LeBron James: One of the greats of all-time.
Steph Curry: Changing the course of the entire sport.
The NBA: Disgusting.
With everything that should be a positive in the NBA, here’s one question that should never be asked of any sports league: on any given night, how do I know which team is trying to win?
Adam Silver is sold to fans as a great commissioner. He appears to be a very good and decent man but that doesn’t make you a great commissioner. After watching the regular season and the first weekend of the playoffs, if Silver is satisfied with the product, he’s unfit for the position. The NBA is broken.
The list of stars is unprecedented in the history of the game: James, Curry, Harden, Durant, Westbrook. There are quiet stars that are overshadowed by teammates (Irving and Thompson), small markets (Antetokounmpo and Davis) and those that are just quiet (Leonard). This should read as a list of players that are lifting this league to heights never achieved. Instead, the NBA has no dignity.
Suns fans are openly rooting against their team for something as dumb as a ping-pong ball. Imagine your friend tells you they’ve decided to stop trying at work. With their extra time, they’ll devote their efforts to win Powerball. I present to you the 2017 Phoenix Suns. Any league that rewards losing is not a sports league.
There are two dynamics at work in Silver’s NBA: 1) good teams should try to lose some games on purpose by resting players in order to increase their chances at winning a championship this year; and 2) bad teams should try to lose all their games in order to increase their chances at winning a championship at some point in the next seven years. When this is your league, your league is flawed to the very core of its existence.
It takes three easy decisions to eliminate resting players and tanking while adding something the NBA doesn’t have — an exciting playoff.
As soon as any player makes their first All-Star game, they are considered a treasure to the league and can’t be rested for a game. If they’re hurt, fine. They’ll be placed on the All-Star disabled list. They would miss 10 games. If the team thinks rest is a good thing, keep them out. It’s no longer sacrificing one game for the chance at a championship later. Ten games would change seeding for the playoffs.
SUNS VS SPURS
This may not happen every year but it would have this year. Want to make the NBA playoffs exciting again? Steal from the NCAA!
If every team made the playoffs and the first-round was single-elimination, it makes the regular season extremely important because your seed determines who you play in a one-game playoff. Every regular season loss improves your chances of losing in a one-game postseason scenario. Even better, there’s one team that’s immune from the chaos. The No. 1 seed in each conference avoids the first-round knock-out.
Look at a regular NCAA bracket that you’ve seen millions of times since 1985. Teams are seeded 1-16. In the NBA, seed each conference 1-15. In the West, Golden State is the top seed and they get a bye since there are only 15 teams. The second-seeded Spurs would host the No. 15 Suns. The upsets that might take place would be the talk of basketball. At the same time, all the upper-level teams needed to do to avoid playing in the first round was to take the regular season more seriously.
Resting players might add an extra round to your championship journey while dramatically increasing the chances of you losing early. Houston is the No. 3 seed and the Clippers are No. 4. If everyone makes the playoffs, Houston has an easy home game against the Lakers. The Clips would have to play a tough Minnesota team. The gap between talent for the Lakers and T-Wolves is huge. This playoff format puts a tremendous amount of pressure on every regular season game.
INSTITUTE A LOSER’S LOTTERY
Now, resting players is eradicated. Excitement kicks off the playoffs like never before. With this playoff format in place, it’s easy to take on tanking. Every team that loses in the first-round of the playoffs is now entered into the draft lottery. All losing teams would have a completely even chance at winning the lottery. There’s no way teams are going to tank a playoff game to get into the lottery. Most importantly, your regular season record has nothing to do with your chances at winning the lottery.
Don’t buy into the myth that there are only two good players in every draft. There were 25 players invited to this year’s All-Star Game. Twenty percent of the players were drafted in the first two picks. The average All-Star is taken with pick 15! The draft is vitally important to the NBA but GMs are trying to sell to you they’re forced to tank to get a high pick. The truth is they need a high pick to cover their own butt because the vast majority of GMs aren’t good at the draft.
The worst team doesn’t have to have the first pick. The worst team needs to outwork other GMs. Instead of passing on Antetokounmpo and Kawhi 14 times, start watching games and evaluating the players. Excitement in the playoffs, a true penalty for resting millionaires that also drastically hurts a chance at a championship and a revolutionized draft lottery would save the current NBA.
You’re welcome, Adam.
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