Improving the NBA

i love this game

In case you missed some previous podcast episodes, here are some NBA tournaments that I have been proposing for some time now. No, this isn’t about the rules like traveling or flagrant fouls, but a much bigger picture. The NBA is interested in growing more globally, among other endeavors. Let me preface the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament and NBA Draft Prospect Tournament ideas with a change to the current NBA playoff structure. Whether these make you want to hop on the bandwagon or they simply entertain you, enough to get you thinking, you’re reading this because you love the game too.

New NBA Playoff Picture

What is the point to acquiring the first seed if teams like the San Antonio Spurs are good enough to get a top-4 seed anyway? You can’t fault Greg Popovich for starting a trend by resting his players throughout the season, as he sees fit. It’s pure genius and it’s worked for them as a contender, as well as prolonging players’ careers.

The top seed, although it has happened before, they usually beat up on the 8th seed in the first round. The NFL is a more physical sport that plays 1/5 the games of what the NBA does, but the huge reward for the top teams is a first round bye. That’s exactly what I’d like to see in the Association for the top seed in each conference. Just the first seed, not the second, meaning I would cut out the 8th seed entirely. After the first round everything carries on as usual, making this a 14-team bracket for the championship. I’m coming from a pure basketball angle here. I do realize the NBA is a business in the corporate world and this is highly unlikely.

NBA Draft Lottery Tournament

This one I don’t expect to ever garner much interest, but it’s an idea nonetheless. The teams with the worst records always get the most lottery balls, I think we are all on the same page with that. However, that is really a display of approval or not putting out the best product on the court, resulting in a lost season or multiple. In other words, tanking, or a strategy that doesn’t aim for the professional competitiveness we should expect as consumers.

No, I’m not all for Mark Cuban’s 20-team playoff proposal. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks is very business-oriented, all over the place, fun, and I’m a fan of his. It’s hard enough to watch the first round of the postseason, so scratch those mediocre teams at best, from being allowed access.

What I’m talking about includes the lottery balls that are already awarded to the 14 teams that don’t make the postseason. What about those teams that get caught in between? I mean, they’re not terrible enough to have favorable odds for a high pick, nor good enough to make the postseason for whatever reason. Why penalize them for being competitive? They try to make a playoff push and fall short, it happens. It must be promising in Sam Hinkie’s eyes, that 7-year plan he’s got going on in Philadelphia. Hey, he’s beating the system right now without the need to conceal his motives and I understand it. This is where the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament kicks in.

It will not allow teams to be completely terrible and laughable. Sure, the weight of the lottery balls will still be there and it should. I’m proposing for all 14 teams to play in a single elimination tournament, the higher you place, the more lottery balls you get awarded.

The postseason is a 16-team bracket, 8 from each conference. But, remember that I previously cut out the 8th seed, so you can throw those 2 teams into this bracket instead. Rather than separate teams by conference, they would be seeded according to record. None of these teams deserve a bye to begin with, but now this tournament is comparable to the college sweet 16 in March Madness. This can be hyped up, some more basketball for every team rather than just watching the playoffs on the tube. I don’t see why this opportunity, business wise, would put a damper on the playoff picture. A tournament between the non-playoff teams for lottery picks should actually draw more revenue than the current format. All I did was eliminate a pair of teams that, generally, sneak into the last seed. Those teams are constantly being escorted out by a sweep, or a 5-game gentleman’s sweep.

This definitely opens up a can of worms:

  • Oklahoma City’s window of opportunity is quickly diminishing for all we know, and this of course, hinges on future free agency with Kevin Durant in 2016 and Russell Westbrook shortly after. The Thunder built a championship contender through the draft, got bit by the injury bug several times, and winning the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament could save their franchise from falling to the level of the 76ers and such. How? Maybe they win the tournament and wind up with a pick in the 4-8 range, drafting a player like Justice Winslow, Kristops Porzingis, or any lottery pick they see fit.
  • Philly would actually have to throw money at free agents, likely more than one, and possibly enter the hunt for a lower playoff seed. That kind of fortune changes everything, they could very well be one all-star and a couple of role players away from taking a leap to become contenders. Until something is done by the league, they’re really doing nothing wrong.
  • People got excited about the Utah Jazz again. Some believe that they will enter the playoff picture, simply by the development of their own youth, which would be inspiring to see come to fruition for fans and rival franchises alike.
  • The Indiana Pacers got Paul George back around mid-season from a gruesome injury. Time caught up to this recent contender, who has seen a roster overhaul as of late. George is healthy and they signed Monta Ellis, The east is vulnerable enough for them to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals with a top-7 lottery pick, if they were to win or place high in the NBA Draft Lottery Tournament.

