Matt Strasen/Associated Press
Not every championship hopeful faces the same pressure.
Certain franchises are trying to win titles. They may even be built to win titles. But any disappointment will pale in comparison to those that follow because they're not as ready to win those titles.
Dirk Nowitzki's championship window is closing, which puts pressure on the Mavericks to win by default—especially after he took a ridiculous pay cut (three years, $25 million) and they spent $46 million on Chandler Parsons.
Thing is, the Mavericks are more of a fringe contender. They lack that bona fide superstar in his prime and don't carry the same weight other Western Conference powerhouses do.
Though an early playoff exit and failure to bring home a title would be disappointing, it would not be at all unexpected.
Golden State Warriors
This is all about justification.
Even after passing on Kevin Love, the Warriors still have one of the league's best starting fives. But they'll now have to improve upon last season's performance, justifying their decision to roll with who they have.
Except on the sidelines. They also have to justify canning the only coach, Mark Jackson, to guide back-to-back playoff teams since the early 1990s for a more expensive novice in Steve Kerr.
Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge's impending free agency will be an issue until he says otherwise.
So, he said otherwise.
"I'm happy to stay (in Portland), happy to be here, happy with the direction the team has gone the last year or two," he told The Oregonian's Joe Freeman in July. "I just want to get a five-year deal. I feel like that’s the best decision on my part."
Still, as optimistic and loyal as Aldridge may seem, the last thing the Blazers want to do is follow last year's (mostly) bright showing with a potentially mindset-melting dud.