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An NBA Fan’s Perspective

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The NBA is unlike many other major leagues in the world, not necessarily because of its uniqueness of schedule and playoff seed structure. This league, which houses the best basketball players in the world is my favourite to watch, because of one major reason: There is a high opportunity for the bad teams to become good.

The NBA has a cap system and a draft system. These are similar to the NFL, except that the American football league has a hard cap, rather than a soft cap. The players within it are also not as free. In the NBA cap system, every team has the same amount of money which is to be allocated to the salary for the players.

As such, a team cannot have too many great players who earn maximum contracts, as that would mean they exceed the salary cap limit. If that happens, then the team in turn would have to pay a massive tax of millions of dollars to the NBA—an action that most NBA team owners would not want to perform.

This is unlike European football, where the financial backing of a wealthy benefactor allows teams like Manchester City and Chelsea to pay and sign any player that they deem fit. In the NBA, this is not the case. Players must live out their contracts, otherwise the contracts are to be traded to another team. In those trades, the money exchange on the player contracts involved, must be in such a case that either team does not exceed the salary cap limit.

This is complicated, I know. Let’s assume LeBron James from the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors both have contracts, in which the teams are to pay them both $30,000,000 a year. They are both max contract players. In the trade, assuming the salary cap for all the teams is $100,000,000 and both teams are at the cap limit, then the contract exchange would work out financially. It would only be left to the teams to decide whether they were comfortable with the player they would be getting from the trade.

Teams also have draft picks. The NBA draft occurs once a year before the NBA season begins, and that is when young prospects from the United States collegiate competition declare themselves available to be picked by NBA teams.

Players who play in overseas leagues also have the opportunity to do the same. Each team has two picks—one in the first round, and another in the second round of the draft. The teams which performed terribly in the previous year have the first few picks, therefore, they have the first choices in the draft, which is usually when teams draft franchise altering players.

For instance, in the 2012 NBA draft, the New Orleans Pelicans selected Anthony Davis from the University of Kentucky. In the years since then, he has made multiple All-Star appearances and he has made multiple All-NBA teams. In the year before that, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving from Duke University and Irving was instrumental in bringing the first ever NBA championship to Cleveland, alongside his then-teammate, LeBron James (Who was also picked first overall in his draft). In this year’s draft, teams are battling for Zion Williamson from Duke University, as the 19-year-old may turn out to be the next franchise altering talent to come into the NBA.

In the same way that teams can get good, they equally can get bad. Using LeBron James as an example, yet again, in the 2017-2018 NBA season, he guided the team to the playoff finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors. That offseason, LeBron James chose to sign with the Lakers in free agency.

Now, the team that he took to the finals has the worst record in their conference. One great player can be that effective in altering a team’s progress. Teams can also make trades of their picks and sign players as free agents. In that being so, there are a variety of different ways in which teams can have the chance to get great players to improve their performances.

This is not the case with some of Europe’s biggest football leagues, where the bigger teams typically buy players out of their contracts with the smaller teams and give out larger contracts when they sign with them. In this league, that is not the case. Each team has an avenue to get themselves out of a bad spot. Each team has a fighting chance. Each team can get better, if they play their cards right.


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