As a whole, of the Big 4 major sports, I think the NBA does the best job balancing the wants of the players with the wants of the owners. Both want to make as much money as possible and both want as much freedom in terms of making decisions in their best interest. The benefit of the players and owners finding a happy median in terms of the CBA (though negotiations are always contentious) is the NBA has a decent amount of parity when it comes to the top teams in the league. While the major markets will always have an edge, thanks to the draft and free agency setup, smaller market teams will always have a chance at contending, their margin for error is just smaller. Just look at the Utah Jazz, markets don’t get much smaller but they are the top team in the league this year.
The one area that I think needs to be improved is how the NBA buy-out process works, because that clearly favors certain teams. Once the NBA trade deadline passes, teams committed to the rebuilding process tend to buy out their veterans in the final year of their contract in order to allow younger players to get more court time. This year Andre Drummond, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin are just some of the names who have accepted a buyout and went “ring chasing”.
Here’s the biggest issue I have with this process, since teams are able to sign players who’ve been bought out of their contract for the veterans minimum (at a prorated amount nonetheless), this allows contending teams to become “super teams”. This is especially true when they sign multiple players during the process. It’s one thing when a team makes the strategic move to free up cap space in order to sign multiple big name free agents, it’s another when they are able to sign a couple players to minimum contracts because they were able to force themselves out of their contract. Look no further than the Brooklyn Nets who just went from NBA title favorite to a miracle will be needed for another team to raise a championship banner. Two weeks ago, they already had James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant, and now they just added LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin
Once again, I have the solution to the NBA’s problem, wonder if Adam Silver reads my blog? The solution is simple, once the NBA Trade Deadline passes, each team is only able to add one player who was bought out of his contract. This is a no brainer for the league because it allows players the opportunity to ring chase, but forces the teams to make a decision wo they want to sign. How does it benefit the league to have a team become an overwhelming favorite and steam roll their way through the playoffs. It’s one thing if a team is built through free agency and the draft like the Warriors. But when teams are able to benefit from players basically forcing themselves off their roster, it diminishes the overall playoff picture because it becomes clear that every team doesn’t really have a chance at wining the title.
Again, as a whole I think the NBA does a great job ensuring there is parity season over season, but until they figure out a solution to “super teams” being built via the buy-out process, this will be an issue that continues to affect the playoff picture. At the end of the day, basketball fans would love to look at the playoff picture and see 8-10 teams capable of taking home the title, but this season, it doesn’t look like that is the case.