For a decade, fatigue set in among some fans weary of seeing the same players and same teams in the NBA Finals.
For the past 10 season, it’s been LeBron James and his Miami and Cleveland teams. Or it’s been Golden State’s dynasty with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Then last season it was James again and the Los Angeles Lakers, which won their NBA-record-tying 17th NBA NBA championship.
This season, the NBA has four teams in the Eastern and Western Conference finals that either haven’t won a title or haven’t won in at least five decades.
The Milwaukee Bucks last won a title in 1971. The Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns have never won a title, and the Atlanta Hawks have never won a title since the franchise moved to Atlanta from St. Louis where the Hawks won a title in 1958.
For the first time since 2010, the NBA’s conference finals will not include teams led by LeBron James or Stephen Curry.
Since 1980, 12 NBA franchises have a won a title but eight franchises have won 37 of those 41 titles.
A different franchise will be added to that list this season, and all four teams have the potential to get back next season.
Whether it’s a true changing of the guard or just placeholder until LeBron, Steph, KD, Klay and Kyrie are healthy again is immaterial today.
Pure basketball fans will tune into these series because they enjoy basketball. But it’s the casual fan that needs to come along for this conference finals ride.
There are already whispers that a Bucks-Suns or a Suns-Hawks Finals won’t be good for the NBA and TV ratings. That’s an insult to the team involved.
If the Venn diagram of those who wanted new teams in the Finals and those who also complaining about a potential Hawks-Suns Finals is one circle, then there’s a problem that requires closer scrutiny.
The NBA shouldn’t have trouble selling these matchups and storylines.
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The Bucks feature Giannis Antetokounmpo, a two-time MVP who is trying to get to his first Finals. The Hawks have Trae Young, excelling in his playoffs debut. Chris Paul also has a chance to reach his first Finals. Paul George, who played in the Eastern Conference finals twice, is seeking his first NBA title, too.
The Bucks have more than Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton is a two-time All-Star, and Jrue Holiday is one of the league’s best two-ways guards.
Atlanta arrived maybe a season or two before expected with its young talent, including Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter and veterans Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic. De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish – both top-10 picks in the 2019 draft lottery picks – are out with injuries.
Like Young, Devin Booker is in the middle of his memorable playoff debut alongside Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges.
The Clippers don’t quite have the young guns. George, Kawhi Leonard, Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris Sr., Patrick Beverley, Nic Batum and Rajon Rondo are all in their 30s. Still, Luke Kennard and Terance Mann, both 24, have had their playoff moments, including Mann’s surprise 39 points in Game 6 against Utah.
The conference finals are fresh and invigorating with the storylines that should appeal to fans – both casual and die-hard.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: No LeBron or Step, but conference finals invigorated with new stars