June 22, 2017 by salucco
(Courtesy of Monica Davey)
Written by John Avino
The NBA, to its credit, has always had problems with parity. If you disagree, do a quick Google search on how many of the 70 NBA titles have been won just by the Celtics and Lakers. I’ll save you the trouble; 33 of the 70 NBA Championships have resulted in either the Celtics or Lakers winning it all. You don’t need a calculator to tell you that’s just shy of HALF of ALL NBA Titles ever. There have been more finals’ with at least one of these two teams playing then there have been without. They have played each other a record twelve times for the Championship, or to be more statistical, 17.1% percent of the time (That’s nearly a fifth of all the NBA titles ever).
Add in Michael Jordan and his Bulls teams. He won 6 titles, two separate three-peats and quite possibly would have won 8 championships in a row if he didn’t take two years off smack dab in the middle of it all for baseball. The Warriors and Spurs each have five, the Sixers, Pistons and Heat all have three and the Knicks and Rockets each have two (the Rockets two happened to be during the two years that Michael Jordan was playing baseball). There are nine NBA teams that have just one title, and fourteen that have never won a championship. Half of those fourteen have never even made it to the Finals, let alone win one.
70 years seems like a lot of time on paper, and in fairness, it’s a significant chunk of time. Is it enough of a timeframe to make a determination on whether or not the parity in the NBA is generally bad? Even if you answer no to this question, it doesn’t really seem like things are getting any better.
Kobe Bryant’s Lakers and the Tim Duncan/Gregg Popovich Spurs teams dominated the 2000s. From 1999 until 2010, there was only one finals matchup that didn’t have at least one of the two teams (Heat/Mavs ‘06) featured in it, and perhaps even more impressively, only once did one of the two lose the Finals itself (Lakers/Pistons ’04). The Spurs have been to two more since, adding another ring in 2014. However we are perhaps now on the precipices of what could be the least competitive era in NBA history.
Ah, the Warriors and the Cavaliers. Even in the height of my NBA watching days in the early 2000s, in the midst of a decade that would be dominated by the Lakers and Spurs, I don’t think it was as bad as it is now. I never remember thinking at the end October, just before the season started that I was so sure of who would be playing in the finals. But, for the last three seasons, I have known, along with everybody else in the world, that the Cavs and the Warriors would be meeting in the NBA Finals.
It doesn’t seem to bother most like it bothers me. I am an Orlando Magic fan for no good reason other than Tracy McGrady. My favorite team is one of the teams that do not have a championship that I was talking about earlier. They were one of the two Eastern conference teams to have the pleasure of benefiting from Michael Jordans baseball career, as they made it to the Finals and were swept by the Rockets in 1995. More recently, the Magic went five games with the Lakers in 2009. It was the first of the final two championships of Kobe’s career.
Why does the NBA always have to have just a few teams every year that are going to compete? More important question; why do people not seem to mind that much?
I mean, we are literally in the second week of the NBA offseason and a good portion of the focus is on what the Cavs will have to stand a chance against the Warriors next June. It is a forgone conclusion that they will end up playing each other again. It took a blockbuster draft pick trade to even make people start talking about the draft, which by the way is Thursday.
NBA franchises have gone as far as to tank, year after year, for the known fact that they will not compete with the Cavs or Warriors anytime soon, and their best chance of doing so is by drafting their way into it. The Timberwolves and 76ers are two prime examples of teams that cannot draw a big name free agent, that have repeatedly tanked in the name of acquiring top prospects.
To a degree it has worked, as the Timberwolves have two of the highest ceiling young studs in the game in KAT and Andrew Wiggins, and some other budding potential high caliber contributors, including Zach Levine who saw his season cut way short last year.
The Sixers have Joel Embiid, who seems to be the real deal when he’s actually on the court, Ben Simmons, whom didn’t play in his first NBA season, and now possess the first overall pick, yet again, which they will use on Washington Husky freshman stud Markelle Fultz.
The two teams have taken similar routes in rebuilding, but lets not kid ourselves, their slow play approach is geared towards life after LeBron James and the Warriors super team. They are trying to breed their own super teams, because if all of the best players are going to block together and continue to build super teams, other franchises will have no choice but to tank and try and build them through the draft.
I’m not going to point fingers (Kevin Durant) at who started the movement and creation of super teams, because at the end of the day their have always been teams that have dominated eras of basketball. Any time you have a player leaving the franchise they were drafted by to go to a team that he was one game away from sending home a season prior, you are rightfully subject to a good deal of heat.
Are we in the worst era of the NBA right now? It is hard to argue. If anything, writing this has made me realize that the NBA has always kind of sucked, no? Most super teams over the course of NBA history have been drafted into that (even the Warriors pre-Durant), but the modern style of teams stacking their rosters is starting to spread.
Honestly, I would love nothing more than to be wrong. But it just isn’t going to happen. The Warriors were 73-9 and signed the second best player in the world. They went 16-1 in the playoffs this year, and despite gaudy numbers put up by LeBron, they only lost one game. A single game. Even the Cavs, who to their credit are somewhat of a super team, lost before they got to the Finals. And again, the main focus of this offseason is how the Cavs will be able to combat a roster to compete with the Warriors. What about the Celtics? Can the Spurs rebound? Rockets, Clippers, ANYBODY????
Nope. Cavs vs. Warriors 4, coming June 2018. This is the state of the NBA. Yet, I, like so many others will just sit back and watch it all unfold, and nobody will really care.