Exploring Ideas For Reform In The NBA

In this article, Step-Back J will discuss some of the possible changes that have been talked around the league, as it pertains to off-court issues with direct impact on the court.

Lottery Reform: Last October the lottery reform failed to pass on the league’s board of governors going 17-13 in favor of the reform (to pass it needed 23 votes in favor). This season it is certainly going to be talked again. The insane all-out public tanking route the Philadelphia 76ers took (and seem to still be taking) has made news covers for the worst reasons: they are playing to lose, it goes against the nature of the sport and so on. Obviously as a fan you hate to see your team lose, and even more so when there is the idea that it is intentional. But let’s be honest: the draft idea is great. Weaker teams get a chance on landing a top prospect that year, while stronger teams get to pick the players, who usually don’t make an impact as early on. The reason is simple and fan-friendly: Improve the competition which is ultimately what we, as objective fans, want. What is wrong is taking advantage of the system. But the changes that have surfaced are pretty bad and would even be worse. The rotational system (every team gets the 1st pick during a 30 year span) is blasphemous. Imagine the Miami Heat during their consecutive championship runs and having a chance at grabbing a guy like Shaq. He’d be on his rookie contract for at least 4 years, and the disparity and dominance against the rest of the competition in the Eastern Conference would be huge. Also a team that is in a small market could have to possibly wait around 10-15 years to get a decent lottery pick? That doesn’t sound good at all.  A tournament for the non-playoff team where they compete for the top pick seems to be a decent idea but not without its negatives, what would happen if Kevin Durant would have healed in time for this tournament? Oklahoma City would have demolished the opposition and grabbed either Towns or Okafor. For other options I recommend the following article: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1909530-nba-draft-lottery-what-are-the-alternatives

Final Take: As of right now there does not seem to be a solution as good as the current one. My take is maintain the current system.

End of Divisions: This season the San Antonio Spurs were forced to face the Los Angeles Clippers because the Portland Trailblazers won a weaker division, and therefore is automatically granted a higher seed, allowing them to avoid the Clippers. In case you don’t know a division winner is automatically granted a top 4 seed regardless of other team’s records.  Both Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers expressed dislike towards this rule, while many others seem to stand by it. Obviously divisions have its advantages: you play your division rivals a higher amount of times, and as divisions are made based on geographic position, it leads to a lesser amount of travel which is always good to put a better product on the floor as it regards to fatigue. What has been suggested is to keep the divisions but not guaranteeing a higher seed or even a playoff spot to the winners. The higher seed part seems to be non-controversial. The part about not guaranteeing a playoff spot? Not so much, as many division winners like to benefit from being in typically weaker divisions, and it is also appealing to the NBA not “banning” completely a geographic region from the NBA playoffs. A plan of action to disregard a top four spot, and just allow for a guaranteed playoff spot sounds to be more appealing to everyone, as you can win your division, make the playoffs, and the NBA keeps making revenue from that market, while also rewarding teams who have better records. 

Final Take: Ban the higher seeds to division winners. If you want to take the next step forward and take division winners guaranteed playoff spot, further issues will surface, but for now allow for division winners to keep a guaranteed spot, just not a top four spot. 

End of Conferences: The disparity between conferences has been well documented. A 38-44 Brooklyn Nets make the playoffs and a 45-37 Oklahoma City Thunder team misses it, 7 50-win teams in the west VS 2 50-win teams in the east. We have heard it numerous times in references: “I would give them a shot in the east” or “They could not do it in the west”. For starters, the disparity seems to be getting smaller. Despite the records not indicating, the Eastern Conference seems primed for massive improvement this season: Miami, Indiana, Milwaukee, and Washington seem to be heading for better seasons, be it because of health issues (Miami and Indiana) and player development (Milwaukee and Washington) giving the East what seems a solid 8 teams (Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Washington, Miami, Milwaukee, Indiana, and Toronto). Nonetheless they still don’t compare to the powerhouses of the west. Taking away Cleveland, Chicago, and Miami no one thinks an East team can make a series competitive against teams like Golden State, San Antonio, Houston, Memphis, Los Angeles, or Oklahoma City. Nonetheless, there is also the familiarity factor: We would like to see (a couple of years from now once their rebuilds are complete) a Lakers Vs Celtics classic finals and not a Lakers Celtics first round match-up. There is also the regional factor I made reference to in the previous point: if, say, only the best 16 teams would get in the playoffs, regardless of conference, we would see what? 2 or 3 east teams in the playoffs and 12/13 of the west. Yes an argument can be made for the better product on the floor, but having the East not getting as many teams in the playoffs leaves us again with an entire region without access to playoff basketball, which is probably not what the NBA wants.

Final Take: Maintain the current system, as it seems to be at the moment the most favorable option for everyone.

MVP Voting: Recently an issue has surfaced about the legitimacy of the MVP voting being made by a panel of media member’s by former MVP Kevin Durant: “You guys get too much power to vote on stuff quite frankly I don’t think you know a lot about, not as much as we know about it. We play against these guys, we battle against these guys, we know what they say on the court, we know how they handle their teams, how they approach the game. Our vote should count. Our opinions should count. I don’t think you guys know as much as we do and I don’t see why you have more power than we do.” Let’s break it down. As human beings and as a part of the media they are very subjective when deciding on who to vote for. Narratives matter, the story of the underdog usually gets votes. Even current and former players, if they had a chance to vote, would fall victim to this. Voter fatigue is also an issue as proven by the fact that Jordan “only” has 5 MVP’s or LeBron not having won more than 4 MVP’s. Obviously, as Durant says, they are the ones who play against these guys giving them a unique opportunity to evaluate them. Despite that, we cannot ignore the fact that many journalists do know what they are talking about and, despite not playing, are widely regarded as experts on the matter. Also, if we sometimes consider journalists biased, won’t players be the same? Does anyone believe Noah would vote LeBron for MVP?  

Final Take: Rearrange the voting panel so that 50% is composed of journalists and 50% of NBA players. How the NBA players decide who would be voting is a bit tricky: all players vote or they choose a certain number of representatives that vote in the name of the players. One method would be giving every team one player to vote, and teams who make the playoffs get another selection, therefore increasing the drive to make the playoffs, fielding a better product on and off the court. 

By: Step-Back J

Edited By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17

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