There was a time in NBA history – we’ll call it the 1960s – when it was a foregone conclusion that the Boston Celtics would play in the Finals. Indeed, the Celtics played in 12 Finals in 13 seasons from 1957 to 1969, winning 11 championships.
But that was then. This is now. And now that Kevin Durant has signed with Golden State, we’re looking at the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers meeting in the Finals for the third straight season in 2017.
Is this a problem? Has the league become too top-heavy?
“A short term of that is not real bad, but if that goes on four or five years, yes, it is not good for the league,” former Warriors general manager Larry Riley said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I have a little bit of concern that we should have a little bit more parity. The West in general is very good. When Miami came up with their Big Three, however, nobody just said, ‘We’re going to roll over and hand you the title.’ They had to go earn it, and you have to go earn championships regardless of who is on your roster.”
Look at the East. With all due respect to Toronto, no one seriously challenged the Cavaliers last year, and one must wonder if any teams will challenge the Cavaliers next year. Maybe the Bulls, who added Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade? Maybe the Knicks, who added Derrick Rose? Maybe the Celtics, who added Al Horford?
Maybe, but probably not.
And what abut the West? The Thunder obviously lost Durant, and the geriatric Spurs are another year older.
“I do expect San Antonio to put up a pretty good struggle in the West,” Riley said. “And there could be some movement somewhere along the line with Portland. I like Portland’s team. I have no inside information. I don’t want to put that out there. But if Portland were to add a player or if the Clippers were to come up with something, they’re certainly going to challenge Golden State because nobody’s just going to roll over.”
But in terms of teams with a legitimate chance of winning an NBA title, there’s Golden State, there’s Cleveland, and there’s maybe San Antonio or Los Angeles. That’s about it.
“I would like to see a few more teams that have a chance to win it,” Riley admitted. “It’s gotten down to the point where they aren’t that many right now. A few years ago, there were several teams who could win an NBA title.”