Winning an NBA championship is arguably the most significant milestone achieved by any basketball player. It cements their legacies and puts them in a position to be part of the prestigious Hall of Fame. However, not all great players get to win a championship throughout their careers. In fact, there are a handful of great players today that surprisingly have yet to win a title.
Fortunately, this year, after a busy off-season, some of these players may find themselves in a great position to achieve this elusive feat. For this piece, let us take a look at five superstars who have a realistic chance to win their first ring next season.
The Phoenix Suns hardly made any changes to their roster during the NBA off-season. Their only additions were Elfrid Payton and three-time NBA champion JaVale McGee. However, with a relatively successful playoff campaign last year, you don't need to fix what isn't broken. Because of this, the re-signing of Chris Paul only allows the team to continue their growing success.
Phoenix Suns All-Star guard Chris Paul has agreed to stay on a new four-year deal that could be worth as much as $120 million, his agents Steve Heumann and Ty Sullivan of @CAA_Basketball tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 2, 2021
Chris Paul is arguably the best pure point guard in the league but still lacked a championship in his resume. He almost changed that last year, when he led a young Suns group to finish as the second seed in the West, which ended the franchise's playoff drought. But more importantly, CP3 translated their regular-season success into the playoffs, which saw them eliminate legitimate Western contenders before conceding to the Bucks in the Finals.
Although they failed to win the championship, it won't be a surprise if the Suns can get the job done next year. With Devin Booker's hot shooting and DeAndre Ayton's breakout performance, CP3 has viable teammates to work with.
CP3 isn't showing any signs of slowing down either. Despite already past his prime years at 36, CP3 averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per outing. If he can stay healthy, there's a good chance CP3 can finally win a championship.
After a disappointing first-round exit last year at the hands of the eventual champions, the Heat are hell-bent on reverting to winning ways. The Heat were one of the most successful teams in the offseason. They signed six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry, which was deemed the best offseason move in this year's free agency.
The team also got NBA champions P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris while keeping Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent, Dewayne Dedmon, Udonis Haslem, and Victor Oladipo. And just like that, Butler finds himself surrounded by a formidable cast.
Playing the Heat will NOT be a fun time.
Coach: Udonis Haslem pic.twitter.com/mQ2Y5fqe8w
— StatMuse (@statmuse) August 3, 2021
In their previous Finals run and disappointing showing last season, the team suffered injuries and lack of depth. But now, with a roster that is sprinkled with solid vets, young pieces, and All-Stars, Butler and the Heat have a better chance at finally winning a championship.
Ever since his Finals run in 2012 with the Thunder, Westbrook hasn't found much success in the playoffs. Despite making a statement in the league with his triple-double havoc, a championship still eludes him. However, by joining the Lakers, Westbrook puts himself in a favorable position, at least on paper.
The Lakers and Wizards have agreed on the trade for Russell Westbrook, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 30, 2021
Although there are still questions regarding his fit with the team, Westbrook offers more scoring and playmaking, something the Lakers struggled with after LeBron James and Anthony Davis went down with injuries. Last season, Westbrook averaged a dominant 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds per outing. He also broke the record for most triple-doubles in a player's career last season by surpassing Oscar Robertson with 184.
NBA history: Wizards’ Russell Westbrook has surpassed Oscar Robertson to become No. 1 on the all-time triple-double list.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 11, 2021
Furthermore, aside from playing alongside LBJ and AD, Westbrook has the luxury of playing alongside former All-Stars Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, DeAndre Jordan, and Carmelo Anthony. While there are questions regarding age on this team, given that they're the oldest team in the league, the squad led by the new Big Three of Westbrook, LBJ, and AD shouldn't have problems when it comes to star power.
Despite fielding a loaded roster last season, the Nets failed to get the job done. With multiple injuries, the team bowed down to the eventual champions. However, with their Big Three still intact, they are still favorites to win a championship. And among the players composing the Big Three, James Harden is still searching for his first ring.
Harden has been phenomenal, especially during the regular season. After getting traded to the Nets, he averaged 24.6 points, 10.9 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per outing. However, a knock on his game is his inability to translate his dominance into the postseason. Although the former MVP has been to the Finals in 2012, Harden hasn't reached that stage since then.
While his playoff struggles have been apparent, Harden has a solid chance to salvage that this year with a ring. An All-Star cast surrounds Harden. And to improve their chances of a championship, the Nets got a bevy of seasoned vets this offseason.
They picked up Patty Mills, Paul Millsap, and James Johnson. In the process, the Nets also retained Blake Griffin. Furthermore, they will also be awaiting the return of LaMarcus Aldridge, who is coming out of retirement after securing his clearance.
The Nets have 6 former All-Stars on their roster:
All 6 were selected to the All-Star team in 2015.
In total, this group of 6 has combined for 44 All-Star appearances. https://t.co/sE1vcOQ0em
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 3, 2021
With James Harden surrounded with plenty of talent, he is in a great position to finally atone for his mediocre postseason performances in the past. Although age, injuries, and egos can still plague the team from a championship, we can expect better cohesion and chemistry with the Nets' Big Three entering their second year together.
Early into the offseason, Lillard was one of the superstars reportedly on the move. After another first-round playoff exit at the hands of a short-handed Nuggets, Lillard publicly expressed his disappointment.
Damian Lillard on if the Blazers need changes this offseason: "Obviously where we are isn't good enough to win a championship if it's not good enough to get out of a first round series with two of their best three or four players not on the floor." pic.twitter.com/gbXkqDko0s
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) June 4, 2021
However, it would turn out that Lillard wouldn't ask for a trade, despite NBA fans clamoring for him to take his talents elsewhere. With Lillard choosing to stay put, for now, it's still unclear if that will change. With Lillard at the peak of his prime, the championship window is slowly closing. Unfortunately, the Blazers have had an underwhelming free agency. They added Larry Nance Jr., Ben McLemore, Tony Snell, and Cody Zeller. The team also retained Norman Powell. None of those names are ground-breaking enough.
However, they did make moves that could show some promise, one of which is hiring Chauncey Billups as the new head coach. According to Chris Haynes, Lillard intends to give the Blazers' new Head Coach a chance.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 26, 2021
Furthermore, with Ben Simmons still on the trading block, the Blazers aren't done in trying to get help for their superstar. The Blazers are reportedly one of the favorites to land the Australian star. Simmons will provide playmaking and perimeter defense that may elevate the Blazers into a legitimate threat. Furthermore, adding Simmons might encourage Lillard to stay put.
Dame wants to play with Ben Simmoms pic.twitter.com/kaPligEASg
— L.A.B (@laughsNball) September 2, 2021
Lillard has always expressed his desire to win a championship in Portland. Although it is a more complicated path to win a title with your original franchise without a super-team, it is certainly possible, especially after how Giannis Antetokounmpo led his Bucks to a championship last season.
However, speaking of Simmons, this trade could also potentially send Lillard to a contender in the Sixers, especially if nothing gets better in Portland.
Damian Lillard on leaving PDX:
— Landon Buford (@LandonBuford) August 25, 2021
If Lillard finds himself landing in Philly, then his chances of winning an NBA title go up. Should he land with the Sixers, Lillard will be playing alongside its resident star, Joel Embiid who could become the best teammate he has ever played with. A potential duo of Lillard and Embiid could potentially wreck havoc in the NBA landscape.