How the NBA could Stop Super Teams

What are Superteams?

Los Angeles LakersSuperteams like the current Los Angeles Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers are formed by having multiple top ten talents join up for one team. The best two modern-day examples of this were the Lebron, Bosch, and Wade Miami Heat team alongside the Durant, Curry, Thompson, and Green Golden State Warriors squads. These teams dominate the NBA and often make the game a little less fun to watch.

How do these teams form?

The reason that these teams are able to form is the fact that there is a cap on how much an NBA player can make in a contract. The current cap is 35% of the current salary cap for the team. For example, with the current 109.4 million dollar cap a player could be given a contract of 38.2 million a year. This on its own can lead to two superstars joining and still having enough money to fill out the roster with a mix of extremely solid mid-level players as well as veterans taking small contracts to chase rings.

There is also the Larry Bird exception. This exception allows teams to go over the salary cap to pay their own players the max contract who would become free agents. So in essence you could draft back-to-back superstars and have them on rookie contracts, then you could sign two free-agent superstars to the max contract. You could then keep those four superstars for their entire careers and the cap essentially no longer matters to you. This is what the Warriors did to construct their team with Kevin Durant.

How does the NBA get rid of Superteams?

How does one get rid of these superteams and make the majority of the NBA palatable again? First off, strike the Bird clause down. If you want to keep a player then make the cap space for said player. I would argue that this should go hand-in-hand with raising the cap to make the Players Union happy.

I understand that the NBA wants to be promoting good drafting or taking risks on young talent who develop into superstars. However, no other sport lets you keep as many superstars as you want because they happen to be on your squad. This of course is happening while the rest of the league has to keep under the cap if they happen to not hit on those good draft picks and instead need to search free agency.

The biggest change though, and how this will end completely, is by getting rid of the max contract a player can earn. Instead of 38.5 million, a player like Lebron could easily be given a 60-80 million dollar contract from a team. His skill mixed with his marketability would warrant that size of a contract from many teams. This kills superteams as teams can no longer afford to pay two to three superstars.

What you now have is the top tier players, who are just worth so much more with the small roster size of the NBA, getting paid 60%+ of the cap. Once this happens Anthony Davis and Lebron James would never be on the same team. They both could make 50 million-plus. If somehow they do figure out how to make two contracts work, then the rest of the roster will be nothing but the minimum contracts.

This is where an NBA savvy fan might say, what about the mid-level exception, that allows over the cap teams a bit of flexibility? This could possibly give these two superstar teams another solid player. This is another exception that needs to go. If you are over the cap, you are over the cap and need to fix it.

This is only a thing in basketball. The NHL and NFL, who both have caps, do not make exceptions. By allowing these exceptions and having a max player contract, general managers like Bob Myers of the Warriors have proven they can easily exploit them to create teams that just dominate the NBA.

Superteams are not good for the NBA

The NBA will have its villains and will have its amazing teams without needing to allow ridiculous contract restrictions and exceptions to artificially manufacture them. For example, the NBA would have still had the amazing story of the Warriors’ first championship run, from drafting well and giving smart contracts, without exploiting these rules. Lebron would still make whatever squad he is on entertaining and a must-watch.

Allowing stars to be spread out throughout the NBA can only build the game. Now a fan in Memphis and Charlotte have a reason to go to the game; either their team has a superstar or a bunch of solid players. As well as the fact that almost every night their teams should be squaring up with another team’s superstar. It is no longer just California-based teams and whoever Lebron happens to be playing for.

A great example of this is Milwaukee with Giannis. They have one superstar and it has completely changed their franchise. They are getting great attendance and TV numbers, fans are talking about them, and they are exciting to watch. This is all with one superstar. They did not need two or three to make the game enjoyable and get good numbers.

If LeBron, Zion, AD, Leonard, George, Harden, Westbrook, Curry, Giannis, Durant are on 8-10 teams, you now have a third of the NBA with an absolute superstar that makes their team viable and fun to watch. There is no way that can be bad for the NBA. Parity and competition breed viewership. The NBA does not need to be a Disney movie with a villain and underdog superhero, every single year.

Matthew Amato is a UC Berkeley Economics and Philosophy graduate. Matthew follows and writes about the NFL, Fantasy sports, MLB, European soccer, Professional Lacrosse, and e-sports. He has managed his own tournament baseball team and coached high school lacrosse. In his free time, Matthew used to compete competitively in Call of Duty and Counter-Strike.

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