Smallest Playoff Contending Windows
The Spurs have made the playoffs 22 consecutive seasons (and counting) under coach Pop, winning 5 titles in that span. However, not every team in the NBA can be as fortunate as San Antonio. In fact, after the Spurs, the longest consecutive streak is 7, held by both the Warriors and Rockets.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Under coach Billy Donovan, the Thunder banked on Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams bringing this team to the promised land. However, the team hasn’t made it out of the first round for 3 consecutive seasons.
Many people blame Donovan, while others put the heat on Westbrook, but OKCs issues go deeper than that. They lack shooters, they were in the bottom half of the league in FG% and 3pt%, while also being 3rd worst in free throw percentage.
The Thunder are not going to win with this core anytime soon, especially with the way the league is favoring the outside shot. Billy Donovan has yet to prove he can make it out of the first round without Durant, and Westbrook’s field goal percentage and efficiency is on the decline.
There should be an asterisk next to this one, as Raptors fans are hanging on to the hope of Kawhi staying put in Toronto. The general belief is that if the Raptors do not make the finals, there is little to no shot Leonard is staying up north.
Let’s assume Kawhi does not come back to Toronto, that leaves them with a core of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and OG Anunoby. That’s not bad, but aside from Siakam and Anunoby, the others will be 30 or older by the start of next season. Lowry, Gasol and Ibaka will each be on the last year of their contacts as well.
They’ll still have Siakam, Anunoby and Powell locked up after 2020, but that isn’t nearly enough to compete for a title. They put all their eggs in the DeRozan - Leonard trade, and if they cannot find a way to bring Kawhi back, their window is shutting fast.
Golden State Warriors
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Yes, I said it. The Warriors window is closing, not to the extent of the others mentioned so far, but it’s closing. With Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson slated to be free agents, there is no guarantee either of them are coming back next season. Demarcus Cousins will also be a free agent this summer, and Draymond Green only has one year remaining on his deal.
NBA fans should be thankful the salary cap exists, otherwise there’s a good chance this core stays together for another four years. The assumed loss of Kevin Durant will hurt them the most, as he’s easily been their most clutch performer in his time with the Warriors. He’s been their finals MVP 2 years in a row, and Iguodala before him.
Even if the Warriors bring back Klay Thompson, there is no way they can retain all 5 all stars, meaning their run as the heavy favorite will end after this season.
Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron is under contract for 3 more years, that is their window. However, if we want to really dig deep on them, they have from July 1st, 2019 at 12:01 a.m. to the start of the 2019-2020 season.
LeBron needs help, he’s not the young, athletic freak he used to be anymore. Yes, he will always be the best player on his team, but as of right now, the Lakers sit at 37-45 and without a President of Basketball Operations after the Magic Johnson fiasco.
The hope of Lakers fans rests on Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss’ ability to find Magic’s replacement and sign a star free agent. The Lakers are in a unique situation, because if they strikeout in free agency, and do not pull of a trade for Anthony Davis, that could mean LeBron will miss the playoffs for consecutive seasons.
As Kyle Russell said in 'Did LeBron Make a Mistake Going to the Lakers?', “If Magic and Pelinka can’t make a move this summer, coming to LA will end up being a terrible decision for LeBron”. Magic is already out of LA, so the fate of LeBron’s next 3 years will be decided this summer.
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The Charlotte Hornets do not have a lot to look forward to. With the departure of Kemba and limited salary cap, it’ll be hard for them to find themselves contending like they did this year in the near future.
It’ll be difficult for the Wizards to do anything with what they’re paying John Wall, and Bradley Beal (as good as he is) cannot carry a team to the playoffs.
The Pelicans need to trade Davis as soon as possible. The AD, Jrue and Boogie experiment failed, they need to tear it down and restart.
IF, and only IF Gregg Popovich suddenly breaks the heart of Spurs fans and calls it a career this year or next, their 22 year consecutive playoff streak will more than likely come to an end.