I’m not sure anybody (definitely not anyone in the East) has the kind of depth they do. Everyone can shoot and score, I mean EVERYONE. Granted, Detroit has a substandard bench and has all year but the difference between their second unit and Atlanta’s is massive.
They just lack that one star you need to win a title 99 times out of 100, but that’s a big thing to lack. Al Horford is a very good player and has been for a long time, but if he’s your top guy, you’re not winning the championship. Brings two things to mind…
1. It really is tough to get to a point where you can truly contend for a championship in the NBA. You have to get lucky, one way or the other. Either be bad enough that you get a prime draft pick (see OKC) or have a guy become a star who wasn’t expected to be that (see Golden State). Teams like Atlanta and Toronto have done everything “right”… they’ve drafted well, they’ve made smart trades and free agent acquisitions…and though they’re good enough to be 50 plus win teams and get home court through the first round or two of the playoffs, I don’t think anyone expects them to be taking home a title.
Boston’s about to be in this same boat unless they can turn one of their plethora of upcoming picks into a legitimate star.
2. It makes the second Piston championship team seem all the more improbable to me. I’d say their talent level was clearly better than either Atlanta or Toronto but they’re closer to those teams in construction than Cleveland or GS or OKC. I don’t think there was ever a point that anyone on the Detroit team was seen as a legitimate First Team All NBA candidate. Teams built that way almost never get it done in this sport, but they did and they had legitimate chances to win at least a couple more than that.