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Is the NBA star system broken? If so, can it be fixed?

Discussion in 'Mark Blount's Port Cellar: Celtics Forum' started by Average Game James, Feb 1, 2019.

  1. lovegtm

    lovegtm Member SoSH Member

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    Agree. The Pels, Bucks, and Nuggets got AD, Giannis, and Jokic past their rookie deals. The latter two have put everything around their stars, and look set to keep and contend with them for a long time.

    Cleveland didn't lose Kyrie because they're a small market, it lost him because he saw the post-LeBron writing on the wall.

    Even OKC got Durant for two full contracts, and probably still have him now without the obvious (at the time) unforced error that was the Harden trade.

    Small market teams get 6-9 years to make it work when they draft a star, always. The NBA doesn't have a star/small market problem; it has a Dell Demps problem and a Klutch problem.
     
  2. Big John

    Big John lurker

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    The Klutch problem is the worst. You simply can't have a player with control over an agent who represents other players. It's an inherent conflict of interest.
     
  3. lovegtm

    lovegtm Member SoSH Member

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    Yeah, that's what makes this situation fundamentally different from, say, LeBron to the Heat.
     
  4. Gdiguy

    Gdiguy Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    I agree with a lot of what is said here, so I'm not going to repeat that... but I will say that one other thing we're not discussing is that the fans do share some blame here. The attitude of 'if you don't win a championship it's a failure' is driving a lot of these issues.

    Obviously on the team side it's driving the 'tank until you can be a top 4 team' strategy. But I think it's also driving the players' choices as well - you look at the way some fans treat Barkley or Malone, and players see that as well. The max salary cap makes this even worse - if you're not going to be respected until you win a ring, why would you take the same (or very similar) amount of $ to go somewhere it'll be harder to win?
     
  5. Swedgin

    Swedgin Member SoSH Member

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    Unless you are also proposing the elimination of the Bird exception and the institution of a hard cap, the owners will never give up max salaries.

    It is worthwhile to consider why the NBA has the current structure. All of the different moving pieces of the NBA's complicated salary cap are reactions to real/perceived problems. Bird rights were created so that teams could keep home grown stars and not be forced to let them leave via free agency because they were capped out. Bird rights then led to star players using their leverage to negotiate massive long term contracts which scared the ever loving shit out of the owners. So the owners locked out the players and gave up half a season to get the current rookie and max salary structure. Contract extensions and extend and trades were all but eliminated in response to the Denver/Carmelo/Knicks situation. The elimination of extensions in turn led to more player movement because with extensions by the boards elite players had to become free agents. So the league created the supermax to give teams extra ammunition to retain players they drafted. A direct reaction to Durant leaving OKC. And now the Wizards wish to god they had not given one to Wall. And on and on. The NBA is like the old adage about generals fighting the last war. Each CBA negotiation tries to fix whatever the crisis du jour is and creates a new problem.

    GS is an anomaly. GS drafted Curry, Klay and Green. They were able to sign Durant because of a one time historic bump in the cap, coupled with the owners unwillingness to offer anything real at the bargaining table in exchange the union agreeing to cap smoothing.
     
  6. bosox79

    bosox79 Member SoSH Member

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    Karl Malone shouldn't be respected anyway.
     
  7. Devizier

    Devizier Member SoSH Member

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    Always a good opportunity to remind people that Karl Malone is a pedophile.
     
  8. lovegtm

    lovegtm Member SoSH Member

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    Wow, did not know that story.
     
  9. bosox79

    bosox79 Member SoSH Member

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    Probably one of the worst stories out there and he gets praised a lot. It's amazing how many people don't know.

    It's almost/is on the level of Bill Cosby.
     
