The Jazz, Magic, and the Suns have been so close to winning an NBA championship. Both teams have made some dominant runs to the NBA Finals but were bested by their opposition. Had they had a starting five such as this, maybe they would be able to enjoy the experience of winning a championship.
As for Portland and the Thunder, these two teams have gone a long time without winning a title. The Trail Blazers last won their title in 1977, while the Thunder won their title in 1979 when they were dubbed as the Seattle SuperSonics. Regardless of their status in NBA history as a competitive franchise, some pretty great players have made their way through town. These legendary superteams would have mowed down the competition and added to the bare trophy case.
Penny Hardaway (PG), Tracy McGrady (SG), Grant Hill (SF)
Dwight Howard (C), Shaquille O’Neal (C)
This frontcourt has potential as one of the best in NBA history. Imagine having Howard and Shaq on the floor together. Would anyone on the other team ever get a chance for a rebound? Howard was viewed as the next version of Shaq during his prime. Howard led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009, the first time since 1995 when Shaq played. Howard led a dominant reign as the league’s top center in his prime, rising to the top of Orlando’s all-time scoring mark, as well as winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
As for the backcourt, Hardaway was a 20-point scorer and someone who could dish out about seven assists per game. He was a lite version of Chris Paul back in the 1990s. When the Magic made the Finals, the tandem of Hardaway and Shaq were a big part of that. If McGrady played alongside Hardaway, it would allow him to focus more on playmaking because T-Mac was the better shooter. In four years, McGrady averaged point totals of 26.8, 25.6, 32.1, and 28.0. Again, in just four seasons, McGrady remains fourth on the all-time mark in career scoring.
As for the final player, there are some solid candidates in Jameer Nelson, who is the all-time leader in assists, Nick Anderson (all-time leader in games), and Hedo Turkoglu. With that said, if Hill was healthy, he would have rewritten the history books in Orlando. Four of the six seasons featured Hill playing 29 or less games. When healthy, Hill averaged 19.7 points and shot over 50% from the field. Hill is a Hall of Famer, who had some dazzling years in Detroit. In this scenario, Hill would be healthy and able to lead this team to new heights.
Steve Nash (PG), Kevin Johnson (PG), Devin Booker (SG)
Charles Barkley (PF), Amar’e Stoudemire (PF)
There has been no greater point guard than Steve Nash in franchise history. Nash is the all-time leader in assists. During his heyday, Nash orchestrated an offense that either led the league or ranked near the top. Nash was also the team’s last MVP recipient, winning the award back-to-back years. Nash also ranks seventh overall in points in franchise history.
Kevin Johnson was a stud guard for the Suns, where he spent his entire career. Johnson made three All-Star teams, five appearances on the All-NBA list, and had his No. 7 retired by the team. Johnson ranks third all-time in points, averaging over 20.0 points per game five times. If you throw Booker into the lineup, the Suns would have a very sound small-ball lineup. Booker ranks No. 9 on the all-time list and is just 24 years old. Over time, Booker is likely going to be the all-time leading scorer if he stays in Phoenix. With Johnson and Booker acting as the team’s best overall shooters, Nash would have two solid options on the team to find open.
In the frontcourt, Barkley is the only other member on this list that owns an MVP. That is why Barkley edges Shawn Marion, who ranks second all-time in rebounds. With that said, Barkley was the main reason the Suns made the NBA Finals in 1993 when he averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.0 blocks. Before Chris Paul led the Suns to the Finals this year, it was the last appearance for the Suns in the Finals. Stoudemire makes the list as the next member of the frontcourt as he ranks sixth all-time in points, third in rebounds, and fifth in blocks. In his prime, he was Nash’s favorite target. The two were living Lob City before it was ever created in Los Angeles.
Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard (PG), CJ McCollum (SG), Clyde Drexler (SG)
LaMarcus Aldridge (PF), Bill Walton (C)
In the modern era, Lillard is the best point guard in Portland we have ever seen. He will also be the greatest Trail Blazer ever. Lillard is close to breaking Clyde Drexler’s record in points. The combination of Lillard and McCollum could go down as the best duo in team history. Lillard and McCollum rank one and two in all-time three-point field goals. With the two at the helm, the Trail Blazers have been a consistent playoff contender, making the Conference Finals once.
