Reviving The Competitive Nature of the NBA

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Reviving The Competitive Nature of the NBA

By Oliver Cachapero Jr


There are seven games played in the preseason, 82 games in a regular season, and a maximum of 21 games in the first three rounds of the playoffs, yet we already knew which two teams will meet in the NBA Finals right from the get-go. This is how boring the NBA has become when it comes to the level of competition. It’s so contagious that the All-Star Game last February was likewise infected.

During the summer of 2016, 2013-14 MVP Kevin Durant had a chance to play for an Eastern Conference powerhouse team (the likes of Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics), yet in a much-debated move, he chose to team-up with the reigning Western Conference champs with the back-to-back MVP already in the helm. That obviously did not help in reviving the competition in the league. It in fact buried it deeper.

Out in the East, star players are deserting their teams and deciding to move out West to join the stronger teams. On the other hand, star players in the West do not want to cross conference to the East as they think that teams in the East are not that strong which could compete for the title.

Out in the West, star players are leaving their old teams behind to join their rival teams for a shot at the title. That makes weak teams in the West weaker and the strong teams stronger. This happens each and every season and the league is losing a lot of impatient and competition-driven fans as it happens.

Should the NBA do something about this? Certainly. Will they act on it? Unlikely.

But in case the NBA listens to its fans, here are TWO of the ways it could explore to revive the competition once again and win back these fans in a heartbeat:


FIRST – Regulate the forming of Super Teams.

The NBA should frown upon the forming of teams with three-or-four established stars and should go as far as vetoing deals (signings and trades) that would result in such scenarios.

When Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo in Boston in 2007, that instantly killed all the hopes of more than half of the Eastern Conference teams of winning the title. Celtics went on to finish the season with a superb record of 66-16 while nine teams in the conference recorded a below .500 standing. Boston went on to finish their season as champions, nothing short of what people have expected right from the tip-off.

In 2010, LeBron James, arguably the best player in the league that time, and Chris Bosh, an up and coming superstar, joined Dwyane Wade, another established superstar, in Miami. The big three went on to win two titles together and dominate every season they played together.

In 2014, LeBron James (yes, him again), inarguably the best player in the world, and Kevin Love, who just reached superstardom, joined Kyrie Irving, a young star, in Cleveland. They went on to win a title a year after and are again vying for another one this season.

In 2016, Kevin Durant joined the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. They are taking the league by storm and are in a position to breeze through another title, with the Cavaliers the sole possible obstacle.

These are just some of the Super Teams formed in recent memory which killed the competition in the league.

At any rate, it is admitted that it would be difficult to regulate super teams since these players have the freedom to choose which team they would want to play for, just like we, fans, have the freedom to choose which team we would want to support.

The last time the NBA vetoed a deal was in 2011 when Chris Paul was supposed to team up with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in Los Angeles. This was allegedly requested to be turned down by team owners but this resulted in much controversy, a situation where the NBA would not want to be a part of these days.

So we are scrapping the first way of reviving the competition in the NBA. It would just create a lot of hullabaloos which would destroy the reputation of the league.


SECOND – A conference-less playoffs.

Every season we see teams with a better standing in the other conference but miss the playoffs when they could have been a high seeded team when playing for the other conference. People also argue that this specific team dominates its conference where it could have been easily eliminated if playing for the other conference. If that’s the case, why doesn’t the NBA remove the conference setup come playoffs time? Top 16 teams will be seeded without regard to their conferences.

Lets see what this Playoffs look like if conferences are disregarded:

1.Golden State Warriors/16. Portland Trail Blazers

8. Toronto Raptors/9. Washington Wizards

5. Los Angeles Clippers/12. Memphis Grizzlies

4. Boston Celtics/13. Milwaukee Bucks

6. Utah Jazz/11. Atlanta Hawks

3. Houston Rockets/14. Indiana Pacers

7. Cleveland Cavaliers/10. Oklahoma City Thunder

2. San Antonio Spurs/15. Chicago Bulls

How do you like that?

The good thing about this setup is that Western Conference teams slug it out against Eastern Conference teams as early as first round, unlike the old setup where cross-conference series takes place only during the Finals. The problem is distance. NBA teams would spend more than the usual if their series starts with a date with a cross-conference team. The easiest solution, which was already observed before, is to have a 2-3-2 schedule format. That would definitely maximize the time and space and save some expenses.

Another problem is that Eastern teams get to play Western teams twice only during the regular season which could cause tie-breaking problems for playoffs seeding purposes. Best solution is to limit games played by same conference teams from 4-to-3 and increase games between cross-conference teams from 2-to-3.

But the best thing about this setup you ask? You will no longer hear anyone saying this team just walked its way to the championship round. To illustrate, the Cavaliers start the playoffs with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, then a possible date with Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs in the 2nd round, and lastly a possible face-off against James Harden and the Rockets in the 3rd round. This setup would silence the naysayers and would start a culture of battle of the fittest come playoffs time, a culture that we, fans, would like to see every single season.

Let’s make it happen, NBA!

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