With the NBA community spending early July and perhaps beyond trying to figure out where Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are playing next season, now is the time to look at the state of the NBA from a macro, not micro, lens .
Having the same birthday as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is a year older than me, I feel it my responsibility to look into the future of the league.
The current NBA collective agreement expires after the 2023/24 season.
Meanwhile, the current National TV deals with ESPN and Turner Sports are running through the 2024-25 season.
The next CBA and TV deal will position the league financially for the next decade plus. Financially, the league is in great shape. Franchise values correspond to the value of NFL franchises. But it’s imperative that the Players’ Association and management work together to ensure the league continues to grow and expand its fan base, rather than shutting it down.
I will always favor players over owners. Millionaires over billionaires. But I firmly believe that casual fans have been put off in recent seasons as players engaged in load management and superstar players requested or demanded trades before their four-year contract extension went into effect. See Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets.
Load management is a necessity, but is often abused by players and teams. Here is a common event. A family of four pays $600 for four tickets to see the Lakers play at the Nets on a Thursday night. Hours before the game, they find out that LeBron James and Kevin Durant will both sit out for maintenance. That happens a lot in the NBA and will surely put fans off. The league is so star-driven that if the two biggest stars in a potential match fail to materialize, the value of those tickets and that game will drop exponentially.
If I shelled out $300 to see U2 in concert, I wouldn’t be happy if a tribute band showed up in place of Bono and the Boys.
The TV stations are also in a difficult situation. The next TV deal is expected to be a 10-year deal worth $75 billion. That’s $250 million per team per year. This Thursday night game of the Lakers at Nets on TNT also loses value if LeBron James and Kevin Durant do not play. As great as Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson are, we turn to see the stars on the court, not the stars in the studio.
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One way to encourage star players to play more frequently would be to set a minimum number of games played that is required for players to be eligible for year-end awards. I don’t think it’s asking too much for a player to play in 66 out of 82 games (80%) to qualify for the scoring title, First Team All-NBA, or any other individual award. Awards that enhance a player’s contract.
Player movement in the league is a good thing. It becomes problematic if a player requests a swap within 12 months of signing a four-year contract extension. Because NBA contracts are fully guaranteed, a contract between a player and a team must be considered fair. This isn’t the NFL where contracts aren’t fully guaranteed.
The Nets signed Kevin Durant nearly $200 million over four years. Before that deal even materialized, Durant asked to be traded.
If a player requests a trade with more than 50% of the remaining contract time and is postponed, that player will be charged a tax. A 15% penalty/tax could make players think twice about continuing.
Are these measures draconian? Maybe. But healthy relationships need to have some give and take. Don’t just take.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban coined the phrase, “Pigs get fed, pigs get slaughtered.” There’s so much money for owners and players to make in the league, let’s hope greed doesn’t get in the way of the NBA’s future.
John Sapochetti is co-host of the Pick & Roll NBA Podcast with JET & SAP, which can be heard here on Full Press Coverage.
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