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NBA’s Construct Promotes Pat Riley’s Vision

November 26th, 2011 2 comments

It took a 15-hour session pitched between the NBA and player representatives in New York that spilled over from Friday into early Saturday morning. It took nearly half a year, from pre-draft negotiations in early summer spread nearly into the precipice of a chilly East Coast winter. But it’s over. The NBA and its players have come to a tentative agreement, and the NBA lockout is over.

The NBA was taking direct aim at the Miami Heat when it issued, if you believe Commissioner David Stern’s stern ultimatum, its final collective bargaining agreement proposal. Michael Jordan and his roving gang of hard-line scallywags were trying their damndest to force Pat Riley to break apart his creation.

In an ironic twist of fate, though, the agreement that was struck not only fails to prevent such a construct in the future, it actually encourages it.

The tentative deal makes it expensive – prohibitively expensive – for teams to spend beyond the tax threshold. It also forces certain teams that use certain exceptions to stop spending entirely, under any circumstances. It’s essentially a hard salary cap in disguise. Ah, the financial parity!

But this isn’t the NFL. There aren’t 53 guys on an active roster. There aren’t 26 different positions to consider. There are as few as 13 guys, playing five positions. True, game-changing talent is sparse. Each one has an enormous impact.

Think for a moment about what could happen under such a construct.

If, for example, every team in the league were given exactly $60 million to spend, how would you spend it? Would you give 13 mid-level talent guys mid-level money? Or would you give three maximum talent guys maximum contracts and fill out the roster with throw-ins?

The Heat is proving out a new construct for success in today’s NBA. Grab a legitimate grouping of three superstars and all else you need is a cast of marginally-talented three-point-shooting throw-ins to let them maneuver in space, some of whom occasionally play a little defense, and you’ve got yourself a legitimate title contender. Teams have a very healthy fear of the Heat, and a realistic understanding of how difficult it is to beat them four times in seven games. They seem to get how little a non-star player really affects those odds.

Of course, the joining of forces of three game-changing talents is an exceedingly rare thing. It requires not only the desire of three such players, but also the foresight of a team to clear enough salary to even make it possible. It might happen but once a decade… or not at all.

The point, however, is that it is possible – even more possible under the current deal than it was under the last collectively bargained deal.  Read more…

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