7 Seconds or Less: Competitive Balance

A few days ago, during a longer break between my classes I went to eat a kebab with my classmate, quite a tasty and cost-efficient to waste away an hour between my Copyright Law and History of Law courses. When coming over, my classmate, who knows nothing about basketball, and yet, is in the process of winning a bet against me concerning the lockout just because he read Kobe Bryant was getting ready to sign with Virtus Bologna. His knowledge is limited to box scores (which I doubt he understands entirely) Mavericks as champions and, to top it off, where Marcin Gortat is. Look, this guy is a Lakers fan and a Suns fan, that’s how bad his knowledge is.

So, now that you see what I’m dealing with here, you’ll understand why he said what he said a few minutes later, when we were discussing Marcin Gortat’s future, and I said that Gortat has a chance, albeit a rather small one, to become an all-star one day. His response baffled me, and almost forced me to laugh out very loud in a city tram — something I’d rather avoid. “If Gortat is so good, why is he playing in Phoenix?”

This is normal in Europe, the big spenders go into competition, while smaller teams get only as good as their youth contracts let them. Everyone knows that Barcelona and Real will dominate the Spanish league in soccer, it’s no surprise to anyone. The mindset, while baffling to an NBA fan, is absolutely normal for a soccer fan, good players play for good teams, bad players play for bad teams.

But… This will not be about how making the NBA more soccer-like would help it, it probably wouldn’t. Would Sarver outspend Prokhorov? I doubt it. The point is a question. If a league gives owners a chance to be competitive by letting them be however incompetent as they please through exit routes such as amnesty clauses, is the league really competitive or is it just like those primary school competitions, were even the losers are told that they’re winners?

In short: If Sam Presti can make good out of a small-market team, why can’t David Kahn? The owners don’t need rules to protect them from themselves, they need themselves to protect them from themselves. The system we have already gives a lot of competitive balance. This is not a 2 team league like many of the soccer leagues, There’s probably 8-12 teams able to win a championship every year, if they get lucky. This system is already competitive, giving equal opportunities to equally smart GMs. Yes, there will be better and worse teams, but that’s just how sports work.

So, how did I answer my classmates question? “Because the NBA wants to give an opportunity to every team.” I think the hardline owners should learn to appreciate the fact, that they are able to draft players, keep them on with qualifying offers, and sign guys who won’t fit under LAs or NYs caps. Compared to Europe, you guys are doing just fine.

Topics: Competitive Balance, David Stern, Lockout, Marcin Gortat, Nba Lockout

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