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What A Championship Would Mean For Each Team

Jackson Safon |
May 20, 2015 | 9:42 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

LeBron James is vyying for a meaningful third title at home. (@CrowdmixSports/Twitter)
LeBron James is vyying for a meaningful third title at home. (@CrowdmixSports/Twitter)

Whoever wins the NBA Finals this season will be ending a championship drought of at least 20 seasons, and three of the four teams will be ending a drought of at least 40 years, with the lone exception being the Houston Rockets who won in 1995. An NBA championship would obviously mean a lot to these organizations and cities, but what’s arguably more important is what a championship would mean to these specific teams, players and coaches. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers have never won an NBA championship. So having their prodigal son returning home to bring them one would be both symbolic and memorable. What a win would really do is cement the legacy of LeBron James as one of the best players ever. While he is already well on his way there, a third title—and one in his hometown—would cement his legacy amongst fans everywhere. LeBron is one of the most scrutinized and criticized athletes of this generation, never fully having been able to shake the image of “The Decision”; but in returning home to Cleveland and bringing a title in his first season there, LeBron would be returned to glory. 

While David Blatt and LeBron James had their disagreements this year, winning a title in his first year would lift at least some of the criticism from Blatt’s shoulders. While Blatt is in a lose-lose situation where he receives no credit for success and all the blame for losing, winning a title would at least get some of the detractors off his back. 

David Griffin and the Cavs front office should get a mountain of credit for this potential championship, as they brought in J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov—all crucial pieces to the puzzle—without giving up a first-round pick. But the final thing a championship would mean for the Cavaliers is proving that Kevin Love is not a player they need. He turned into a glorified Mike Miller this season, camping on the three-point line waiting for passes from LeBron. Winning a title without him would mean the Cavs obviously don’t need him going forward, and would also raise questions going into free agency about his ability to lead a team in the future. 

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have the longest championship drought of any of these four teams, 57 years (The Cavs have never won, but their franchise was only created 45 years ago). But a victory for the Hawks would mean a victory for team basketball. Mike Budenholzer came over from the Spurs where he was an assistant coach and implemented their system on the Hawks. In his first year, the Hawks earned the 8-seed but were bounced in the first round by the Pacers. This year, they took the leap and greatly resembled the early-Duncan Spurs teams with a do-it-all point guard and two stud big men. With Jeff Teague playing the Avery Johnson role along with Paul Millsap/Al Horford playing the Tim Duncan/David Robinson roles, the Hawks are trying to win with a great team.

Under such a system, and all while trying to exploit their skills and minimizing mistakes, the Atlanta Hawks have no true superstars, but managed to get the second best record in the NBA this season. A championship for the Hawks would make a move away from the notion that a true superstar, or two, or three, is needed for winning an NBA championship. Furthermore, a title would hopefully bring some attention to Al Horford, who is one of the best all-around big men in the game. He can shoot, post up, pass and defend among the best of them and should get much more recognition for his play. A title would do just that. 

Houston Rockets

The Rockets winning the title would mean three things: GM Daryl “Dork Elvis” Morey and the analytics supporters get their nut, James Harden and Dwight Howard get their title, and Kevin McHale finally gets some support. 

Daryl Morey and the analytics movement suggest the most efficient way to play basketball is to shoot threes (specifically corner threes), layups and free throws. James Harden embodies that movement, as do most of the role players brought in by Morey. While most recognize that this strategy makes a lot of sense in a vacuum, questions have been raised about whether or not it would work in winning a championship. If the style replicates a title this year, it would certainly go a long way toward proving the doubters wrong. 

It would also finally give a title to arguably the biggest villain in the NBA today: Dwight Howard. After his childish antics at the end of his Magic and Lakers tenure, most NBA fans are tired of Howard, but he seems to have finally embraced this villain role. Off-the-court issues aside, Howard is one of the best players of this generation, but is lacking a championship to back it up. While he isn’t the player he once was, getting that elusive title would help him avoid the Karl Malone/Steve Nash lists of best players without one. 

While McHale didn’t receive many votes for Coach of the Year, he arguably did the best coaching job of anyone this season. He took a team that had its starting center and second best player play 41 games, his starting point guard play 56 games—along with being out for the entire playoffs—and his power forwards miss a combined 60 games, to a second seed and conference final in the cutthroat Western Conference. People are giving James Harden credit for leading a crap team to the second seed, but McHale deserves some credit as well. He also not only integrated the former locker-room cancer Josh Smith into the team, he turned him into a contributor. Talk about deserving some praise. 

The Warriors and Rockets are trying to end their championship droughts. (@GlobalDiario/Twitter)
The Warriors and Rockets are trying to end their championship droughts. (@GlobalDiario/Twitter)

Golden State Warriors

A championship for the Warriors would mean validation for everything they’ve accomplished. The Warriors absolutely dominated the regular season to the tune of 67 wins—the sixth best mark of all time. They were the best offensive team, the best defensive team, the team that played the fastest pace and the team with the MVP. They are currently 4-to-7 favorites to win the title. If you know anything at all about gambling, you know those odds are ridiculous. This team is the best team in the league, and winning the title would mean validation of their historic regular season success. 

Additionally, it would provide validation to the Warriors front office that they made the correct hire in Steve Kerr. This is Kerr’s first year coaching the Warriors, and while he already set the NBA record for most wins for a first-year coach, he would love a championship to bring the season to fruition. And if they do win the championship, this Warriors team would have to be in the conversation for top-five best teams ever. 

Reach Staff Reporter Jackson Safon here.



 

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