The National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of the richest and most popular professional sports leagues in the world. In fact, as far as total revenue is concerned, it is the third richest league in the world, behind the National Football League (NFL) and the Major League Baseball (MLB). In its 72 years of existence, the league has featured some great teams. The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs have won the NBA championship on multiple occasions. However, out of the 30 teams in the league today, seven have never reached the NBA Finals. Let’s take a look at those unfortunate ones.
#1. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are one of three teams on this list that have never even made the Conference Finals. The franchise started in 2003 when the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans to become the New Orleans Hornets. However, when the Charlotte Bobcats went back to being the Charlotte Hornets, the New Orleans Hornets became the New Orleans Pelicans.
Led by Chris Paul and David West, the New Orleans Hornets lost to the defending champions San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semi Finals in 2008 after squandering a 3-2 series lead. That ended up being the best season they’ve ever had. Since acquiring University of Kentucky superstar Anthony Davis, they have made the Conference Semi Finals one more time, but the result was still the same.
#2. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have been around for 20 years and have had a lot of great players. Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard to name a few. They have made the playoffs on many occasions but they have usually lost in the first or second round. In 2016, they made the Eastern Conference Finals, their best performance so far. The Rockets have also seriously underachieved in recent years. Despite having solid teams, they lost in the first round in 2014 and 2015. Since 2016, they have been decimated by LeBron James. However, with the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard and the departure of James from the Eastern Conference, the Raptors might finally make the NBA Finals this year.
#3. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies were established in the Canadian city of Vancouver as a part of NBA’s expansion into Canada. However, a lack of on court success and stars, coupled with heavy financial losses, forced the team to relocate to Memphis. After moving, they drafted superstar big man Pau Gasol who led the team to the playoffs for three straight years (which ended in first round losses). 2011 onwards, with Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Mike Conley, the Grizzlies ushered in the ‘grit and grind’ era where they played a slow and physical style of basketball. However, they failed to reach anything past the Conference Finals and are currently in rebuilding mode.
#4. Minnesota Timberwolves
Formed in 1990, the Timberwolves have only had one era, the Kevin Garnett era. Anything before and after Garnett has been mediocre at best. After being drafted in 1995, Garnett soon established himself as one of the premier players in the league and an all time great. However, he never had the supporting cast to make much noise in the playoffs. The team’s best performance was in Garnett’s 2004 MVP season where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
#5. Charlotte Hornets
Formed in 1989, the original Hornets were a good team in the 90s. They made the playoffs and lost in the early stages. However, the Chicago Bulls were so much better than everybody else in the Eastern Conference during that time that it didn’t matter. Since then, they have been more prominent at the top of the draft board than the league standings.
#6. Denver Nuggets
Formed in 1977, the Nuggets had a good team in the 80s. However, the Showtime Lakers were the juggernauts of the Western Conference during that time and the Nuggets didn’t really have a chance. In the 90s, they pulled off a stunning first round upset when as an 8th seed, they beat the top seeded Seattle Supersonics in the first round. During the Carmelo Anthony era, they made the Western Conference Finals once, and that is as far as they have come. The current roster has shown a lot of promise and chemistry and if they stay together, they might make the NBA Finals in the next decade.
#7. Los Angeles Clippers
Ever since moving to Los Angeles, the Clippers have had the dubious distinction of being the second grade franchise in the city. They had some playoff success when they were led by Bob McAdoo in the 80s and then some success as ‘Lob City’ with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They won a good amount of games in the regular season but were the perennial chokers of the playoffs. After 49 years of existence, they are yet to make a Conference Finals appearance.