The flaw in the idea of embracing the ‘competitive market’ in the NBA

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ESPN.com reports what has been rumored for ages, that part of the union’s proposals to the league in the current CBA negotiations includes a provision to provide struggling teams with more draft picks. The idea is that the worst teams would receive more picks in the first round while some of the better teams would have none. In doing so, it would allow for teams that struggle to compete with their big-market competitors. The union’s goal here is to spin the idea that they’ll give the owners “out-of-the-box” ideas that will give the small-market, non-elite teams more of a leg-up as a trade-off for them not constantly standing with the league and ownership group on trying to bust the union’s goals into tiny pieces and then stomp on them, all during what would be a seven or eight month lockout to get to that point.

Abbott at ESPN examines the idea and finds it repugnant. From TrueHoop:

It’s one of those issues that makes clear there are at least three parties with a ton on the line at these talks, and only two are represented. Let’s pretend it becomes reality.

You know who’d get the short end of that stick? The third party known as the fans, specifically the fans of teams that just simply don’t know how to build a winner. More good draft picks would be a way for the worst GMs and owners to compete without getting any better at their jobs. This is like performance-enhancing drugs for the worst front offices in the league.

via Bribing bad teams with more picks – TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

Which is kind of a weird premise, right? The system would allow for teams who don’t win because their owners are idiots to win, so the fans would be screwed over because their team wins despite its terrible owner. Wait, what? The idea of course is that without management and ownership that knows what it’s doing, the teams will never win the title. Which is probably true. But would fans care? Wouldn’t fans rather just have their team competitive rather than swallowed up by the cap-heavy big market teams 9 out of 10 times? Wouldn’t they rather have a shot at a complete rebuild, and hope the owner doesn’t completely screw it up rather than hoping their owner randomly decides to sell a property he’s getting considerable value every single day from? Donald Sterling is not walking out that door. You can make the market system as libertarian as you desire, remove all regulation or competitive balance mechanisms, and Donald Sterling will still turn a profit because of his market, and when he does spend, he’ll still have a much better chance at winning a title randomly than Herb Kohl.

And as much as its clear there are a handful of idiots that occupy seats at the Board of Governors meetings and who sit in GM chairs, aren’t most of these definitions largely liquid? What had the Wyc Grousbeck and the rest of the Boston Basketball Partners ownership group really done until 2008 when the trades happened? Hadn’t they been as poor as anyone else in running their business? Wasn’t Danny Ainge considered on the hot seat? Now they look like one of the most stable franchises in sports. Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak looked like out-of-touch lunatics in 2005. Clay Bennett is reviled while his team’s management is applauded before they’ve actually won a title yet.

But we’re getting away from a  more central point. Show me a team that has truly built a championship caliber squad and I’ll show you a team that drafted a Hall of Famer. Paul Pierce. Dwyane Wade. Kobe Bryant. Tim Duncan. Even Kevin Durant if you want to prematurely throw in the Thunder. With the draft being as much of a crapshoot as it is, couldn’t some of these terrible owners and front offices wind up looking much smarter if they were just gifted an all-world player instead of swinging wrong. Sometimes they draft horribly, there’s no question. *Cough*Hasheem Thabeet!*Cough.* But sometimes they just guess wrong. And it sets back a franchise a decade.

I’m not saying we should reward bad ownership. I’m saying this wouldn’t especially reward bad ownership. It does not create a draft balloon “too big to fail.” It simply allows for rebuilding teams to rebuild faster, to facilitate more trades with multiple picks to deal, to get teams in the middle unstuck, and cuts down on the number of “pick X traded for cash” used at the end of the first round anyway. If the NBA wants to get more aggressive with getting rid of bad ownership, by all means, it should. But let’s not duck something which might help fans stuck with bad ownership just because we don’t want to sink to rewarding ownership groups who we may think well of in five years anyway.

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

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There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.