Over the past 2 decades, the NBA has been dominated by many mini-dynasty runs. The Pistons, Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, Heat, Warriors and Cavaliers have all had periods of dominance, making multiple finals each. However, this has made it easy to forget some extremely talented teams, with huge expectations, that did not quite reach them. None of these teams mentioned in this article ever made the NBA Finals, which was somewhat of a disappointment given the expectation and talent each possessed.
Carmelo Anthony led Nuggets, 2003-2011.
As one of the true superstars in the league during his time in Denver, it was expected that at least 1 time, Melo would take the Nuggets to the finals. Especially after winning a championship at Syracuse, as their star freshman. However, due to coaching, teammates, or whatever the reason may be, it never happened. Despite 8 consecutive playoff appearances, every season Melo was there, the Nuggets only won 2 series during that span. These both came in the 2008-09 season, when the Nuggets lost in 6 to the Lakers in the Conference Finals. After many attempts to take the Nuggets to the Finals, Anthony was eventually traded to the Knicks in 2011.
Lob City Clippers, 2011-2017.
Maybe the most entertaining team of this era, it is astonishing that the Clippers never even made a conference final during this span. The Clippers got Blake Griffin in the 2009 draft, and were able to acquire Chris Paul in a 2011 trade. This set them up for one of the most exciting duos in the NBA. Griffin, along with Deandre Jordan, were a fearsome frontcourt who pulled off highlight reel dunks night in and night out. The backcourt of Paul and J.J. Redick were both lights out shooters, and Paul was an efficient playmaker. Their role players, such as Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford, contributed mightily to their success. However, every year in the playoffs, this team was a letdown. The biggest of these being a blown 3-1 lead against the Houston Rockets in the 2nd round in 2014-15, with them being a win away from the conference finals 3 straight games. Eventually, the team had to go into a rebuild, losing Paul, Redick, Griffin and Jordan within a 3 year span.
Kobe, Nash, Howard, Gasol Lakers, 2012-13.
This star-studded team did not last long, which is a part of the disappointment. With Kobe Bryant still near the prime of his career, the Lakers added All-NBA center Dwight Howard and former MVP Steve Nash to an already solid roster, with Pau Gasol also still playing well. There were many reasons this team did not work out. There were obvious chemistry issues, notably between Nash and Howard, on many occasions. Injuries to Kobe and Nash derailed a somewhat promising season, but when Kobe was shut down for the season, all hope was essentially lost. Gasol and Howard still took them to the playoffs, just to be swept aside by the Spurs in 4 games. The team seperated quickly, with Nash’s retirement and Dwight’s trade to Houston ending a potential super team after one disappointing, shocking season.
New Look Nets, 2013-2015.
During this time period, the new Brooklyn Nets were looking to become relevant again in the NBA. This led them to some very aggressive moves, bringing in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett within a short span to help young center Brook Lopez. Some of these moves however sacrificed their future in hopes to win in the present. Instead, this aging roster did not bring the Nets success, as they won one series together, in 2013-14, before proving no match for Lebron’s Heat in round 2. This team was never built correctly, with big contracts for older players, and a flurry of draft picks being traded out to acquire them. This team was not only a failure in the short term, but also the long term, as from 2015-2018 the Nets were one of the league’s worst teams, with no lottery picks to show for it.
Steve Nash’s Suns 2005-2012
Steve Nash is arguably the best playmaker in the history of basketball. During this period, Nash was averaging 10.9 assists per game, 16.3 points, and 43.7% shooting from deep. In 2005 and 2006, Nash was awarded the MVP for his play. Along with those two MVPs, was five assists titles, the most of the century so far. Nash was joined by Amar’e Stoudamire as his right-hand-man. From 2005-2010, Nash and Stoudamire took the regular season by storm. They made the Conference Finals three times, but couldn’t quite make it over the hump, losing to Tim Duncan’s Spurs, Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks, and Kobe Bryan’t Lakers.