Being a successful NBA franchise is no easy task to achieve, considering we’re talking about some of the biggest and most wealthy markets in all sports, and it’s kind of hard for small-town teams to compete with huge cities of the likes of Los Angeles and Boston.
Naturally, with so many teams in the league and a handful of franchises dominating through most of the basketball history, other franchises have struggled to find success, or even be slightly considered as a threat to win it all.
As a matter of fact, there are several franchises that have not just never won an NBA Championship, but haven’t even had the chance to make it to the Finals, and today, we’re going to let you know about them.
7. New Orleans Pelicans (2003)
The New Orleans Pelicans are a prime example of a small market team that has no shot at landing top-tier free agents. This team has never even made it to the Conference Finals, mostly haunted by the Chris Paul curse.
Even despite the Chris Paul - David West era, and now that they have the best two-way big man in the league in Anthony Davis, this team’s best playoff run was in 2008 when the defending champions Spurs overcame a 3-2 series deficit in the semifinals and knocked them out of contention.
6. Toronto Raptors (1996)
The Toronto Raptors have been around for over 20 years now, being one of the 2 teams created when the NBA expanded to Canada. Nonetheless, this team has never been able to surround their top-tier talents with a cable support cast.
They couldn’t make the most out of Vince Carter or Chris Bosh, and the Lowry-DeRozan era was plagued with choking and underperforming. The Best playoff run they had was in 2016 when the Cavs beat them in the Western Conference Finals. On a side note, that was the very same Cavs team that knocked them out of the playoffs in 3 straight seasons.
5. Vancouver / Memphis Grizzlies (1996)
The Grizzlies franchise has never been able to find any kind of success, first, having to relocate from Canada due to huge losses, and then, never being able to be considered a legit threat, mostly because the west was really stacked during Pau Gasol’s tenure.
More recently, the Grit and Grind era featuring Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen made the team a constant dark horse to make a huge splash in the playoffs, but they were never able to get past the WCF, where the Spurs swept them in 2013.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves (1990)
The Minnesota Timberwolves were never able to surround Kevin Garnett with top-tier talents because the league forced the team to forfeit 3 1st round picks due to a Kevin McHale sanction when he was the team’s GM, something that obviously took a major toll in their chances to make the Finals.
Even so, an inspired Kevin Garnett was able to lead the team to the WCF in 2004, joined by Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, although they were already in the twilight of their careers. Still, they couldn’t get past Kobe and the Lakers.
3. Charlotte Hornets / Bobcats (1989)
The Charlotte Hornets / Bobcats have never even made it to the Conference Finals, even though they were one of the most entertaining teams to watch during the early 90s. Still, with Jordan and the Bulls there, there wasn’t much chance to do anything.
Even though the Hornets had a solid team, they were never slightly better than the Pacers, Knicks or Bulls, and nowadays, they’re just stuck on a mediocrity spiral thanks to poor drafting and management.
2. Denver Nuggets (1977)
The Denver Nuggets were at their best during the 80s but were never able to shake off the Showtime Lakers to have any kind of playoff success, losing in the 1985 WCF against the Purple and Gold.
Later, they would go on to pull off the biggest offset ever by knocking down the 1st seed as the 8th seed in the 1st round, but that was going to be pretty much it. During the Carmelo Anthony era, they piled up 5 straight 1st round exits. The future’s bright for them, though.
1. Buffalo Braves / Los Angeles Clippers (1970)
The Los Angeles Clippers have always been the league’s laughing stock, and other than the Bob McAdoo era in the mid-70s, they were stuck in irrelevance for almost 35 years until the Lob City era with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Even there, the Clippers were haunted by the Chris Paul curse and injuries, choking and overall underperforming bit them in the rear year after year. Now, they’re going amid a bit of a rebuild, so we wouldn’t expect them to make it to the Finals any time soon.