The doomers will cry about the ratings decline of the NBA thanks to its unusual “Final Four” consisting of the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers in the West and the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks in the East. But the good narrative is this: Two franchises that have long had NBA Finals droughts get to end them this week.
Phoenix is close to returning to the NBA Finals and are massive favorites on the online sportsbook now. Milwaukee or Atlanta could likewise return by week’s end. These four franchises have combined for 187 years of not making the NBA Finals. That’s an average of nearly 47 years. For two of these teams, the drought ends.
Final Four’s History – Or Lack Thereof
The Atlanta Hawks have had more home cities (5) than NBA Finals (4) appearances in their 74-year history. The Hawks are so old that the vast majority of their fan base can probably remember when they were still the St. Louis Hawks. This is where they won their one and only NBA championship way back in 1958.
The Hawks, one of the first NBA teams, first created as the Buffalo Bisons in the NBL before becoming the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, then moving to Milwaukee and St. Louis and, finally, Atlanta in 1968. This franchise went a whole 48 years without advancing to a conference finals.
In fact, the Game 1 win against Milwaukee this year is their first-ever win in the conference finals as the Atlanta Hawks. The next step would be to make the NBA Finals. The NBA odds aren’t looking so good on that but never count out this underdog squad that has already pulled a massive upset in the previous round.
Odds To Make NBA Finals: +800
The Bucks are a bit like the Hawks in terms of their history. This franchise won a championship very early at just three years old in 1971 thanks to Lew Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar “Big O” Robertson. They made one more Finals appearance in 1974 and that was that.
Since then, the closest the Bucks got back to the NBA Finals was a seven-game loss against the Philadelphia 76ers in conference finals in 2001. Following this, the franchise has been largely forgettable and first-round fodder in the playoffs. That is until the maturation of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Players with 10+ 30/10 games in a single playoffs since 1963:
Giannis Antetokounmpo pic.twitter.com/zeR3xVtSA8
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 28, 2021
Led by the “Greek Freak,” a back-to-back MVP, Milwaukee has become NBA championship contenders for the past three seasons. They fell short in the last two but are now poised to return to the NBA Finals for the first time in 47 years.
Odds To Make NBA Finals: -1400
Los Angeles Clippers
No franchise can speak of droughts better than the Los Angeles Clippers. This is an organization that has become synonymous with the terms “failure” and “disappointment.” Last year’s blown 3-1 playoff lead in the semifinals was a microcosm of this team’s past 51 years.
But leave it to coach Tyronn Lue to get this team over the hump as they’re now in their first conference finals. That run could soon come to an end as Phoenix looks to finish them off, but Lue has become an expert in engineering come-from-behind wins.
The Clippers ended their conference finals drought, but their 51-year NBA Finals drought is likely to continue barring more playoff magic from Lue.
Odds To Make NBA Finals: +1400
Phoenix has the shortest drought out of the final four NBA teams. But 28 years since their last NBA Finals appearance is long for a franchise that has consistently been a perennial contender before the last decade.
The Suns are also the oldest team to have never won an NBA championship and their 53-year drought is the third-longest in the league. That is more damning considering the sheer amount of All-Stars and Hall of Famers that have played for this club.
Now, Phoenix is this close to returning to the NBA Finals. Their team is stacked as it comes and is led by several All-Stars with Chris Paul as a future Hall of Famer and Booker as a superstar-in-the-making.