The NBA has a lot going for it. Teams have more talent, and more money, than any other point in the league’s history. On a nightly basis, you can sit back and watch players physically do things that have never been done at positions where a decade ago they would have been disqualified from playing for one reason or another (seriously, watch the Greek Freak on a fast break and realize he is 6’11’’ and only 22 years old).
With all this happening, you’d think that the NBA would have it made. Sit back, watch physical freaks of nature defy all general conventions of what we know the human body to be able to do, and keep rolling in the cash.
However, the NBA has an issue that doesn’t have a clear solution: it’s boring.
This isn’t a critique of the regular season. There are so many teams that have talented players that it is almost impossible to take in all of the games possible. In one moment you can go from Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Wiggins making supernatural athletic plays to watching the young Pheonix Suns with Devin Booker shooting the lights out. The bigger issue is the fact that there are really only two teams that have top echelon talent, so when the pool of games shrinks in the playoffs, there is no compelling reason to watch.
Off the top of my head, there have been 3 games this entire postseason that have been awesome to watch: Game 1 between Boston and Chicago, Game 6 between Boston and Washington (the John Wall 3 at the buzzer game), and Game 1 between Golden State and San Antonio (which was a blowout until Kawhi went down with an injury). That’s it. Every other game has been a blowout or just non-competitive.
There are two teams that have yet to lose in the postseason and have a collection of players who are respectively in the top 5 at their position in both the East and West, and they were also the favorites before the year even started. While that will make for a compelling Finals series that will be a back and forth of offensive fireworks and awesome moments, it makes for a terrible playoffs which can turn people off. The path to get there has been riddled with basketball that hasn’t been interesting and hasn’t even been particularly good.
The problem is this isn’t an outlier, this seems to be the new reality in the NBA. The league better hope that the rise in cap money for teams allows for more player movement, (imagine Chris Paul throwing lobs to Karl-Anthony Towns or kicking to Andrew Wiggins for 3 in Minnesota for the next 3 to 5 years). But if players keep recycling between the same teams to create two super powers, then this is a problem that not even an exploding salary cap can solve.