With the NBA season just getting underway, it seemed like a good time to address the major issue developing for basketball’s professional league. Over the past several years, there has been a growing sentiment regarding the NBA regular season. In truth, it has barely mattered. At the end of the year, it always ends up being the same few teams vying for a title and it is predictable.
Take last year for example. The Cavaliers struggled to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference after a rough regular season. Sure, Cleveland was challenged throughout the playoffs, but LeBron James led the Cavs to another finals appearance, the eighth straight year his team has represented the East in the NBA Finals.
On the other hand, the Warriors finally appeared to have a true equal in the West with Houston stocking up on star players. The Rockets had the best regular season record, but Golden State advanced to the finals for the fourth straight season. The route to get there was a bit interesting, but the result was as expected.
I understand in many ways the process makes the result worthwhile, but knowing the ending cheapens the journey.
Let’s be honest, the Golden State Warriors are winning another NBA Championship this year. We don’t need to kid ourselves into thinking this is up for debate. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Dramond Green will be joined by DeMarcus Cousins when he returns from injury. All five of those players are in the top five at their position, with Curry and Durant arguably being the best at theirs.
You cannot convince me the Rockets adding Carmelo Anthony will give them the edge. If anything, it probably hurts Houston defensively more than it helps offensively. The Lakers aren’t challenging this year, even if they added LeBron. With his sidekicks of Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball and Lance Stephenson, this team will be lucky to be a top-four seed in the West.
In the East, there might be some minor intrigue in which up-and-coming team is going to win the conference. Boston finally gets its stars back and retained all of its key free agents. Philadelphia brought in a few more young draft picks to a team with a bunch of rising stars. Neither of these teams added a major asset in the offseason. However, The Celtics almost swept the 76ers without Gordon Hayward last year. For as much as people want to bill this as an exciting matchup, this almost feels predictable as well. Don’t bother try to sell me on whatever it is the Raptors are doing either.
No one is going to admit to it, but the best method for just about every NBA team right now is to wait out the Warriors. No one can even come close to matching all of the talent it has no accumulated on the roster. I mentioned the stating lineup before and didn’t even get to the bench that contains veterans Andre Iguodala and Sean Livingston, plus prospects like Quinn Cook and Jordan Bell.
Now the current core the Warriors have could only take until next year to break up as Cousins signed just a one-year deal with the team. Thompson’s contract expires after this year as well. The exceptions to this wait-it-out approach could come in Boston and Philly, who might want to get their young players experience playing in the NBA Finals before taking a real shot at it when the Golden State dynasty comes to an end.
The NBA has been built around this idea players will continue to jump at the money, but we are seeing that is no longer the case. Players eager to win rings, play with friends or simply stay with a team are undermining the market. It has led to a massive consolidation of talent. It makes the final two rounds of the Western Conference playoffs fairly entertaining, but renders the Eastern Conference version to a formality of who will lose in the finals.
I’m bored of watching super teams. The league has become far too predictable. There are teams you know will be bad every year, like the Magic, Knicks, Nets, Suns and Kings. A few in the middle might surprise, but only enough so to be a flash in the pan. The entertainment value of the NBA season has completely been lost.
This probably isn’t a popular opinion, but it is one that could spell trouble for the NBA. The NFL regular season has never been at a more unpredictable point. The MLB is producing drama throughout the regular season, well into the postseason. College basketball might have just had its craziest edition of March Madness in five years, with another great season in store. Even the English Premier League is shaping up to have one of the better title races it has had in recent years.
Maybe I will end up watching the Western Conference finals, but that will be about it. Anything before that and after that seems like foregone conclusion.