  10. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    Say what? I don't understand how fans having this attitude is worthy of blame, so perhaps you can unpack that for me, but for me it's about hope and faith as a fan (to use that old Selig-ism). In the NFL, you can almost always have hope that even within a short time horizon - a season or two - your team can be in the playoffs and have a puncher's chance of reaching and maybe even winning the Super Bowl. In the NHL, any team that reaches the playoffs can be one hot goalie away from a deep playoff run. In baseball, worst-to-first turnarounds are known to happen in a single season, and 14 different teams have reached the World Series at least once since 2007. But starting in 2006, only nine different teams have reached the NBA Finals, and because upsets happen far less frequently in best-of-seven NBA series than they do in NFL, MLB and NHL playoff rounds, there's that much less hope and faith to go around. Good management and good coaching are necessities to turn things around, but more than that, you need luck: luck in the lottery, and luck in the draft both re: the players you select and the players selected by other teams in front of you

    Perhaps I'm biased because the Hawks have never won even a single Conference Finals game since they moved to Atlanta - they were swept by Lebron and the Cavs in their only appearance back in 2015, and for various reasons they couldn't keep the team together (or hang onto their coach), and that was pretty much that. Yes, I would like Atlanta to win a single title at some point, pretty please...but even though the Hawks seem to have another good coach and potentially a good GM, relevance - let alone even the possibility of winning a title - is still a long way beyond our horizon. And about how many teams could you say pretty much the same thing? The only obvious path to relevance involves the right ping-pong ball bouncing out of that stupid machine in a few months' time - no amount of money thrown at free agents or management skill or coaching savvy will likely matter.
     
  11. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    There were rumors that Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and Chris Paul would team up on ATL, that seemed like a very promising core at the time.

    Also the 2015 team you mention had four All-Stars and made the Eastern Conference Finals and was a move or two away from title contention (admittedly that move might have involved LeBron and Jeff Gillooly), but their drafting since 2010 has done them no favors (although I was happy to just learn that someone named Alpha Kaba was actually a recent NBA draft pick).
     
  12. benhogan

    benhogan Baynes Hogan SoSH Member

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    Hawks GM potentially good?

    if Doncic for Young is any indication I wouldn't get my hopes up at all.
     
  13. lovegtm

    lovegtm Member SoSH Member

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    I was going to say something, but it feels mean rub it in with a Hawks fan. With Collins and Huerter, that would be a very promising core if they hadn't gotten cute and had just drafted Luka.
     
  14. benhogan

    benhogan Baynes Hogan SoSH Member

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    Collins is very impressive and Huerter is Korver-lite. BUT letting Luca slip out of your hands is criminal.

    I'm not a fan of Trae Young, where do the experts put him in a re-draft?
     
  15. lovegtm

    lovegtm Member SoSH Member

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    He can't even be in the lottery in a redraft, right? The defense+worse-than-expected shot are brutal to overcome, even though his passing is as advertised, and he may learn to finish near the rim.

    edit: looked at his numbers, they're coming up a bit. I'd say he'd go late lottery, #10-13?
     
  16. bosox79

    bosox79 Member SoSH Member

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    Trae Young has been fine outside of November. He's not Doncic though.
     
  17. snowmanny

    snowmanny Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Yeah you can do twenty little moves that seem OK but if you whiff on picking up the one transformational guy you are de facto a bad NBA GM. It really doesn't matter what else you do. At the end of the day the biggest part of your job is not missing on the championship level players when they are sitting there in front of you. If you're Slick Leonard (Robey over Bird in Indiana) you sucked. Even drafting Clyde Drexler the year before he took Sam Bowie doesn't make Stu Inman not a failed GM.
     
  18. lovegtm

    lovegtm Member SoSH Member

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    Exactly. It's like when the Celtics fired Danny for drafting Olynyk over Giannis.
     
  19. snowmanny

    snowmanny Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    I think one difference there is that while there were arguments for taking Ayton and Olajuwon first, and an argument for not taking Bird first - NOT taking the consensus most talented player in the draft to take Young (or Bowie or Robey) is a bad bad decision. And I don’t think Giannis (or, I don’t know, Stockton or KMalone) was nearly as obvious at the time.
     
