It’s no secret that the NBA has become EXTREMELY top-heavy. That’s why the difference between the 2017 and 2018 NBA Playoffs is 4 teams (that’s right, the playoff field was only 25% different). That’s why the 2018 NBA Playoffs are on the brink of bringing us a Cleveland Cavaliers versus Golden State Warriors NBA Finals matchup for the FORUTH YEAR IN A ROW, with the Cavs having just evened their series against the Boston Celtics at 2-2, and the Warriors having a 2-1 lead in their series against the Houston Rockets including a win in Houston already. It’s like the NBA decided that instead of just a seven game series each year, they should play seven, seven game series over seven years to decide an NBA Championship.
Are there people in this world–not including Cavs and Warriors fans–who still enjoy watching the Cavs and Warriors meet in the Finals?
I don’t, and it’s not just because I want my Portland Trail Blazers to make it (though, that would obviously be awesome). Take this season for example: I’m so sick of the Warriors winning that I actually screamed in excitement when the New Orleans Pelicans won a single game against them in their playoff series, despite the fact that in the Pelicans’ previous playoff series, they swept my Blazers in completely dominating fashion.
We know there is a problem in the NBA’s balance of power: How can it be fixed? Here are a few ideas:
- Change the heck out of the salary cap policies. The NBA has ridiculous salary cap policies, most notably the presence of a “soft” salary cap in addition to the “hard” salary cap. The soft salary cap gives NBA teams MANY exceptions which allow them to go over the soft cap to sign players. I may go into those in more detail in another post, but for the sake of preventing this post from getting too long, I’ll just leave you with this: According to spotrac.com, the 5 NBA teams that are furthest over the cap are all 2018 playoff teams and the top 2 of those are the Cavaliers and the Warriors. I’m guessing the billionaire owners don’t mind spending so much money considering they are competing for a championship every season (which also usually means greater fan attendance and higher ticket prices to make up for the extra money spent).
- Change the playoff format from seven game playoff series to single game matchups. Everybody loves March Madness in College Basketball because nobody knows what will happen–case-in-point: UMBC. That’s because if a team wants to win it all, they have to play their best in EVERY GAME. If the favorites take a game off, the underdogs will rise. The seven game playoff series pretty much guarantees that the better team will advance to the next round, which is occasionally a lower seeded team. But that playoff format is boring. Want proof? Viewership numbers from Showbuzz Daily and TV By the Numbers on Wikipedia indicate that the clinching game is consistently, BY FAR the most viewed game in the NBA Finals, most notably in 2016 and 2014:
- 2016- 10.32 million more viewers of final game than second-most watched game. Gap between second-most viewed and least-viewed: 4.23 million viewers.
- 2014- 2.46 million more viewers of final game than second-most watched game. Gap between second-most viewed and least-viewed: 0.76 million viewers.
- Conference Realignment. This solution is the easiest, yet least practical. It’s simple: If the Warriors and Cavs play in the same conference, they can’t play against each other in the NBA Finals. It’s complicated: This would involve more traveling for teams, which would wear out the players more and cost the teams more.
College football has been trying to stop Nick Saban, so why isn’t the NBA trying to stop the Warriors and Cavs? Maybe there is a better idea out there to level the competition in the NBA (if you have an idea, let me know in the comments), but certainly we are at the point where something needs to be done.