted him in a very negative light. If Dwight Howard were to be traded, he would have a lot of pressure on him to bring a championship. The rumor is the Los Angeles Lakers want him and Howard wants to play for them, but Lakers would have to trade Andrew Bynum and their salary cap situation is messy. I don’t see him going to the Lakers unless they decide to go above the luxury tax threshold.
Steve Nash (age 38) – He is the one player in the NBA that basketball fans would love to see win a ring the most. Steve Nash had many chances to jump ship and basically pick a team to be traded to, but he was loyal to the Phoenix Suns. He is an unrestricted free agent this off-season and wants badly to win a ring. I could see him signing for near the minimum amount to join a contender for one last run. New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City, and Miami are great fits for Nash in 2012-13.
Chris Paul (age 27) – He is currently in the situation that Lebron was in previous to this year. He is in a new place with some nice talent around him. Can Chris Paul recruit enough talent to join the lowly Los Angeles Clippers? It remains to be seen if the Clippers can keep any talent past their first contract. They need more than Griffin and could use some perimeter shooters. Donald Sterling will need to tone down the crazy and open up his wallet if he wants to finally get a banner at the Staples Center.
Deron Williams (age 27) – Williams is a guy that basketball purists would always point to when people would claim that Chris Paul was the best young point guard in the NBA. Well, both players find themselves in different places and Williams was stuck in New Jersey for the last 18 months. He is a free agent this off-season and is rumored to be headed to Dallas. This would put him in a great situation with an owner who wants to be a contender every season…plus he gets to play next to Nowitzki.
Carmelo Anthony (age 28) – Anthony forced his way out of Denver to play in a bigger market. He took a lot of heat from the media for being a diva. The New York Knicks haven’t won a championship in my lifetime and the pressure to do so is immense. Anthony is a scorer and needs a few players around him to force teams to play man-to-man. Amar’e Stoudemire is a nice piece, but he also needs to score to get the most out of his game. A full season of Jeremy Lin will be a test to see if Anthony’s game will ever translate to winning an NBA title.
Derrick Rose (age 23) – The Bulls have been trying to add pieces to surround Derrick Rose with NBA championship caliber players. They attempted to swing for the fences by signing Carlos Boozer, but struck out swinging. Rose was hurt for most of the 2011-12 season and injured his knee in the first round of the playoffs. It is unknown how much time Rose will miss next season and Chicago may force him to ease back slowly. Rose will win a title because he’s too good of a player, but it could be with a different roster in the future.
Other notable players who have yet to win an NBA title: Zach Randolph, Josh Smith, Danny Granger, Kevin Love, Elton Brand, and John Wall.