The NBA officially suspended play on March 11 because of COVID-19, but the association returns on July 30. The NBA established a bubble in Orlando, Florida to prevent spreading the virus amongst players and other team personnel. Twenty-two teams enter the bubble, but only one can exit as the new reigning NBA champions.
In the NBA, legends are measured by the number of rings they win. However, several All-NBA players and future Hall of Famers lack this crucial piece of hardware. Except for two players, every man ranked among the top 15 active players without a championship can play in the bubble. With all the chaos going on in the sports world, this is the best chance for some aging players to finally capture a title.
These rankings depend on a combination of career accomplishments and skill. You’ll see that some of the lower rankings rely more on skill while the higher ones continuously cite achievements and accolades. That means that older players have a clear advantage when it comes to receiving a higher ranking.
I did not include Vince Carter on this list because he isn’t in the NBA bubble, and he already announced his retirement in June. However, Carter did appear at sixth on a similar version of this article I did in 2018. Check that out if you want some context for the following ratings.
15. Luka Dončić, PG Dallas Mavericks
I don’t want to hear that it’s too early to include Dončić on a list like this. What’s the point of writing a sports article if you never take risks or say anything debatable? Dončić is already a top ten player in the NBA and should challenge for MVP awards during the coming decade. The Mavericks are battling for one of the final playoff spots this season.
14. DeMar DeRozan, SG San Antonio Spurs
When he played for the Toronto Raptors, DeRozan could not get past LeBron James. In his final three seasons with the team, DeRozan made three of his four career All-Star appearances. Those were Toronto’s best chances to win a championship with the DeRozan/Lowry duo. James eliminated the Raptors all three years, eventually leading Toronto to trade DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard. We all know how that story ended.
13. Derrick Rose, PG Detroit Pistons
When I wrote this same article in 2018, I didn’t include Rose in the top 15. I’m still not sure he deserves a spot considering that he hasn’t been an elite player since 2011. The former MVP did resurrect some form of his previous self over the past two seasons, but he played for terrible teams during that time. Rose has one playoff appearance since the beginning of the 2015 season.
12. Blake Griffin, PF Detroit Pistons
A former member of the Lob City Los Angeles Clippers, Griffin began the second act of his career in 2018. While he played well that year, he missed most of the 2019 season, and murmurs of his final downfall continue trickling through the NBA community. Griffin hasn’t made a finals appearance yet, but he has five All-NBA selections and six All-Star appearances.
11. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C San Antonio Spurs
Aldridge also finished 11th in my rankings in 2018, which tells you that not much has changed over the past two years. The former Trail Blazer made his seventh All-Star appearance during the 2018 season but hasn’t gotten past the first round of the playoffs since the 2016 season. Aldridge scored over 1,000 points for the 13th consecutive time this year.
10. Jimmy Butler, SG/SF Miami Heat
Butler still hasn’t made it to a Conference Finals game, but his stature in the NBA grew over the past two seasons. From forcing his way out of Minnesota because of the team’s lackluster drive to win to elevating the Heat this year, Butler is on a roll. He made his fifth All-Star appearance this season and should close out the year with All-Defensive and All-NBA selections.
9. Paul George, SG/SF Los Angeles Clippers
George widened the gap between himself and Butler last year. The former Indiana Pacer put together a run worthy of MVP and Defensive Player of the Year consideration. However, he missed a lot of time with injuries this season and struggled offensively. George made the Eastern Conference finals during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He lost to James and the Heat both times. The six-time All-Star might get another shot at James in the playoffs this year.
8. Damian Lillard, PG Portland Trail Blazers
After being overlooked for several seasons, Lillard began earning more recognition for his skills three years ago. Last season, he authored an incredible buzzer-beater against the Oklahoma City Thunder and carried Portland to the Conference Finals. Lillard averaged 28.9 points per game this year and made his fifth All-Star appearance.
7. Anthony Davis, PF Los Angeles Lakers
After years of disappointment in New Orleans, Davis joined James in Los Angeles this season. The Kentucky product only got past the first round once during his seven seasons with the Pelicans. However, the seven-time All-Star carries a lot of momentum as he enters the playoffs for the third time in his career.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF Milwaukee Bucks
Antetokounmpo ranked 13th on this list in 2018. He’s jumped up a few spots over the past two years and could climb even higher if the Bucks don’t win a ring this season. Antetokounmpo won the MVP award last year and could take it home again this season. He’s also in line for a shot at the Defensive Player of the Year award.
5. Dwight Howard, C Los Angeles Lakers
After flunking out of Washington, Howard revived his career with the Lakers. The former three-time Defensive Player of the Year and eight-time All-Star shed a lot of weight to stay healthy, and his body transformation worked. During the 2008 season, Howard lifted the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals, but he lost to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. The Magic made it to the Conference Finals in 2009 before falling to the Boston Celtics.
This season is Howard’s best chance to win a ring since his time with the Houston Rockets.
4. Carmelo Anthony, SF Portland Trail Blazers
After failed stints in OKC and Houston, it looked like the sun might set on Anthony’s legendary career. Luckily, the ten-time All-Star didn’t give up on his NBA ambitions, and he returned to action this season. Melo ranks 17th all-time in scoring with 26,314 points. James is the only active player with more success in that area.
Anthony hasn’t gotten past the first round of the playoffs since the 2012 season. He’s running out of time to win a championship.
3. Russell Westbrook, PG Houston Rockets
Westbrook’s closest encounter with NBA Finals glory came at the end of the 2011 season, when the Thunder fell to James’ Heat. Westbrook also made it to the Western Conference Finals in three other seasons, losing all three times to teams that went on to face James in the finals.
Westbrook is one of two players in NBA history to average a triple-double during a season. He’s the only player to do it more than once. Westbrook’s statistical dominance won him the league MVP during the 2016 season.
However, the two-time assist and scoring champion let his triple-doubles take a backseat this year as he reunited with James Harden on the Rockets. Westbrook crossed the 20,000-point barrier this season and made his ninth All-Star game.
2. James Harden, SG Houston Rockets
Step for step with Westbrook, Harden also crossed 20,000 career points this season. The former MVP and Sixth Man of the Year also played a role on OKC’s 2011 team. He hasn’t returned to the finals since leaving the Thunder. Harden has made the All-Star game in each of his eight seasons with the Rockets.
The soon-to-be three-time scoring champion developed a reputation for disappearing in the playoffs early in his time with Houston. He’s gotten better over time but still lacks a memorable playoff series to hang his hat on. Perhaps he can find glory alongside Westbrook this summer.
1. Chris Paul, PG Oklahoma City Thunder
You could argue that Harden or Westbrook deserves the top spot because of their MVPs and NBA Finals appearance during the 2011 season. However, I’m sticking with my gut and giving Paul the top spot. The wizard behind some mesmerizing Lob City teams, Paul hasn’t been to the finals yet.
This season, Paul made his tenth All-Star appearance and should earn his ninth All-NBA selection. He already has nine All-Defensive selections and ranks seventh all-time in assists and steals. While he never won an MVP, the Point God is one of the most well-rounded guards in league history.