Saturday, March 20, 2010

Compress the NBA

I am hardly an NBA expert. However, I do like to watch the Chicago Bulls from time to time and am excited that a #1 draft pick, Derrick Rose, somehow landed in their lap.

Due to salary cap issues and the fact that some marquee free agents are going to be available next year, teams have been making moves in order to free up space. Recently I was watching the Bulls and basically they got rid of half their team in order to prepare for next year; Salmons and Tyrus Thomas were sent packing, for not too much in return.

The real issue is that there are WAY too many teams in the league given the talent level. I was reading "The Book of Basketball" by Bill Simmons when he talks about the level of talent in the late 80's during the reign of Larry Bird with the Celtics. The Celtics had the following guys:

- Larry Bird (one of the top players of all time)
- Kevin McHale (hall of fame)
- Robert Parish (hall of fame)
- Dennis Johnson (should be in the hall of fame, called one of the most under-rated players of all time, and Larry Bird named him his favorite team mate)
- Danny Ainge (not a hall of famer, but certainly a high quality combative player)
- Bill Walton off the bench (another hall of famer)

And the Lakers had the following guys:

- Magic Johnson (hall of fame)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (hall of fame)
- James Worthy (hall of fame)
- A.C. Green (another quality player, played in more consecutive games than any other player per Wikipedia, at least)
- Byron Scott (not a hall of famer, but a quality player)
- Mychal Thompson (also not in hall of fame, but a #1 draft pick and valuable player)

By these sorts of milestones, you might have 4 hall of fame players (or near hall of fame players) on the same team in the 1980's (the best teams, of course).

The NBA began to get more watered down in the 1990's, as far as spreading the stars across more teams. As a Chicago Bulls fan, I watched over the years as the Bulls struggled to find players to compliment Michael Jordan (in reality, just to take a bit of the load off him) until they found the soon-to-be hall of fame player Scottie Pippen (eligible in 2010). Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman (they didn't play together) weren't hall of fame players but not far off.

By these sorts of milestones, if you get 2 hall of fame players together in the 1990's you were on top, with a third player very near that caliber (either Grant or Rodman).

Today, however, if you get TWO top players on a team - well that's all she wrote, you are up for the championship. LeBron James is struggling to get one other player so that they can win it all; now he is trying with an aging Shaq (out injured for the season). When Shaq and Kobe were working well together, there's a championship in the bag, and when Shaq and Wade were doing well there's a championship for Miami.

So instead of having 30 teams, let's go down to around 6. The vast majority of these teams don't have a chance anyways, so let's put some top teams together rather than have Kevin Durant over at Oklahoma City by himself the same way Allen Iverson wasted his career with no support in Philly (before wasting all his money).

We can keep the Celtics, Lakers, and then a few other ones. Doesn't really matter which franchises - after that to each their own. I'd have to say that the Bulls should be out of the running since Jordan was obviously a fluke; they have gone back to their natural state of lousiness since he departed in a sea of acrimony over Krause's comment that it was the franchise, not Jordan, that won those championships (literally one of the stupidest things ever said in sports).

Why even follow these teams that are just empty shells waiting for the superstars to drop in? Look at the Bulls - they have a bona-fide star in Derrick Rose and a guy who could be a 3rd quality player in Noah if he keeps improving, and then if you drop in someone like LeBron you get your two top players and a bit of a cast and now you are a bona fide contender. But for all this you still have players making millions just to fill out your roster; let's look at the cost of the Bulls roster right now (salaries from this site):

Brad Miller - $12.2M
Loul Deng - $10.3M
Kirk Hinrich - $9.5M
Jerome James - $6.6M
Derrick Rose - $5.1M
Tim Thomas - $4.8M
Hakim Warrick - $3M
Joe Alexander - $2.5M
Joakim Noah - $2.5M
Acie Law - $2.2M

Really... is anyone going to pay to see Miller? Or Hinrich? Or JEROME James (we'd pay to see the other James). This is big money for mid-level talent. Why even bother? Just compress the teams and let's just stop with the idea that a team like the Bulls would ever even get out of the first or MAYBE second rounds of the playoffs with a roster like this.


Dan from Madison said...

Whoa that is a lot of dough for some pretty damned average players. Don't get me started on basebell though. Look at Jeff Suppan's salary on my belved Brewers once and then look at his era and that is all you have to see.

Why not have me pitch for his rotation? there is almost no possible way I can do worse.

Dan from Madison said...

more to the point, baseball as well should have like 12 teams tops. It is no coincidence that everyone hits 20 hr every year. Imagine the numbers the Babe would put with diluted pitching, just like Bird or Magic would have double their career numbers if they played now.

Carl from Chicago said...

A friend of mine said baseball would be really interesting if they played like 25 games. Then every pitch would matter and everyone would play all out

Dan from Madison said...

That is why I like Craig Counsell so much - he plays every pitch like it is his last.

To the larger point, I agree that 162 games is WAY too many, but I am always smarting when it is over. And there is nothing like a month long divisional or wild card race to keep the tension high.

Baseball has, by far, the most tense moments - you are into a team for a half a year, then they go into a couple week stretch that can make or break a season.

I don't like the playoffs, however - so random to try to boil down a years success into one seven game series. Too much luck, as Moneyball clearly makes known.

Dan from Madison said...

Of course there is the flip side when your team is out of it by 18 games by the All Star Break. It is still strangely comforting for me to be able to have the Brewers on in the background if I am working or doing whatever - it seems to make summer complete.

Carl from Chicago said...

We probably correlate baseball with summer which makes it better.

Maybe the next generation will correlate with NASCAR or something like that.

Not to sound like the famous George Carlin riff on baseball vs. football but if you described baseball to someone who didn't know about it already as a 162 game slog with multiple rounds of playoffs they'd think that this was pretty insane and there has to be a better way to determine a champion.

Dan from Madison said...

Agree wrt the summer correlation. NASCAR is even longer though, with their first race in February in Daytona and I think the season ends in October or November.

Think it would be funny describing how we come up with a baseball champion? Try that same scenario with someone who didn't know about college football.

This time of year, with March Madness and all the excitement and joy that it brings, I am always reminded what a failure college football playoffs would be.

It always reminds me of your old analogy of the f*cked up United gate twenty feet down from the packed, efficiently run Southwest gate in the airport and United doesn't have a clue as to what they could do differently to succeed.