1999 was the beginning of the shift in power from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference in the NBA. Six of the previous 8 championships were awarded to the Eastern Conference’s Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan.
In 1999, it was the West’s San Antonio Spurs and since 2000 13 out of 20 Larry O’Brien trophies have been handed out to Western Conference teams. Those 13 championships are shared among just 4 teams while the 7 title wins from the East went to 5 different teams.
Here we rank the nine teams that have won an NBA Championship since 2000.
#9 Toronto Raptors - 1 championship (2019)
The Toronto Raptors had spent the previous 5 seasons playing outstanding basketball. They had 50 plus wins in each of their last 4 seasons but had been eliminated from the playoffs by the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers 3 straight years from 2016-2018 including a 6-game defeat in the 2016 ECF. They were a good team but they were just not good enough.
Then, team president and general manager Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster reshaped the fortunes of the franchise in three bold moves starting the summer of 2018. First, it was firing longtime head coach Dwane Casey and replacing him with a rookie in Nick Nurse.
A deal parting ways with All-Star DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first round pick for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green gave the Raptors two starters, both defensive stalwarts and a superstar considerably better than DeRozan in Leonard. This deal was made knowing it may be a one-year rental and management was betting everything on the payoff.
However, they didn’t stop there as in the mid-season, a deal with Memphis brought another defensive star Marc Gasol to play at center. As if the basketball gods were pleased with the Toronto Raptors, not only did Kawhi Leonard re-establish himself as an NBA superstar despite coming off of an injury-plagued season, but LeBron James who had been holding the Raptors back by playing for Cleveland in the East had moved to the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2018-19 season.
Finally, add to the mix Joel Embiid suffering multiple illnesses in the Raptors-Sixers second-round series won by the Raptors as well as the plethora of walking wounded and continued injury issues the Warriors suffered before and during the NBA Finals, and the Raptors mowed down their opposition in the 2019 NBA Playoffs with a defense that was stifling and intense.
While the 2019 NBA Finals victory was historic for a Toronto Franchise, they are ranked 9th on this list due to the fact the main component that got them to the holy grail, Kawhi Leonard is now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Raptors are not likely to defend their crown in 2020 unless management pulls off another brilliant and unexpected trade in the coming days.