The NBA is the best league in the world, in this writer’s humble opinion. But it’s not perfect. There are things the league can do to make the product even more appealing and improve the quality of play.
Here are a few ideas.
No. 1 – Shorten the season
If you’re familiar with my work, you know where I stand on this. Eighty-two games in five and a half months is insane. It’s hard on the players mentally and physically, and it’s too many games to garner interest from the casual sports fan.
I have independently spoken to sports scientists, trainers and sports medicine professionals over the past two years. They all agree an 82-game regular season is too taxing a load on the body. Two physical loads (games) over a seven day period is the consensus by that informal group.
The difference between 82 games today and the same amount in the 2010s, 2000s, and 1990s is the taxing nature of the game. The average possessions per game in an NBA game in the three decades prior to this one was 94. In this decade the average amount of possessions per game is 99.82 and climbing.
The average amount of three-point attempts per game in the three decades prior was 16.7. In this decade the average three point attempts per game is 34.7 and also climbing.
What that means is, there is more ground a player has to cover now in an NBA game than ever before. In eras past teams ran a single action on offense and played from the post out. Even the least imaginative offensive teams in this era run multiple actions.
The game has evolved and the league needs to evolve as well.
.@jj_redick revisits the conversation of a potential shortened NBA season.
"The reality is the wear and tear on our bodies is very different than it was 20-30 years ago and that's a fact." pic.twitter.com/QKLTtFq92i
— First Take (@FirstTake) June 7, 2022
The NBA currently has 30 teams, if each team plays the other 29 twice (home and away) that’s a 58-game season. If played over the same mid October to April time period, you wouldn’t have more than two games played by any team over a seven day period.
That schedule would allow for a recovery day, a strength training day, a practice day (coaches will be happy about this), a cardio and skill development day and film study. None of these things happen during the regular season. Players often strength train immediately following a game or the morning of, and there is essentially no practice during the regular season.
No. 2 – Eliminate the rule about the shot clock not starting until a team with possession touches the ball in bounds
Players all across the league do this, none more so than the Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant. He often uses it to get a slower defender moving towards him, so he can pick up the ball and race by him to the rim. Or to draw a foul on an overly aggressive defender.
This can get really boring and annoying from a fan perspective. When the ball is inbounded the shot clock should start, get the game moving.
Ja was content just waiting 😅 pic.twitter.com/J39BhJ9ZzJ
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 5, 2023
If in this case as the announcers suspect, Morant just needed some rest. There’s a solution for that. See above.
No. 3 – More team trophies
As a fan of association football (soccer) one of the things you get to enjoy is your team having multiple opportunities to win a trophy. In the NBA, the only trophy that matters is the Larry O’Brien for winning the NBA Finals.
So that means by definition, every year the fanbases of 29 other teams are unhappy. That stinks.
Why not borrow from association football? Whether your team plays in the Premier League, La Liga, or Bundesliga there is an opportunity to win at least three trophies.
One for winning your domestic league’s season. If the NBA is going to continue to say the regular season matters, then make it matter. If a team grinds through the entire season with the best record they should be rewarded with more than just the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Celebrate being better than 29 other teams over the course of five and a half months.
The regular season champ gets rewarded, the playoff champ gets rewarded, and a third trophy for the winner of an in-season tournament should get rewarded.
No. 4 -UEFA Champions League-style tournament
So NBA commissioner Adam Silver already said an in-season tournament is on the way for the 2023-24 season. But he should be thinking bigger than just domestic. Though it’s a good start.
Work with the top professional basketball leagues around the world to create a huge world championship. Round-robin group stage followed, by single-elimination rounds to the championship.
Yes, the NBA will win a lot of the time because of the talent. But anything can happen in a single-elimination tournament. There are extremely talented players overseas who would love to make a name for themselves by lighting up an NBA team.
No. 5 – Eliminate the draft
Why are we rewarding teams for being terrible? Every year players who are talented enough to play in the best basketball league in the world get told where they have to live and work. We don’t do this in any other profession.
Abolish the draft.
Don’t give me the lame excuse that every young player will want to play in L.A., New York or Miami. That’s false and also not feasible. Players want to play. Going to a situation where they will be forced to ride the pine or get limited minutes because it’s a better city is untrue.
What this will do is force teams to be better in their operations. Have better player development programs, better player performance staffs, better facilities, a clear mission and vision on team direction and where a player will fit in.
The teams that can do the best job will be able to secure whomever they want, coming into the league.