Column: Why it’s harder to win an NBA title today than ever before

'On The Ball'

Like most Phoenix Suns fans, I ponder, when is it our turn? When is it our turn to be a quote-unquote “Super Team” and compete for an NBA title?

As I sit at my desk, the sports department’s television is silently displaying the Suns-Rockets dual in the desert, a battle between two Western Conference foes in completely different situations as a franchise.

That’s when it hits me.

“It’s harder to win an NBA title now then it was when I was a kid watching them play.”

Whoa.

Is that really true? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. My thought process is this:

Although it may be easier to make it farther into the playoffs with several subpar teams qualifying (Both No. 8 seeds last season were .500 clubs, and the No. 5-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the East were just a few over), once your favorite team reaches the Eastern or Western Conference finals, enter a “Super Team.”

Take this Houston club for example.

Led by James Harden, a former Arizona State standout who was seen cheering from the sidelines in Thursday night’s ASU loss to Oregon, the Rockets are No. 2 in the Western Conference at 30-11.

Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Ryan Anderson surround Harden to make up one of the best teams in the West, or the NBA, really, thanks to coach Mike D’Antoni.

But you know what? They don’t hold a candle to the Golden State Warriors. How could they? Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were already the most dominant “Big 3” in the NBA and winning championships BEFORE adding Kevin Durant last season.

Or even the San Antonio Spurs, who are down this season, if you can call it that. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are still around and teamed with Danny Green, Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, arguably the best power forward in the game, they have more experience than anyone.

The Spurs may only be third in the West right now, but come playoff time, Gregg Popovich makes up for any faults they have in a best-of-seven series.

On the east coast? LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are third. Yes, that’s right, third!

The Boston Celtics (Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown) are running away with the East at 34-10, and an upstart Toronto Raptors (DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka) club also has the Cavs running for the hills.

James has been to seven-straight NBA Finals, winning three. Only three titles?

Let me explain.

If the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s had to face one team in the Eastern Conference Finals, then the NBA Finals, comprised of let’s say … Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller and John Stockton every year, do you think Jordan would win?

No doubt, he’s the best player, ever. But facing those odds?

So what are the Suns to do? Led by Devin Booker, Phoenix (16-27) has some of the best young talent in the NBA with Marquese Chriss, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, Alex Len and Tyler Ulis on the club. The plan of “collecting assets” has been fulfilled by general manager Ryan McDonough, but now what? Should we wait until the 20-something stars hit their mid-to-late 20’s before expecting a championship run?

That’s at least five seasons away, folks.

Will they’ll keep the core around that long? Can they? And what’s the alternative? Trade the farm for cap space or a super star, assuming they want to be here in the first place, and watch the other top players message each other on social media saying, “Phoenix is the place to be!”

I think for now, all we can do is hope that Booker continues to develope into one of the best players in the NBA, and Chriss, Jackson, Bender and the rest follow suit, because if not, it may be time to blow up the roster and start over.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier, the Prescott Valley Tribune and the Chino Valley Review. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @SportsWriter52 or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email bbergner@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.