Twelve NBA teams have never won a championship.
The Denver Nuggets, who have never won an NBA championship, are in the Finals for the first time with a great chance of capturing their first title.
The Nuggets have been the best team in the postseason with a 12-3 record, and they have the best playoff performer in two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.
Here’s our rankings of the teams closest to winning their first NBA championship:
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The Hornets have never been to the conference finals, haven’t won a postseason series since 2002 and have just three playoff appearances since and none since 2016. Michael Jordan’s Hornets have a ways to go to become a title contender.
Best finish: They have reached the conference semifinals four times.
11. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have taken chances to win a championship since moving to Brooklyn from New Jersey − trying first with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett about a decade ago and then recently with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden. Harden was traded last season, and Irving and Durant were traded this season. Money doesn’t always buy a title.
10. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are amid an accelerated reboot with the emergence of Tyrese Haliburton, 23, and Bennedict Mathurin, 20, plus veterans Myles Turner and Buddy Hield. The mindset among ownership and the front office is to make moves that elevate the Pacers to contenders. But there’s some patience, too.
Best finish: Lost to the Lakers in the 2000 Finals. Before joining the NBA in 1976, the Pacers won three ABA titles.
The Timberwolves have Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley and capable contributors in Naz Reid, Kyle Anderson, Jaden McDaniels and Taurean Prince, and as ownership changes hands from Glen Taylor to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, there should be an infusion of spending and promises to improve.
Best finish: Reached the Western Conference finals in 2004, losing to the Lakers in six games.
8. Utah Jazz
The rebuild seems headed in the right direction post-Donovan Mitchell, but like the Magic, the Jazz are still behind too many teams in the West to make a push for a title, at least as the roster stands now.
Best finish: Runner-up to the Bulls in 1997 and 1998, losing both Finals in six games.
7. Orlando Magic
The Magic have been close, losing in the 1995 and 2009 Finals. With Shaquille O’Neal first and later Dwight Howard, they were not ready to win a title in those seasons. There’s something to work with in Orlando (Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, Wendell Carter Jr., Cole Anthony) but contention isn’t right around the corner.
Best finish: Runner-up to the Lakers in five games in 2009.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder is a team of the future with their talent, youth and future draft picks. They won 40 regular-season games to make the play-in tournament, where they lost to the Timberwolves for the No. 8 seed. They have an MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (fifth place) and up-and-coming Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, Lu Dort, Isaiah Joe and Aleksej Pokusevski.
Best finish: Runner-up to Miami in 2012.
Best finish: Lost to Phoenix in six games during the 2021 conference finals.
Wouldn’t it be intriguing to see a healthy Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram for a full season? They were 23-12 two-plus months into the season, tied for first place with Denver. They have components that might be able to contend − if healthy.
Best finish: Lost twice in the conference semifinals (2008, 2018).
The Grizzlies had the fifth-best record in the league this season with one of the youngest teams led by Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane. Memphis got in its own way this season, losing in the first round as the No. 2 seed to the seventh-seeded Lakers. There’s time to get it right.
Best finish: Lost to San Antonio in the conference finals in 2013.
2. Phoenix Suns
The Suns reached the Finals in 2021, letting go of a 2-0 series lead against the Milwaukee Bucks. They fell short of the conference finals in 2022 and, even after trading for Kevin Durant to put next to Devin Booker, the Suns lost in the second round this season. But any team with Durant and Booker remains a threat to win a title, especially if depth is added.
Best finish: Runner-up in 1976 (Celtics) 1993 (Bulls) and 2021 (Bucks).
1. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are at the door, making their first Finals appearance in franchise history. Injuries slowed the Nuggets for a couple of seasons, but they’ve been headed in this direction since they reached the conference finals and lost to the Lakers in the 2020 Orlando bubble.
Best finish: Lost in the conference finals five times, most recently to the Lakers in 2020.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ranking NBA teams never to win NBA Finals by closest to breakthrough