The NBA Playoffs is down to four teams, the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Atlanta Hawks. Each team has not won a championship since the NBA and ABA merged back in 1976. So by default, a new champion crowned this summer will end a dreadful drought. The NBA hasn’t seen a back-to-back winner since the Warriors last won in 2017 and 2018. The trend continues in 2021 as the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t make it past the first round.
If you’re just tuning in to the NBA Playoffs you will not see any of the following players. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokić (the NBA’s MVP!), and Luka Doncic. However, is that a bad thing? We’ll let you decide but this is year could be the start of an opportunity for a new star player to start a new winning way for a franchise that has been dying for it. The final four teams most likely to become a dynasty based on this season? Let’s rank ’em!
The idea here is that each of the four teams left in the 2021 NBA Playoffs will have to WIN the championship this season to start the dynasty run. In the scenario each team won the championship, I will break down why they could possibly become the NBA’s next dynasty at the start of a new decade.
Let’s face it whether you knew about or just learning about Devin Booker it’s fair to say he’s certainly unstoppable in these 2021 Playoffs. Was there any doubt out there that he would struggle against the Clippers WITHOUT Chris Paul in the line-up? How’s 40 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assist sound in Game 1? This also was a year some folks thought Paul should be an MVP candidate. However, at age 24 Booker is playing in his first playoffs and effectively a force when he’s on the floor. What makes this team a dynasty threat?
The young age of their core including Booker (24 years old), is DeAndre Ayton (22 years old), Mikal Bridges (24 years old), Cameron Payne (26 years old), and Cameron Johnson (25 years old). Jae Crowder, Chris Paul, and Torrey Craig don’t seem to be a part of this team long-term but in the next 2-3 years? Certainly. This team has the possibiltiy to stick together to run it back whether they win or lose the Finals this season.
Winning a championship for the first time in Phoenix can pop the top for this team to possibly see itself in the NBA Finals quite frequently over the next 3-5 seasons. Would we complain about getting to watch Devin Booker elevate his game and carry a franchise to the Finals repeatedly?
Are there any signs that the Suns are headed towards a dynasty now? Probably not and they could just be a single winner of the championship of the decade however, banking on the fact that Devin Booker is on the verge of elite stardom this is part of the forumla to stay winning in the NBA. Lastly, James Jones is the Suns General Manager and just won Executive of the Year. His leadership and basketball mind comes with being a part of elite chamipionship teams (including the only one to ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship in 2016). If this guy is at the top assembling a team with Booker leading, I’m buying in!
We have to give Giannis Antetokounmpo his credit where it’s due. His mindset is to win and we give him a hard time if he doesn’t. However, outdueling Kevin Durant and the “super team” Nets is still something we shouldn’t just take lightly. Even if James Harden played on one leg and Kyrie Irving was missing for the later part of the series. The Bucks to me were ready to leap into the Finals in 2019. A few bounces and the ball going through the net sealed the deal for the Raptors to face the Bucks in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. Running into Kawhi Leonard during a true underdog run left the Bucks coming up short yet again.
Milwaukee has spent the last 4 seasons losing in the playoffs. Let’s take a look back at the last four seasons. The Greek Freak has won two MVP awards (2019, 2020), a Defensive Player of the Year award (2020), and the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2017. Clearly, he’s on track to prove in the NBA that he’s a legit superstar that demands respect. However, no NBA Finals games under his belt and that is yet to be determined.
Should Giannis take the Bucks to the NBA Finals this year AND win it? Adding a championship adds tremendous value to his resume, however, there is the feeling that the Bucks aren’t done there. Milwaukee signed Jrue Holiday to a contract extension earlier this year. Khris Middleton is in year two of a five-year deal which he wouldn’t be able to opt-out of until after the 2022-2023 season. This could be a new “big 3” to fear in the next few seasons and demanding respect especially if Giannis puts a ring on the Bucks franchise. If the Bucks win this season free agents have to believe in Giannis and his leadership to get them to the next level.
Hmm, I remember a trio that stuck together while a generational star joined them in 2017. Not saying the Bucks will attract or have the cap space remotely close to affording that but it allows for other veteran players to come and go likewise the Warriors rotating from Igoudala, Zaza Pachulia, Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Shaun Livingston, and Harrison Barnes. These vets served for the Warriors over their short span from 2016-2017 and adding Durant was the insurance that significant need for role players wasn’t necessary. Today’s NBA will need Donte DiVincenzo and Bryn Forbes to stick around, knock down shots and play defense.
Los Angeles Clippers
Anytime you have two of the top players in their prime on one team there has to be an easy consideration for being a contender but also a dynasty. I’m sure Paul George and Kawhi Leonard just magically didn’t show up to the Clippers to win one ring. A franchise in desperate need of a championship and also one that’s dubbed as LA’s “b-team” needs more respect than that. This dynasty could be very short-lived, however, but nonetheless, there is a possibility that we’re looking at the team with the most potential to win now and be back in the Finals next year without question.
Assuming that Kawhi Leonard agrees to a max deal and stays a Clipper for the next 4-5 years and the Clippers win the championship this year, the Clippers will still have a bug in their ear. The Lakers are still the storied franchise of the city and a real big deal is across the hallway. LeBron James will most likely wrap up his legacy and career as a Laker with the last of the prime he has.
I rank the Clippers above the Hawks here because the decade could start off with George and Leonard as the front runners who prove they can win when it’s their time too. Los Angeles made the coaching change and opted for Tyronn Lue who clearly is working harder without Leonard in the lineup during the most critical time, the playoffs. He’s worked with a star before (LeBron James) and obviously making enough adjustments (and Terance Mann) to keep the Clippers relevant in this year’s playoffs.
The Clippers have the best potential to be that team becomes a one-and-done champion (Raptors 2019, Pistons 2004, Mavericks 2011) most likely pending the decisions Leonard will make after this season with this contract. For now assuming the roster wins a championship it will be hard to see Kawhi leaving town anytime soon and rehabbing his way back to help his team win another one the next season.
Underdogs! The Hawks have turned into the underdog story that everyone besides Knicks fans can appreciate. Trae Young is dubbed “super villain” but clearly a young star that wants to win at all costs. Usually midseason coaching changes means a team is headed in a totally different direction. However, Nate McMillan took over for the Hawks Head Coaching position on March 1, 2021 and since then the Hawks haven’t looked a direction in the wrong way.
Are the Hawks ready to be a dynasty if they get to the Finals and win it this season? The problem is here that it’s truly hard to see the Hawks winning the championship this season but also the fact that Giannis still will be roaming the Eastern Conference until he decides he’s done with basketball at this rate. The odds are that the Hawks may not peak just yet and Trae Young, while he is elite now, also may need another All-Star next to him. The winning formula is slowly brewing in Atlanta.
Young and the Hawks also have a dilemma on the John Collins contract as he’s a restricted free agent after the season. This season, however, will be telling the story that Young is building in his short career. It’s already off to a good note that he’s won TWO series against teams arguably better defensively in the NBA and the Hawks (Knicks and 76ers). If the Hawks fall short of a title this season we’re probably not going to slander Trae but appreciate he’s got a brought future ahead.
It is very unlikely the Hawks win the championship this season but if they do, the likelihood of them winning again next season or the next 2-3 years also is unlikely. The good sign is Atlanta has most of their young core signed until the end of the 2022 season. With a little bit of space clearing that summer, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul are free agents (as of now) and the remaining players with Player Options are John Wall, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Julius Randle, and Kawhi Leonard. Should any of these players opt-out and get curious Atlanta SHOULD be on their agenda.