No matter what your take is on the role super teams play in the NBA, you must admit the NBA has a serious problem. The issue facing the NBA is simple. It is the core of every sporting league in existence; competitiveness. The NBA is no longer a cutthroat league. The past several years the competitiveness in the NBA has steadily declined, and is now at an all time low.
The most recent example is the 2017 Golden State Warriors who essentially won the NBA Finals a full year before they played the Cavaliers. A team that had already set a record for best record in league history added a top-3 player in Kevin Durant through free agency. This move separated the Warriors even farther from the competition. If you didn’t think the Warriors were going to win the Finals, you were insane. It is not just Warriors, though. Teams like the 2008 Boston Celtics, 2012-13 Miami Heat, and 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers were all considered super teams as well.
This super team culture must be dealt with immediately if the NBA wants to keep its ratings and popularity prosperous. This year’s playoffs are the prime example of this problem. First, TV ratings went down 6% across the board due to the lack of competitive games. Second, NBA legends such as Charles Barkley openly bashed the playoff calling them “not great” and “unexciting.”
This whole super team issue hit its peak on July 4th 2016 when Kevin Durant officially signed with the Warriors after spending the duration of his career in Oklahoma City. It was on that day that Kevin Durant simultaneously destroyed the competitiveness in the NBA, yet also saved the league.
Durant’s decision to join the Warriors proved that there is an issue in today’s NBA that commissioner Adam Silver must fix. Silver has come out and said that he too does not think super teams are good for the NBA.
“In the case of Kevin Durant, I absolutely respect his decision once he becomes a free agent to make a choice that’s available to him. In this case, he operated 100 percent within the way of the system and the same with Golden State. Having said that, I do think in order to maintain those principles that I discussed, creating a league in which every team has the opportunity to compete, I do think we need to reexamine some of the elements of our system.” Said Silver in a Las Vegas press conference last summer.
So how can the league be saved? For the foreseeable future it cannot. Under the current CBA teams have the opportunity to bunch talented players at their will (as long as they keep it under the league determined salary cap).
The only way to stop a super team from forming is to stop players from signing with a team. One solution could be assigning players to different types of contracts. A team may only have one max contract player, two players in the $15-$20 million-dollar range, and so on down the line. The contract a player gets would be based on performance and results. This is one way to fix the issue, but a situation like is far-fetched. Once this CBA expires, the players’ union would have to sign off on any type of template like the one mentioned, which they would never do.
Players like having this option for super teams open to them, as it makes it easier to make a run for a championship. This is simply how teams are built now. Back in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s the only way to build a team was drafting and trading. Now in the free agency era, players can team up easier and win championships easier. Whether it is players being lazy or opportunistic, this is the way teams win championships now, and it will be the death of the league.
Why is this the death of the league? Because fans like excitement, action, and drama in sports. Let’s look at one of America’s top sporting events and compare.
Why is March Madness one of the most watched sporting events ever? Because fans love to watch teams battle their way to a title. Players compete their asses off to win a title. It makes for great games and great television. The NBA can’t compete with those games. The playoffs this year proved that. Blowout after blowout, it felt like more than half the games were over in the first quarter.
The interesting thing is, the superteam can also be the problem that saves the NBA. What is the best part of any super hero movie? When the hero rises up to defeat the villain. In the case of the NBA the superteam can be the villain, and the new wave of talent can be the hero. Teams like the Celtics, Wolves, and Bucks have the opportunity to expel this superteam theory and begin a new era in the NBA. All these teams have built successful teams through old methods, trades and drafts. The superteam is irrelevant to them, it can act as motivation for them to win.
You see what Kevin Durant did when he signed was paint a giant target on the Warriors back. The question changed from; How do I beat the rest of the league and win a title? To; How do I beat the Warriors and win an NBA title?
This change in attitude by teams will help restore the league’s competitiveness, eventually. Once teams get to the point where they can beat the Warriors, fan interest will skyrocket. Teams are coming for the Warriors, and even though it might be a few years until the team that can dethrone them comes around, when it happens the league will be forever altered.
So although Kevin Durant killed the NBA’s ratings and popularity this year and for the years to come, his actions may also save the NBA. His laziness could lead to excitement. Most of all the NBA may be just fine after all.