The sport of basketball is arguably one of the most exciting sports for even a casual fan to watch. Fast paced action, easy to understand and some of the best athletes in the world. However, no product is without sin, and the world’s most prolific basketball league is not an exception. Here are a few simple ideas that can almost immediately make the NBA that much better as a league.
Remove the one and done rule– In summary, the NBA currently requires an NBA player to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school graduation. This is certainly not a new argument but one worth revisiting. Players go through the charade of attending a college they have no intention of truly participating in. Additionally, it is an unnecessary risk for prospective NBA players, not to mention that colleges are getting a revolving door of athletes that their fanbase cannot get attached to.
Do not “fix” tanking– Effective starting in the 2018-2019 season, the NBA has reduced the odds for the worst performing teams to win the top pick. Though well-intentioned, the move is a misguided one. The notion that tanking is somehow needs to be corrected is completely missing the boat.
Tanking is no different than fouling inefficient free throw shooters. Finessing rules to work in your advantage is exactly how competition should work. Rather than punishing tankers, there can be additional incentives for teams that end up in the middle of the pack.
If a team is not good enough to compete for a title, or at least make the playoffs, why shouldn’t they maximize their odds of improving their team long term? Mediocrity is a barren wasteland for any NBA franchise in the current landscape, a true correction would reward teams on a scale.
Max contracts need to die– Seeing as the NBA already has a soft cap in place, enforcing max contracts on top of this seems redundant if nothing else. It has resulted in a landscape with overpaid complementary players and underpaid superstars. Eradicating max contracts will allow the free market to better determine a player’s worth. If a team desires to drastically overpay one player and offer the rest of their roster minimum contracts, that should be their prerogative.
Let them talk– This applies to players and coaches off the court. Too often, both players and coaches find themselves in hot water for even the mildest criticism of the league or particularly the refs. An even more egregious example of censorship by the league is how fervently they penalize perceived tampering.
Lakers executive and legend Magic Johnson found himself being fined after giving a positive analysis of how Giannis Antetokounmpo plays. This is particularly perturbing when considering that he was merely answering a reporter’s question and that he only specifically referred to how Giannis fit into the Buck’s system.
An atmosphere whereby players and coaches are allowed to be a bit more candid will more than likely increase fan interest. The usual safe, canned responses tend to turn press conferences into a snooze fest. Of course, NBA executives are wary of the league image, and it does not need to be a free for all, but a decent middle ground surely exists.
Reduce the number of games– Pretty straightforward logic applies to this one. The NBA does already have a decent product considering the caliber of athletes that compete in the Association. However, this product is only degraded by the multiple injuries that NBA players suffer ever year. Back to back games coupled with hectic travel schedules wreak havoc on the bodies of even the most disciplined athletes. Obviously, the Association is not incentivized to enact this change due to revenue concerns, however this revenue can potentially be recouped by charging more.
Control the refs– NBA referees have too much power. Currently, if NBA refs even feel slighted or shown up by an NBA player, you can pretty much guarantee that they will issue a technical foul. I am not advocating that NBA players should be given the freedom to intentionally disrespect refs, but given that during a typical game, emotions are bound to run high at some point, some leeway should be granted to players. Flat out fights such as those that break out in hockey need not be tolerated but it is highly unreasonable to expect angelic behavior from the players.
The above of course is not a complete fix, and as already previously stated, the league is already an excellent one, but it would be several steps in a better direction.
Clint is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and contributed to various sports publications prior to his work with Upside Hoops.