The Tank Conundrum
The bottom of the table reads as stands: Aston Villa, Sunderland, and Newcastle. Not familiar with these football clubs? Not particularly important. Of the 20 teams that compete each year in the English Premier League (soccer for you degenerates), three are relegated each season to the doldrums of lower league obscurity. Could you imagine the New York Yankees spending an entire season puttering around Triple-A ball playing games in Moosic, Pennsylvania (apologies to the Lenape people)?
Not only do these three teams lose millions of pounds in TV revenue, notoriety, and exposure to a now global market, years past have shown it to be rather difficult to get promoted right back up after just one season (see Portsmouth FC). What does this talk of sport across the pond have to do with the Association? A solution…for tanking.
At the end of the season in the Association, arenas in Philadelphia, Orlando, Sacramento, and Salt Lake City have been quite empty the past few seasons. The glaring reason is because those four teams have struggled due to a lack of not having one (or multiple) superstars. Also in part because they have now realized how to play the system (tanking) and the way it works is you lose to get the best chance to get the top pick.
Obviously this does not guarantee future success immediately (see 76ers) but odds are you’ll eventually land an Anthony Davis or LeBron James at some point. Moral of the story is that tanking has resulted in an extremely poor product on the court for paying fans. If the team isn’t trying to win, how can this be justifiable to the customers?
*Back across the pond*
The way the Premier League has solved this issue is by relegating (“demoting” if you missed 11th grade) its three worst teams at the end of the season whom have obtained the fewest points over 38 matches. Subsequently, the three teams from the Championship, the second highest division in English football, are promoted to the top league for the following season.
Practically this works very well in England for a few reasons.
College athletics don’t really exist
The lower divisions are very well organized
There are hundreds of clubs to fulfill the tiers/divisions.
If this was ever going to be legitimately considered for the NBA, a few wholesale changes would need to occur first.
1.) The NCAA would need to be overhauled (needed anyway) and eligibility would have to be adjusted.
2.) The NBA Draft would be no longer.
3.) NBA teams would form academies for youth development.
Eligibility would have to be determined at 18 years of age. That way it lets kids who believe they are ready to have that chance. What would be built in to the contracts would be a guarantee that if things did not work out professionally, the team would pay for the equivalent of the in-state tuition to a school of choice where the player is from.
If the player does however commit to play in college first, a three year minimum would be required of the player so that the college team’s can have some security/insurance. In doing so will help create a more healthy college product with more juniors and seniors to give the game more experience.
Getting rid of the Draft would be a major altercation. In soccer around the world, once a talented youth player (aged 14-18) is identified by scouts, teams bid for him based on what his value could become. Even though soccer clubs do not have a salary cap, they do have “financial fair play” instituted. What FFP means is that if you spend $10 million on a player, you must sell off close to $10 million through a player or two to compensate.
What would be fun about this is the NBA SHOULD keep their salary cap in place, force teams to be mindful of how much they are willing to bid on a youth talent. This would then put so much emphasis on having great scouts.
Once things get rolling, the NBA teams themselves would set up Basketball Academies which they would have scouted out the best youth talent available and then sign the kids on to come train (and go to some school) at their academy. They just need look at how the major soccer clubs of the world (Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid) manage this youth development infrastructure.
In doing so would help streamline the process of our best youth players that do not want to go to college and/or are in poverty and need a way out. Just like boxing, they would get to literally play their way out of being born into a tough life.
Once the academies are in place and our NBA teams are getting kids into their system, they would be on youth contracts with the teams. In those contracts, the NBA should put in fallbacks that if it doesn’t pan out and they do not make it, they would help pay for college for the player.
The next major phase would be the actual relegation of NBA teams to the D-league for poor season long results. With more emphasis than being put on the D-League, and more of the best college talent going there instead of college, the level of play would pick up drastically.
There would also be a great influx of talent from across the world into the system because 1.) what international kid age 14-18 wouldn’t want to come play basketball in the States and 2.) the opportunities to make it to the Association would become that much more possible once they get into an academy.
All in all, Adam Silver will have to address the tanking issue at some point and try to make improvements on the Draft process. This is certainly an option and those last few games of the season would get huge ratings and fan attendance to try and will-on those borderline teams to “staying up” for another season in the Association.