  20. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    Trae Young is young enough that I'm not discouraged by the start of his NBA career. Doncic certainly looks the better player for now, but Trae plus Dallas's first next year (if it conveys) might - might - be the better package over the long haul. And to the wider point, Schlenk made a bold gamble in passing on Doncic; that doesn't automatically make him a bad GM.

    But to the original point, this is what I'm talking about: your margins as the GM of one of the NBA's have-not teams are so fine that one critical mistake in talent evaluation can set your title aspirations back by a decade or more. Not least because picking a good player instead of a transcendent player likely brings you to the NBA's miserable middle for years - too good to get a Top 3 lottery pick, way too bad to contend for a title. And how much of drafting is really down to superior talent evaluation, and how much of it is down to luck? Greg Oden or Kevin Durant? Markelle Fultz or Jayson Tatum?
    Hindsight is and always will be 20-20. Sometimes the consensus most talented player doesn't have the most talent, or the ability to put that talent into practice. My point is that if you're not one of the marquee franchises to whom top talent automatically flocks - whether because you're already loaded with talent or because your city and franchise will always attract that talent - the path to relevance and title contention is much, much narrower than it is in the other three major American team sports. And if you're a fan of super-teams or of one of the marquee franchises already, that probably suits you; if you're not, it's a real disincentive to being a fan over the long-haul.

    (The Hawks do conceivably have a path to winning a title in the next 5-7 years, but it probably requires them to win the Zion lottery - 10.5% chance if they stay 5th from bottom - *and* Trae making a leap *and* the Mavs' 1st rounder conveying in the 6-10 range next year *and* that pick becoming at least a borderline All-Star *and* other good decisions being made at the margins. I'm not holding my breath.)
     
  21. NomarsFool

    NomarsFool Member SoSH Member

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    A couple things about the NBA I think are really sub-optimal, but I honestly don't know if there are any real solutions:

    1) Too much "collateral damage" player movements with trades. In other sports, if you want to swap player A for player B, you just do that. But in basketball, because all the salaries have to match up end up swapping player A + 2-3 other players for player B + 2-3 other players. Now, those other players are usually not key players, maybe starters, but often players 6-10 on the depth chart. The problem I see is, it's not good for the fans. Take a guy like Aron Baynes. He's not a star by any means, but it's fun for fans to watch a guy like that be on the team for many years, playing that role. I'm sure there are many other guys out there of similar talent level and can play a similar role. But, Baynes is the one doing it for our team, so it's fun from fan perspective to see the same guy.

    Personally, I feel like in the NBA, those role players get swapped again and again and again. So, teams are wholesale changing the vast majority of their roster every couple of years. I think that is not very good for the sport (from a fan's perspective)

    2) Again because of salary cap issues, it seems like you have a number of situations where teams trade talented players for expiring contracts, or unload a bad contract and include a talented player along with it. You see this in baseball a bit, as well, but it's really demoralizing for fans. I remember so painfully being a Celtics fan during the Pitino era. Watching the team suffer in misery while they acquired expiring contracts, etc., etc., and then watch them go out and use that cap money to sign Travis Knight (shudder). It just sucks.
     
  22. Big John

    Big John lurker

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    Put in a hard cap, an immutable one. Make it high (e.g. $150M) and index it to BRI, so that if BRI goes up or down, so does the cap. Put in a salary floor that's "X" percent of the cap. That would allow you to get rid of 90% of the crap in the CBA: no more maximum salaries, caps on length of contract, no more matching salaries in trades, trade exceptions, rookie scale, injury exceptions, mid level exceptions, luxury tax, aprons-- it all goes away. Pure free enterprise within a single set of constraints.
     
