NBA Competitive Balance

The NBA is entertaining, exciting, exhilarating, (and any other positive adjective that begins with ‘e’ that one can think of).

Wouldn’t it be great to enter a season with a wide open field, as numerous real championship contenders compete throughout the season?

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

The NBA is setup where if you can add the most superstars, you are in all likelihood playing in June.

It’s not necessarily the league’s fault, as only five players are on the court at a time. So an NBA’ superstars’ impact is much more powerful than say, an NFL or NHL star. (NFL, NHL players, this is why you don’t get paid as much NBA athletes, so just think about it, and stop whining).

The NBA is making more money than ever before, and some could argue it’s due to the rise, and now more commonly found, ‘super-teams.’

Some would argue, well why is this bad? It means the talent pool is deeper than ever before, and the competition is at an all time high. In that regard, it’s awesome, but it’s not so awesome in every regard.

The league has shown it produces only only 3-4 real contenders every year, and even the casual fan has the capability of predicting the conference finals participants in November.

For arguments sake, I’ll do it right now, and guaranteed I’ll be 100% accurate, or at least pretty damn close:

2018 Eastern Conference Finals:
Boston Celtics vs Cleveland Cavaliers (Took 2 seconds)

2018 Western Conference Finals:
Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets; possibly San Antonio Spurs (ok, so this one took 6 seconds)

So what’s the NBA to do?

First, do they care? With the league bringing in as much money as they ever have, do they even care to create a competitive balance?

It’s an interesting question. Im sure the league would like a little more unpredictability than what they currently have, but if the money keeps flowing in, they likely aren’t going to do anything about it.

Second, where do they start? Well it’s not very complicated. There’s one simple rule that can be enforced that can prvent such phrases as, “Im taking my talents to South Beach.”

It’s called a franchise tag. The NFL and NHL both utilize this rule, and it essentially prevents any upcoming free agents to conspire with others on where they want to play.

Imagine if LeBron James was franchise tagged, no Miami, no big 3 with Bosh and Wade, and LeBron still might be looking for his first championship.

Kevin Durant? Imagine if he was franchise tagged. No Warriors super team, and the Thunder could intriguingly be another title contender with Westbrook ‘n company.

Small market teams could keep their stars without worries, there would be no breaking stories of this player conversing with this player, and this player speaking with this organization. At least not until free agency, which in all likelihood many of them wouldn’t see.

Players would still get their big paychecks, and rather than teaming up with other stars, championships would need to be built around a solid draft with complimentary role players; something we haven’t seen since the Detroit Pistons in the early 2000s.

So as the season plays out, and the obvious title contenders become as clear as a bright blue sky, one must wonder if this is ‘just how the NBA is,’ or if it’s a problem that could certainly be addressed.

With the money the NBA is currently bringing in, NBA executives likely don’t see it as a priority.

Preventing NBA Tanking

The term is ‘tanking’. Essentially, it’s a way of saying, “we’re purposely going to be one of the worst teams in the league.”

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