An Attempt to Clarify the Argument

Or, Some Thoughts About the Structure of the NBA. 

Across several threads now the argument about how quickly the Wolves should try to win has been raging.  Should they spend money this summer, or wait?  Is it better to develop longer, not prioritize winning in 2010-11, and try to keep the pick they owe the Clippers for one more year?  SnP wrote eloquently about this question in his Memphis game wrap, and we have been discussing it for even longer, in one form or another. 

My position has been that they should prioritize winning starting next season.  That's not to say I want them to trade their young players for 32 year olds, but I do want them to spend their cap space, do their best to fill their holes, and get on with the process of winning.  However, many here disagree, and I respect their opinions (well...not PoorDick, but everyone else).  Below the fold, I want to try to get beyond this question and figure out why we're having this argument and how the way the league works is affecting it.

There is a delicate balance in sports that needs to be maintained in order for them to work.  In any given sport or league, if the best team doesn't win often enough, the results seem random, and people lose interest.  If, on the other hand, the best team wins too often, the sport is drained of drama and people lose interest.  It is this latter problem, I think, which infects the NBA.  Even though more than half the league makes the playoffs, realistically, the best teams always win the titles.  6th seeds don't.  In order to be one of the best teams in any given year, it is necessary to win at least 75% of your games.  

Compare this to say, baseball, a sport that has no salary cap and about which there are many imbalance complaints.  But realistically, there is much more hope for any given baseball team to win the world series than any given NBA team to win the NBA title.  The reason for this is that if you win 55% of your games in baseball, you have a decent chance of reaching the playoffs, at which point, the results are much more randomized.  So the Twins made the playoffs with 87 wins last year.  The Cardinals won the world series after going 83-79 a few years ago. You simply don't get these types of results in the NBA. 

And this, I think, is the crux of it.  The reason we are having this impassioned argument. (And the reason, by the way, that so many teams every year aren't trying to win, which I do not think is healthy for a league That's another fanpost, though).  Those who want to wait, hold assets, concentrate for another year on development, get that last protected pick from the Clippers recognize, correctly, that in order to become one of those best teams and have a shot at a championship, you have to get special players, and the way you do that is through having high draft picks.  They fear getting stuck in a land of perpetual mediocrity by ramping up too quickly and topping out well short of greatness.

My position, and others, is that getting to that level is unlikely no matter how long they wait to get good, and I want to see good basketball sooner rather than later.  We've watched terrible basketball for several years, and I'm tired of it.  These last 4 games have reminded us that the pleasure is in watching good basketball, and I want more of it.  Realistically, the number of players currently on the roster who will still be on the roster when the Timberwolves win a world championship is probably zero.  My point is, when you are at the level of the Wolves, you can't plan for a title.  you have to try to get good, and then hope something happens to get you over the top.  But as a fan, I want to root for a good team, and I want to do so as soon as possible.

The point of this post, however, is not to argue that one side of this argument is right or wrong.  I'm hoping to get opinions on the league structure, the nature of winning, and whether the league would be better if there was less deviation from top to bottom.  Whether, if so, there is anything the league can do to encourage more parity, and whether regular season parity can or should carry over into the post season.  These questions are vital, I think, for the league, and its future financial health.  The owners are pleading poverty, and I wonder if the fact that the best teams win too often isn't a big part of the problem. 

Now that I've started, I feel that I could go on and on about bad teams and revenue, the lack of competitiveness and more.  But this is long enough, and I'll leave it there, since I started this to be about the Wolves and our arguments. Thank you for reading.

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