  23. lovegtm

    lovegtm Member SoSH Member

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    Yup, agree with the distinction. Was just poking fun, and emphasizing that sometimes the best GM is the one who gets multiple bites at the apple. Hinkie fucked up with Okafor over Porzingis, but because he had multiple chances, he ended up with Embiid, Simmons, and the pieces that were traded for Butler.
     
  24. RetractableRoof

    RetractableRoof Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I think there is an awful lot of overlap between this thread and the tankathon thread: http://sonsofsamhorn.net/index.php?threads/how-to-stop-the-tankathon.18672/

    I think the same premise still applies. The way to correct tanking is eliminate the need for it. If there is no need to tank to win (assuming competent management) then teams won't go through it. As currently officiated you must have a superstar (or multiples) to win. If your team has mere stars that aren't being officiated the same way as your opponents superstar, your likelihood of success is prohibitively lower. As the league is currently operated, in order to get a (first) superstar you must tank or be an extreme outlier in terms of player acquisition (like the Spurs scouting Europe better than everyone else for a period).

    A similar 'necessity' exists at the moment for super teams. I don't think Kevin Durant had a long simmering desire to play with Curry, Thompson or Green - I think he simply wanted to win. So players who want to win are attempting to band together in order to join (or oppose the current king of the hill). Kyrie specifically didn't want to play in the shadow of Lebron, he asked out to attempt to create his own legacy - but his ability to win will be greatly influenced by managements ability to 'build' a super team by traditional trade/draft/black magic methods of putting one together. The only way to stop an increasing number of players from attempting to take matters into their own hands versus relying on management to build for them is to remove the need for super teams in the first place. Any league legislation that aims to prevent such player collusion will only have other side affects that will play out later.

    So to reduce tanking and player super team building requires removing the absolute need for the 'super' part of the way things are going - and to my eyes that is returning the game to 'basketball' rather than 'superstar ball' - however that is accomplished. To my way of seeing things, de-emphasizing the superstars impact on the game is the way forward. They will always be the ones with the ball as the clock counts down to the last shot in the 4th quarter - but there is a lot of basketball between the tip-off and then. I think the game of basketball has room for other players to impact the game without everything being tilted in favor of the superstars. When things aren't tilted as heavily, then there is room for mere stars to impact, for coaching to impact, for roster construction beyond the 'supers' to be a factor. Marketing doesn't have to change if Lebron scores a steady 32 instead of 42 - we'll all know he is a superstar. The advertisers will still want a piece of Harden, et al. Clearly upsets/suspense are good for the game - why let impacting the end results be the sole domain of the superstars?

    Just my two cents.

    Fake Edit: As an example, I enjoy martial arts movies. Well made ones highlight the incredible skills of the artists (even if the acting doesn't match the physical gifts). On occasion I also enjoy a foreign made dramatic martial arts piece. The hero/heroine flies about aided by unseen wire magic and green screen sleight of hand, doctoring speed by way of a deft editing effort - doing the impossible, and making for incredible scenes. They are wonderful to watch, but for me only as occasional viewing. I value the actual martial arts skill demonstrated by actual humans more than always being flooded with impossible acts of these wired up super characters. I know the analogy is flawed, but I like basketball the same way. I'd rather see Curry flick his wrists from deep, a Rondo fake pass lead to an easy bucket, an Irving crossover, a Nowitzki stepback, or a Ginobli eurostep than see superstar x gifted with yet another and-1 on the backside of a 12 step travel complete with the head nod at the referee acknowledging a superstar call that never should have been. I don't need my superstars to use wires, or enhanced by a fudging of rules in order to appreciate what amazing talents they already are. And restoring them to mere mortal superstars doesn't diminish them to me - it shows them for what they already are - a dominant piece of a collective whole. Make that happen, and there will be less tanking and less super teams (though those will still happen in a traditionally organic way).

    YMMV and get off my lawn?
     
