Rather than overintroduce him, I'll let him be himself when he has posting privileges. For now, right onto his column...
Parity is one of the words that has produced a bitter taste in the mouths of sports fans over the past few years, alongside “Bonds”, “Goodell”, and “LeBron”. It implies mediocrity and induces boredom. What I intend to prove is that it can help save the NBA. There are many overlooked benefits to this word that has been tainted throughout the sports world. Look at the NFL. When is there a week when your favorite team is playing that you aren’t at least somewhat nervous? There were a plethora of upsets in the 2010 season, including the Browns beating both the Patriots and the Saints, the Rams beating the Chargers, and the Raiders crushing the Broncos. Admittedly, the Bills, Panthers, and Cardinals do not bring too much fear to their opponents in the past couple of years, but the term “Any Given Sunday” still has merit. This is something the NBA could borrow from the NFL, and I am not talking about the concept of a lockout. Parity would increase the number of contenders, spread the talent of the NBA, and would still ride this new-found excitement caused by all-stars being teammates for 83 games a season instead of 1.
Let’s face it, there are only a handful of NBA contenders anymore and I would expect this number to decline over the next few years. Right now you have the Bulls, Heat, Celtics, Lakers, Spurs, Mavs, Thunder and we can throw in the Knicks and Nuggets if you want to stretch the definition of the word. The Celtics, Lakers, Spurs, and Mavs aren’t getting any younger and as much as I love Kobe, Garnett, Duncan, and Dirk they can not play forever. All of these teams have at least two all stars besides the Nuggets and Mavs (unless you want to count Jason Terry, who is on the border) with some of them having three. After the 2012 free agency, it can be assumed Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams will have relocated to one of these teams (sorry Dwight I don’t believe for two seconds that you want to stay in Orlando so you can have your name along with Turkoglu, Carter, Jason Richardson, and Arenas. If you do they will have to change their name to the Overpaid Orlando Underachievers). To look at the impact that’ll have, look at the 2010 free agency. Stoudemire left the Suns, LeBron left the Cavs, and Bosh left the Raptors. The Suns were sub-.500, the Raptors faded into irrelevance (people forget they did make the playoffs occasionally with Bosh and were at least capable of beating teams), and we all know how awful the Cavaliers are post-LeBron.
There is no denying that in 2010 the NBA enjoyed its highest ratings and most watched Finals since the series had moved to ABC in 2003. But how long until this spectacle of stacking teams becomes old? How many times in the next few years will the Bulls face the Heat in the Eastern finals with the winner going on to face the Thunder? And what about these teams that are left with nothing after their superstars bail to go play for more desirable teams? Look at even new players coming into the league and the teams they are drafted by. Blake Griffin exploded on to the scene this past season and I will admit he has made the Clippers watchable again. But I am pretty sure they would have won more than 32 games if the casual fan could name anyone else who earns their paycheck (I swear that was not a shot at Chris Kaman). You can’t deny John Wall is piling up dishes in Washington like he’s a busboy at Red Lobster. Can you name who’s cashing in on those assists? Yeah, neither can he.
So what’s my point? I will completely agree this new look NBA is exciting, for now. Pretty soon the Knicks (I don’t buy that Chris Paul at Melo’s wedding speculation, but they are going to get one of those big 2012 free agents), Thunder, Heat, Bulls, and Lakers (in Los Angeles money does buy wins, if you don’t believe me ask Dodgers fans who watched their team decline along with Frank McCourt’s net worth) will be the only viable contenders. So why not just condense the league into four all-star teams since that is the road we seem to be following at this point anyway? If this trend continues the once highly anticipated Spurs vs. Celtics regular season games will be just as pointless as the Raptors vs. Cavs games are now. Toronto and Cleveland fans(or should I just say Cleveland since Raptor fans are a myth), nobody was waiting with anticipation for Jose Calderon to match up against Baron Davis. A simple business principle is that in order to raise competition you need to eliminate monopolies, reaffirming the saying “share the wealth”. There are about 30 players in the NBA with a max contract through the 2011-2012 season, yet about 10 teams do not have a single max contract. Some of the 20 teams that do have a max contract player paid a lucrative amount for mediocre talent. Most sports enthusiasts would be surprised to learn there is a 76er who makes $17 million and a Wizard who makes $22 million.
Now how do we go about spreading talent to other teams that have a desperate need for it? If I am not mistaken I read somewhere that the NBA could possibly have a lockout while a new CBA is drafted. The owners are unhappy because the NBA has always leaned in the favor of the players. And I am sure they are in a great debate to find a solution to this problem. I am not saying I have all the answers, just most, but if I were sitting at those discussions I would have a suggestion. Limiting each team to 2 max contracts(for the same amount and length) and no fully guaranteed contracts. Before the groans and choice words from the players could be the soundtrack for my hypothetical situation, I would continue to explain that this doesn’t mean less money for them in the long run. It means proving you are not a bust and proving you belong before you can earn big money. The Greg Odens of the world do not need to make $9 million. Players would still make the same amount once they have earned a max contract, and professional athletes do not tend to shy away from proving their ability or protecting their pride. It also means players who may now be on the border of deserving a max contract would receive them from certain teams, as once you have designated a specific amount every team will want to fulfill that quota. I may be losing some of you so let me paint a clearer picture. Last year Miami would sign two of the big three and the third would play somewhere else. LeBron could have signed with the Timberwolves for instance (they could use it Michael Beasley earns the most on their team at around $6 million) As the 2012 free agency approaches Chris Paul might want to sign with the Clippers to play with Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard might want to sign with Washington to play with John Wall, and Deron Williams might end up signing with the Timberwolves to play with LeBron. Now the Timberwolves, Clippers, and Wizards have jumped to contention, while you have stopped the Knicks, Lakers, and Heat from becoming perennial powerhouses for the next 7 years. All of these players would still earn the same amount just spread out across different teams. More teams means new playoff matchups, which means continued excitement. Not all 30 teams would be equal, but there would be more than four contenders I can assure you that. Owners of worse teams could attract more fans with new talent and more games would become meaningful. The players would still earn the same amounts once they had proven they were worth it.
I began with talking about how the NFL has succeeded through relative equality, and contracts that are only partially guaranteed have stopped owners from dumping large sums of money into busts. The Texans drafted David Carr in 2002 and he was guaranteed $10 million in his rookie year, while in 2001 Chris Webber signed a deal in which he would average $17.5 million in guaranteed money. The Texans not only were gambling on a first overall pick, but were also not stuck paying his entire salary once he hadn’t fulfilled expectations. He was cut after 5 years and a total of $35 million. Although The Kings signed Webber to the lucrative deal, they got his best years out of him before trading him to the 76ers in 2005. He was awful for them and they were stuck paying him upwards of $20 million during the last 2 years of that deal. The best way to spread the wealth and keep the NBA exciting would be to limit teams to only 2 max contracts at a time, spreading talent. Giving owners a way to cut their losses and opt out of bad investments would allow teams to no longer allow overpaid players to fill their salary caps. I conclude with where I started, endorsing parity. Wait is the bitter taste now gone from your mouth when you hear that word? I’ll take credit for that.