Last season, I posted my thoughts on the third consecutive NBA Finals matchup between Golden State and Cleveland.
Since sports fans will be treated to a fourth consecutive matchup, I figured it was appropriate to reassess some of the key points that were made a year ago.
Lack of Parity?
I believed that the NBA had a Parity Problem last season, though this is not a new problem for the league. However, it would be more accurate to consider this a Golden State Problem.
Adam Silver’s swift injection of capital into player’s salary after the new CBA was signed in 2014 enabled organizations to take advantage of a small window of opportunity. The continued use of a soft salary cap and maximum constraints on player contracts, paired with this influx of cash, enabled teams like the Warriors to form.
However, let’s not forget exactly how this super-team was created. Steph Curry was drafted 7th overall in 2009. Klay Thompson was drafted 11th overall in 2011. And Draymond Green was drafted 35th overall in 2012.
This team was built with excellent scouting, drafting, coaching and development. The addition of Kevin Durant only added to this remarkable effort.
The implementation of “super-max” contracts, which should help deter players from leaving the team that drafted them, could restrict the formation of another super-team in the future.
Because last season’s installment of Warriors/Cavaliers was so inevitable, I argued the regular season and postseason was downright meaningless.
While it’s highly probable that most fans accurately predicted another Warriors/Cavaliers NBA Finals, this season was much different.
Both teams fell in their respective conference standings. Golden State fell to second while Cleveland fell to fourth.
There was stronger competition around the league. Teams like Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, and Oklahoma City mightily improved and seemed to offer serious threats to both of the three-time defending conference champions.
Last season, the Warriors and Cavaliers combined for a 24-1 record on their way to the NBA Finals. This season, the teams combined for a more respectable 24-11 record that included three Game 7’s and only one sweep.
While it was highly likely, this NBA Finals rematch was anything but inevitable.
Due to the previously mentioned issues, and the cord-cutting trend that continues to endure, the local and national ratings were significantly down in the regular season last year.
Star players were resting, games resulted in blowouts, and fans were regularly tuning-out.
However, this season was much different. Games were a bit more competitive, star players weren’t resting, and the NBA’s average television viewership rose to a 4-year high.
Popularized streaming services, such as Hulu, have also helped the NBA reach a wider audience this season.
While the fluctuation and sensitivity of viewership statistics can’t make the NBA too pleased, they have to be happy with the bounce back they experienced this season.
A certain lack of parity is always beneficial for leagues. A revolving door of contenders and superstars would not allow the league to properly market their storylines, athletes or organizations.
While some individuals are undoubtedly tired of the same teams and players headlining the NBA’s biggest games, change is on the horizon.
This offseason should be interesting, as several superstar players, including LeBron James, are set to hit free agency. It’s fair to assume there will be a new team on the radar for championship contention. The change of scenery in general will – at the very least – bring refreshing storylines to the forefront.
Furthermore, there seems to be great young talent ready to flourish into perennial All-Stars such as Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum.
Another element that has hurt the NBA for the past few seasons was the lack of talent and intrigue in key markets. The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers were not amongst the league’s best the past few years.
There’s no doubt that the league hopes one of these teams can become a championship-contending team, as Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Cleveland aren’t exactly great markets for driving viewership and revenue.
While last season was not a success on multiple fronts, the NBA has bounced back nicely and are poised to break more viewership records with yet another Warriors/Cavaliers finals.
With the increasing of streaming capabilities, marketable young players and teams on the horizon, the continuation of international growth, new revenue opportunities in legalized gambling – and an intriguing offseason to come – the NBA seems to be in great shape for the short and long-term future.