Durant vs. Green sums up the NBA Competitive Balance Problem in One Argument
Saturday, November 17, 2018
If you wanted one storyline to explain the NBA's serious Competitive Balance problem---well, this weeks dust up with Draymond Green and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors pretty much sums it up.
For those not versed in all things NBA, the two Warriors forwards had an argument towards the end of the defending World Champions game vs. the Los Angeles Clippers which ended after Green repeatedly called Durant a "Bitch" after Durant complained when Green tried to go solo to break a tie at the end of the game...
It goes much, much deeper than that---harkening back to Green taking "Less Than Market Value" on his last contract to help the Warriors come up with the money to pay Durant.
And Durant has been a boon to Golden State--an already strong team led by Steph Curry and featuring Durant along with gunner Klay Thompson and do-everything utility star Green.
Golden State has won 2 of the last 3 World Titles and been in the Championship game all of the past 3 years. They've become a "Mini-Dynasty" which in some ways has helped the NBA get an identifiable team even casual fans will pay attention to.
It's paid off in the form of TV Ratings, popularity amongst the masses (not every team) and more money than god for both the players and owners.
Which is both a blessing and a curse.....
The league now features a couple of "Super Teams": Golden State and Houston are the two teams with the biggest names. Oklahoma City features two "Elite" players in Russell Westbrook and Paul George. And the Lakers now feature a guy named LeBron James who specializes in making average teams great.
But it also features the Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and others who just 14 games into the NBA season are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
Which is the problem.....
For all of their warts, the NFL has the Patriots and then a whole bunch of other teams who can compete for a title every single season. A.K.A Competitive Balance. You may be able to guess who will win the Super Bowl--and yeah, arguably New England competes for it every year, but doesn't always win. But you rarely, if ever have a repeat champion.
Baseball....less so than the NFL, still has some balance. There are teams like the Red Sox and Yankees who spend their way to the title, but also the Astros and to some extent the Cubs and others who've built incredible programs and have grown their own players to compete.
But Baseball also has the Mets, the Marlins, the Royals and others who currently have zero chance of winning and are rebuilding from "Scratch"....
In professional sports---considering the prices for tickets, concessions, parking etc, you should always be able to go to a game with the hope your team wins.
In the NBA, that's rarely a guarantee. The Hawks for example will not win more than 20 games or so and make no excuses for tanking. It will hurt attendance in an Atlanta Sports market where they struggle for attention and teams don't draw unless they win.
But they are "Rebuilding".....which is a competitive balance issue. If you are okay with the same team winning year in and year out....well, good on you...
However it makes it a challenge to hold TV ratings, keep fans attention and justify raising prices while playing players $20 million-plus a year.
Which is the root of the problem in the first place.