  25. Eddie Jurak

    Eddie Jurak Go Leafs Go Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Disagree. Market matters, but not enough to overcome incompetent management. Also, Philadelphia chose a 5-year process, it didn't have to do it - and arguably should not have done it or squandered a lot of the payoff of doing it. I do think the real problem is acquiring and building around a transcendant core player, which is easier said than done on both counts, in part because there so few of those players.
    I think defense will always be a problem, but just about all first year point guards are pretty bad, so I think it is premature to write hm off. I'd have taken Doncic, though.
    Maybe I am biased because I'm a Celtics fan, and we essentially let the Nets do our 'process' for us. But I think the ultimate answer is that teams need to embrace the 'miserable middle'. And maybe the league needs to offer competetive balance exceptions or something. At the end of the day, Lebron has played in 8 straight finals, Golden State has played in 4, and there hasn't been an NBA finals team since the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 that didn't have Lebron, Curry, Duncan, or Durant. Two of those 4 guys didn't win on their original teams, although they each did make one appearance. So many teams tank and never make it. Teams need to reorient around trying to compete in the now, with whatever they have, and the league should dole out some cap flexibility to make that happen.
    The problem here is that the market has pretty much spoken and said the opposite. A large part of NBA fandom is star-driven and even superteam-driven.
     
  26. RetractableRoof

    RetractableRoof Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I don't think that is totally the case, it is the chicken/egg thing. We've become used to what they have fed us. And if you asked the fans in cities that weren't in the homes of the fortunate teams who are currently or in the recent past possessed one of the superstars I'd tell you that the basketball they are being sold isn't such a good product. The league needs to see beyond the ratings for the playoffs/finals and protect the long term viability of their product.
     
  27. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    This is an interesting concept. At the moment, all of the incentives for improving your team center around the lottery - so the worse you are, the better building blocks (in theory) you get for the following season. What if the salary cap wasn't identical for each team? Make it a bell curve, with the top of the curve being the last team into the playoffs and the first team out of the playoffs. Or instead of tweaking the salary cap figure, give each team a designated cap exception that is sized on a bell curve in similar fashion. Maybe you could then
    Yeah, I don't think Celtics fans can really empathize with fans of teams like the Hawks - you've benefited from several very bad decisions by opposing GMs and have been able to leap the hurdles other teams normally can't. Of course, many Celtics fans are still complaining about the system, because even having a fantastic GM and loads of on-court talent (and draft assets, etc.) might not be enough to overcome the NBA's systemic imbalance toward certain teams (particularly the Lakers).
     
  28. Devizier

    Devizier Member SoSH Member

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    Tanking is a strategic choice. There is downside to that choice, and I think that is a good thing.
     
  29. Eddie Jurak

    Eddie Jurak Go Leafs Go Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I think the question is whether more downside should be added, and whether tanking IS actually done primarily for its stated purpose or for other reasons (eg, keeping payroll down).
     
  30. Devizier

    Devizier Member SoSH Member

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    I guess what I'm saying is that the current level of downside is reasonable enough. Financial disincentives are the way to go if you want to increase the downside, so I agree with you there. I do worry about franchises that skim their revenue sharing cut while putting a crap product on the floor. Currently that is a bigger problem in baseball than it is in basketball, however.
     
  31. lovegtm

    lovegtm Member SoSH Member

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    Agree. No one except Philly has tried the prolonged, intentional tank. The shit teams are staying shitty because they're shit. And Philly had its GM essentially force-replaced by the league after it went on too long, which is the real unspoken disincentive for GMs/organizations to repeat The Process.
     
  32. Eddie Jurak

    Eddie Jurak Go Leafs Go Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I don't disagree with you that opinions differ, etc, and that many do not like this aspect of the way the NBA is today, me included to some extent. But opinion is mixed, and the NBA of today has plenty of strong backing.

    And the NBA will always be more start driven than other leagues.

    Malcolm Gladwell, on his podcast a couple of years ago, made the point that basketball and soccer differ in that with basketball, a team's best player determines how good the team is, whereas in soccer, a team is only as good as its 11th player. It's an oversimplification, but one that rings true to some extent. Just the nature of the sport.
     