There’s countless examples or situations that you or I can go on and on about, those were just a few off the top of my head.

NBA Draft Prospect Tournament

This next tournament is something I strongly believe needs to be implemented as early as next offseason. The last time I checked, general managers, media, and fans don’t give a damn about player agents unless it’s to their benefit. The media and fans want more basketball, and the exposure of Summer League continues to grow. What also continues to grow is the amount of busts with the first pick in the draft. Sometimes you’ll hear about the 2nd pick busts, occasionally the third pick busts. When you really think about it, it’s a big deal to bust in the top 10. Apparently, the bottom teams need more help in a world that the Spurs snag Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler goes to the Bulls at the end of the first round. What about Draymond Green and DeAndre Jordan going to the California teams int he 2nd round? Those are just the recent breakout stars that were not lottery picks.

So, there’s 60 players that get drafted. Some go undrafted but latch on with summer league teams and practice squads. There’s also the supplemental draft. There’s just so much uncertainty and misses, and each team has a scouting department that focuses on college and overseas prospects full-time. This alone makes me want to get into a scouting department with some franchise.

Basketball is more free-flow with the way the game is played on how it’s covered,a s opposed to other sports. It’s a league driven on individual stars to reel more and more fans into the game. The league has gone global with other endeavors, more on that later. Maybe the Miami Heat can avoid drafting Michael Beasley with the 2nd pick. There are tons of teams and high picks that I’m sure you can recall so I won’t bore you with that.

The NBA can cut out some of the mystery by selecting a certain number of draft-eligible prospects, putting them on mixed up teams, and giving them the platform to show what they have before draft night. Why not give general managers and scouts a competitive tournament? Why not let the media and fans watch D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay go head-to-head? Or Anthony Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor? Give these players a chance to boost their draft stock. With that, of course, comes an injury risk at losing money or even dropping their stock. Look, you can wind up on the shelf by playing Summer League, in preseason, at practice, in a regular season game, and in the playoffs. Some players are unfortunate enough to get hurt away from the court, perhaps in the weight room or by tripping over luggage like Carlos Boozer once did, or so that was the story that was released.

As for specifics, the NBA can do as they prefer, which could mean inviting 60-80 players that could get drafted. Sometimes you have to keep things simple and to leave room for growth when it comes to an idea. I would invite the top-40 prospects, like top-40 music, and place them on 4 teams with 10 players each. Let their play do the talking and forget the agents and their agendas. Let the GMs, scouts, and us all watch and formulate better informed opinions. I would love to see less busts and better fits for every team with every pick. Now, that won’t necessarily happen but the addition of this tournament is another avenue for revenue, and also maximizes player value for these franchises.

NBA Overseas League

There will be a time when the NBA wants to expand and after all, it is a global sport between spectators and people who play the sport. This one is more self-explanatory. The Association can even attempt to take ownership or current leagues that are running and combine them, if they didn’t want to build a new foundation from scratch. The NBA Developmental League can still be for draft picks that haven’t quite made the cut, top national prospects and such. I’m not talking about some affiliation either, but an actual NBA league in Europe and China. There are leagues in Mexico and Canada, perhaps get involved with the closer territory leagues first, or invite those top players to the D-League.

I’ a huge fan of basketball. To be honest, it taught me a lot of good habits to develop at a young age. That’s how I broke the barrier to communicate with adults, and it helped me make a lot of fiends over the years. That’s why I got into coaching after playing 20+ years of basketball, before getting into sports writing and hosting to relay information and expand on the game’s innovation.