To all of my fellow NBA fans, it’s already been a pretty hectic month for the league, hasn’t it? First, Lebron James decided to finally take his talents to the West Coast and join the Los Angeles Lakers. A great portion of NBA fans were satisfied in acknowledging that this move might shake up the Western Conference competition. The reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, were quickly deemed to finally have a greater challenge in the future 2018-19 season due to the new-look Lakers. Boy, did the Warriors not waste any time erasing those hopeful predictions. On July 2nd, the Warriors picked up All-Star center Demarcus Cousins on a 1-year/$5.3 million deal for the upcoming season. The championship team became even more deadly. They stand as the only team in NBA history to feature three players who all averaged over 25 ppg in the previous season. Not to mention that five of their roster players were All-Stars last season, three of them being starters. Personally, I think the Warriors General Manager, Bob Myers, should get a special award or something. Nobody has constructed a powerhouse team like this in a league for quite some time.
The Warriors are no strangers to basketball controversy and this move just reiterates what NBA folks have been saying ever since 2016 (when Kevin Durant jumped on the bandwagon): “They are ruining the NBA.” The addition of superstars to the Western Conference squad has not sat well with NBA audiences, who note how the yearly seasons now showcase a lack of excitement or curiosity. The majority of viewers already expected the Warriors to dominate the regular season and win championships after the signing of Durant, which they have indeed accomplished two seasons straight after this past June. Now, with Cousins on board, the Warriors are just adding to their firepower. It is looking to be a new season with the same recurring story: Warriors coast through the regular season and win yet another championship. If so, this will be their third one in a row.
Most basketball fans, like myself, are getting more than tired of this predictable NBA condition. At the end of the day, sports are nonetheless entertainment and we want to see something new. In my eyes, the last exciting thing to ever happen in the NBA traces back to the summer of 2016 when Lebron and Kyrie Irving brought the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors in the NBA Finals to win the first ever championship within the organization. Regardless of the countless highlight plays, what made that accomplishment so iconic pertains to how no team in NBA history had ever come back after being down 3 games to one and ultimately win the entire series. It was simply… wait for it… unexpected. That’s what makes us love sports. When the outcome is unexpected. Can we say that any outcomes have been a surprise in the NBA ever since that 2016 closing series? I say, no!
Let’s take a minute to consider the two NBA conferences: East versus West. For the last several years, fans have deemed the East as “weak” in regards to competition. During Lebron’s recent tenure with the Cavaliers, the team would get past other playoff teams en route to the Finals in a fairly easy manner. With Lebron’s departure from the East, whom most spectators have long awaited, the conference will now showcase a different postseason scenario. The Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Toronto Raptors are a few favorites to make a deep playoff run in hopes of reaching the Finals. All three of those teams had notable success throughout this past season. It will be satisfying for arguably all of the NBA audience (except for Cleveland die-hards) to see a new franchise emerge in the East. However, there’s still a small problem. Well, actually it’s a big one. None of the Eastern Conference teams, including the aforementioned ones, have enough weapons to truly test the Warriors. There is undoubtedly a great deal of promise but various aspects (youth being a major one) may prove as hindrances in another NBA title returning to the Eastern Conference. Simply put, the Warriors have too many superstars in contrast to teams in the East.
So how can we fix this problem? Honestly, I think the NBA should consider giving the entire postseason format a redo. My other basketball peers may raise their eyebrows at this ‘preposterous’ statement but take a moment to hear me out. Let’s imagine an NBA that functions in a postseason setup similar to the distinguished NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, better known as “March Madness.” On a yearly basis, great anticipation of the tournament arises in its unpredictability. Selected teams are seeded to compete against one another, as even the lowest seeded team would have a chance to take home the hardware. The NBA could benefit from a tactic like such in ranking teams to compete in a tournament format. With this, the two conferences would not be divided. For example, a Western conference team could battle against another West team in the Finals depending on how the tournament would result. To my NBA fans, we can all acknowledge that the Warriors versus Houston Rockets matchup in the NBA Western Conference Finals this past season was a fairly exciting one, right? Wouldn’t it be great to see the two teams go at it again, in a Finals series? More possibilities would arise if the NBA took a chance in changing their postseason layout; fans would not have to always expect an East versus West team in the final round. Also, NBA fans could participate in filling out brackets in a method likewise to ‘March Madness.’ This will likely transition into higher TV ratings for the NBA postseason games.
Obviously my audience may not all agree with these suggestions. I actually came up with such suggestions from conversations amongst my own peers. Nonetheless, the NBA should deeply consider what they can do to keep their viewers’ interests from decreasing. It will only go on for so long before the Warriors’ narrative becomes old news, if it hasn’t already. The NBA can only do so much but, at the end of the day, fans want to be entertained. They have to give the people what they want.