  33. Eddie Jurak

    Eddie Jurak Go Leafs Go Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Well, no team has repeated The Process, so maybe the disincentives are close enough. But basketball is a good product, even of only 2-3 teams have a realistic shot at the championship at any given time, and it would only be made better by more teams trying to win. And the benefits of tanking seem overstated, unless you are lucky enough to have your number come up when it is LBJ-time.
     
  34. OurF'ingCity

    OurF'ingCity Member SoSH Member

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    Count me among those who don’t really see a major, long-term problem with the current structure (although obviously any CBA is going to have areas for improvement).

    What we have witnessed the past 4-5 years has not been the result of all-star players generally trying to team up to form superteams, but specifically two “freak” occurrences - one being the otherworldliness of LeBron such that any team he is on automatically becomes if not an immediate contender at least somewhere where many other players are going to want to play, and the other being the cap spike that allowed Durant to join the Warriors.

    If LeBron never existed and if Durant has signed with some other team, would anyone really be complaining now? Put another way, stars also teamed up on OKC and Houston but that doesn’t seem to be a source of consternation because those are only “average,” non-LeBron superstars and thus while those teams are good they are not Finals locks.
     
  35. lovegtm

    lovegtm Member SoSH Member

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    Yup, and even LeBron has shown himself to be beatable/almost beatable in a lot of surprising contexts (Spurs, 2012 Celtics, 2018 Celtics, even the 2015 Bulls to some degree). And GSW was great but beatable before Durant.

    If Durant signs elsewhere this summer, most of this talk goes away, and the league will be insanely competitive (including several small-market teams).
     
  36. ifmanis5

    ifmanis5 Member SoSH Member

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    NBA: We have these giant Megastar players, it's a huge problem!
    MLB: Please, could we have like one well known star? Ever again? Preferably not well known due to PED use?

    Player usage between teams tanking, load management and players sitting on expiring deals has been a gray area for a while. My only advice to the Megastars out there is don't re-live your worst New Year's Eve night. The one where you go to a party, declare it dead and go to another one. Declare that one dead too, and four dead parties later it's 1am and you blew your night looking for parking.
     
  37. RetractableRoof

    RetractableRoof Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I don't think anyone disagrees with either of these statements. I think what I am trying to get at is "Jordan rules" or superstar treatment or whatever you want to label it is amplifying the effect of the superstar unnaturally or to my way of thinking unnecessarily. Removing the amplification, would be a positive impact on the thread topic - and also that of the tanking thread.

    Sorry for the delay in responding...
     
  38. lexrageorge

    lexrageorge Member SoSH Member

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    While ideally the superstars would get the same treatment as every other player, I'm not sure we will ever see that in our lifetime.

    Part of the problem is that the LeBron's, Curry's, Harden's and Durant's, et al, are so freakishly athletic that they draw tons of contact just by doing their regular moves. Harden is an exceptional case, but I remember back in the day when Shaq was mentioning how he gets scratched and clawed and grabbed and otherwise fouled nearly every play. Part of the reason the star players will nod in acknowledgement to the official is that there were probably 10 previous plays where he was fouled but no whistle was blown.

    Now, I do think they should call traveling when LeBron (or any other player) takes about 6 steps towards the basket with nary an attempted dribble to be found. But I got shouted down pretty loudly here when I mentioned that in the past. Bottom line is that most fans seem to agree that traveling shouldn't be called on the superstars.
     
  39. BostonWolverine

    BostonWolverine lurker

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    Eliminate the soft cap, make the max contract half of the hard cap, and see how much money the stars of the league are actually willing to give up. Lastly, add something like qualifying offers where if a star leaves the team receives a package of picks.

    If picks are guaranteed, teams may be willing to ride out contracts and not be forced to trade them.
     
    #89 BostonWolverine, Feb 15, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019

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