Before Lillard, the team relied on LaMarcus Aldridge, who was an All-Star that remains the all-time leader in rebounds. Before leaving Portland, Aldridge helped the team rise to playoff contention and was eventually a dangerous combination for Lillard for a few years. Joining Aldridge in the frontcourt is Walton, who was a two-time MVP selection in Portland, and the team’s best player of the 1977 championship team.
As for the greatest Trail Blazer, that nod goes to Drexler, the all-time leader in points and steals, as well as the runner-up in steals. Drexler nearly led Portland to a championship in 1992. At one point the team was tied 2-2 in the NBA Finals against Michael Jordan and the Bulls. However, the Bulls won the title. Drexler eventually won a title with the Houston Rockets in 1995. Even though he couldn’t get Portland to the top, he was the main reason the team made the playoffs 10 straight years.
John Stockton (PG), Pete Maravich (SG), Andre Dantley (SF)
Karl Malone (PF), Rudy Gobert (C)
Fun fact about Jazz. The team is notorious for being able to attack the basket. That is why Joe Ingles is the all-time leader in three-point field goals just to put it into perspective. When you look back on the team’s history, there was only one player (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) that was a better overall scorer than Malone. That is why Malone ranks second all-time in NBA history in points. Malone is potentially the greatest power forward ever, owning an MVP to his name, and two NBA Finals appearances.
At the time, the duo of Stockton and Malone carried Jazz to new heights. The only problem was that the Chicago Bulls were a better dynasty, beating them both times in 1997 and 1998. Stockton remains the all-time leader in assists, cementing his legacy with Malone as one of the best one-twos punches ever.
Donovan Mitchell needs more time to prove his value to the organization, but he could take Maravich’s place soon. Back in the 1970s, Maravich posted point totals of 25.9, 31.1, and 27.0 in three years. Dantley was even better, posting one of the best scoring totals from 1979 to 1985 in team history. Dantley averaged point totals of 28.0, 30.6, 30.3, 30.7, 30.6, 26.6, and 29.8. Dantley ranks third on the all-time list in points.
Gobert overtakes Mark Eaton for the fact of his two-way potential. Gobert is 29 years old and has plenty of years left. If he stays in Utah, he could make a run at Malone’s record for rebounds. Defensively, he is one of the best centers since Ben Wallace, having won the Defensive Player of the Year Award three times. Offensively, the combination of Dantley, Maravich, and Malone would be hard to stop. Stockton would probably have one game with 30 assists because of it.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Gary Payton (PG), Russell Westbrook (PG), Paul George (SF)
Kevin Durant (PF), Shawn Kemp (PF)
Oklahoma, formally known as Seattle, features one of the better superteams as three of the players are or will be, future Hall of Famers. The starting backcourt would potentially be the greatest defensive backcourt of all time. Payton made nine appearances on the All-Defensive First Team, including winning the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year. Westbrook is one of the most physical guards that can defend multiple positions. This would be one of the most tenacious setups ever.
Westbrook, the 2017 MVP, is also a triple-double machine. He is the modern-day Oscar Robertson, but better. Westbrook, along with 2014 MVP Kevin Durant, led the team to the 2012 NBA Finals as a youngster. They nearly did it again in 2014 and 2016. Westbrook leads the franchise in points, while Durant is third on the list.
In two years, George did more for the franchise than Harden. After making the NBA Finals, Harden got out of OKC in a flash. George, who was traded to OKC by Indiana, finished third in the 2019 MVP voting when he averaged 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 2.2 steals. As for the final piece, Kemp is second on the all-time rebounding stats. Standing at 6-foot-10, 230 pounds, Kemp averaged 16.2 points, shot 52.1% from the field, and averaged 9.6 rebounds. This OKC team would be long, athletic, and hard to beat.