How to Fix the NBA

I’m not an NBA fan. I would classify myself as a sportsaholic, so I pay attention to what goes on in the NBA to some degree. I am a huge basketball fan, just not into the NBA. (Also, and this really doesn’t matter to this blog, I would consider myself a Celtics “well wisher,” fan would imply that there’s some small thing missing in my life when they lose, or suck, or don’t play because of a lockout. That’s not really the case.

But I love basketball. It was actually the first game I really learned, and learned to love. I still watch college basketball with wide eyes, and can’t wait for the conference championships to start each year.

I really would like to see this lockout work. I love that the NBA is locked out for selfish reasons, like hockey ratings doubling or tripling because sports junkies will always watch sports. But I also love it because it really could fix this league. I’ve prescribed five steps that I think could fix the game at the NBA level.

First is the three year delay. The NFL has benefitted from causing all draft prospects to wait until three years after their high school graduation to register for the draft. The result is long college careers, which gives you more mature people in the league in a lot of cases (I realize there are still a bunch of morons in the NFL, but there are probably just as many morons playing in the NBA, where the total number of players is less than 1/3 of the NFL).

But it also results in a more balanced style of play and players that are ready to play team basketball. Look at the guys that play 3-4 years of college versus the guys who came out of high school. Prior to a few years ago, you got a better player if he had played a few years in college, until teams started cherry picking raw talent from the freshmen class.

Next, call traveling. Honestly, really, truly call traveling. I am so sick and tired of watching guys walk every other trip down the floor. You can call it archaic or racist or whatever, I’ve heard every adjective in the book for it, but you know who hates watching LeBron James do his “crab dribble,” take two more steps, jump and then go up for a layup? Middle aged white guys. Not fun, interesting or compelling for middle aged white guys. If you don’t know who they are, they’re the guys who occupy the top tax brackets of the middle class and above.

Cap/floor situation needs to be drastically revamped. Remember how awesome Greg Oden was in March

Madness? Yeah! Remember that next time you saw him do something awesome? No? Yeah me neither…Unless you count being tendered at $8.8 million just before the lockout as doing something awesome. He did that. Yup, he and his 82games played (that’s a full season!) and 9.4 point career average got tendered at almost $9 million. This salary cap/luxury tax/double-secret-untradable-contract-no-crossies system doesn’t work.

When you sign a bad contract, you are so utterly screwed that it’s not even something I can explain. There’s a “salary cap” that has nine possible exceptions for a team to use. Nine exceptions, for a team that has a maximum roster of 15 and only has to put five of them on the floor at a time. What?

Look, a hard cap makes sense. The NFL is the best run league in American sports, and it has a hard cap. The NHL is slowly becoming almost as compelling in the offseason. It has a fairly firm cap. Both of those leagues also have a firm salary floor. Do you realize how interesting it gets when 13 teams in a 30 team league lose their free agents and are suddenly $20 million under the floor and have to spend that money? Interesting.

But this whole bit is important because if you no longer have this fraudulent cap that isn’t, the player movement will open up. Right now, you can’t trade if you’re over the cap unless you lose salary in the deal. If everyone’s at or below the cap, joe sports fan will be able to play around with trade possibilities, which leads to buzz, which leads to eye balls on your product.

Fix the lottery. For the love of God fix the lottery. The worst team in the NBA has exact a 25% chance of receiving the top pick. Adrian Gonzalez walks to the plate four times a day with a better chance of getting a hit each time than the Timberwolves had of drawing the top pick this year. I have a better chance of winning in any given hand of blackjack than the worst two teams have combined of getting the first pick. I want to meet the guy that this makes sense to.

You want a draft lottery? I’ve got one for you:

Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin…Andrew Bogut, Greg Oden, Andrea Bargnani.

You get the first pick, you are equally likely to pick a stiff or a baller. Lottery created, ping pong balls rendered unnecessary. You’re welcome.

Fire the refs.

This is my pipe dream. Fire the refs. Create a strict, rigorous test for any who want to be reinstated and replace the dozens who can’t pass it. Every sport outside of the NFL is poorly officiated, but the NBA is the absolute gold standard of bad officiating. It’s so bad, that when it becomes painfully obvious that numerous refs have been involved in corrupt  gambling rings, you still can’t pick out the ones that are throwing games.

Some of them are just so blatantly bad that they can’t even have money on the games. In fact, watching some games, you wonder if the officials know enough about basketball to feel comfortable placing a bet on a game.

Needless to say, almost none of these reforms will happen. They also couldn’t happen with David Stern at the helm, so don’t hold your breath, but I thought I’d throw it out there.


3 Responses

  1. Speaking of reforms that will never happen with David Stern in charge, let’s talk about radical contraction. Eliminate the Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Hornets, New Jersey Nets, Charlotte Bobcats and Sacramento Kings. Then move the Clippers to Seattle to become the new Supersonics (and hopefully the NHL Phoenix Coyotes can move there with them so that they can build a new arena). You would then have 22 teams with 11 teams in each division, and no two-team markets. The game would be more competitive and there would be more reason to watch nationally-televised regular season games.

  2. Absolutely true. When I was thinking out the post, I left contraction out. I think the difference between contraction and the reforms I prescribed is that contraction can’t happen at all. It’s a nice idea, I’d love to see it, but they’d never higher a commissioner who would contract the league.
    Would it fix things? Hell yeah, but it’s a pipe dream.

  3. Many fans approach the NBA differently than the other three major sports in that they may not care very much about their home market team. Some people are fans of individual players following those players like they are professional golfers or NASCAR drivers. Others are fans of the hot teams, changing from season to season. If the NBA had say, 22 or 24 teams they could play a shorter regular season. With fewer teams playing fewer games fans would be able to see their favorite players and/or teams on national television MORE OFTEN then they do now. With fans from all over the country watching more MEANINGFUL regular season games on national television, there would be more shared revenue from those for the remaining franchises which would balance out the revenue pie (more like the NFL). A shorter season would mean fewer injuries, and it could also start later, thus reducing the overlap with the NFL season.

    I agree with you though, contraction is a pipe dream.

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