By Charles Glover, Jr.
The popularity of the National Football League (NFL) has grown over the past twenty years, while the National Basketball Association (NBA) has seen peaks and valleys in its television interest, fan loyalty and attendance. The NFL has been able to generate greater parity and excitement for its teams in more small market cities compared to the NBA equivalent because star players from college football teams are guaranteed to go to the NFL teams that performed the worst in the previous season but the opposite is true in the NBA.
The NFL draft model ensures that the team with the worst record in the league will receive the first pick. There is also a provision that precludes a team from receiving that coveted first pick in consecutive years. On the other hand, the NBA has a draft lottery that gives a weighted chance at the first pick in the draft according to the records of the teams that did not make the playoffs. The team with the worst record has, at best, a twenty-five percent chance at procuring the top choice in the draft. The small market teams in the NBA would greatly benefit from the NFL draft model as it would give them a better chance to land big name players from college. This would then grow their fan bases.
The NFL has seen small-market teams with terrible seasons rebound quickly with the selection of the right players in the draft. In conjunction with other moves in free agency, this results in quick improvements. The Carolina Panthers drafted Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton with the first pick in the 2011 draft and the team is having its best success in several seasons this year. The Indianapolis Colts drafted second generation NFL quarterback Andrew Luck first overall in 2012 and made the playoffs the very next season. These players were big names in college and helped create excitement for the fans of their respective teams while improving the performance of those teams as well.
Conversely, in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the draft lottery for the third time in ten seasons and picked Anthony Bennett first overall last season. The New Orleans Pelicans (Hornets at the time) selected Anthony Davis with the first pick in the 2011-12 draft. Those teams have yet to see their teams improve to playoff material, yet but many believe that those teams have bright futures. The challenge for the NBA is to have small market teams land stars that can help generate widespread interest which would eventually translate to more money for those franchises.
The Oklahoma City Thunder organization is the most referenced small market team, loaded with young stars through the draft in the NBA. The challenge for other NBA teams is to land young exciting players that become top-tier talent that can eventually transform a team to a title contender. Small market teams in the NBA have an additional challenge of retaining young stars they initially draft. Some of the biggest stars in the NBA change teams in pursuit of a championship. Parity in the NBA is difficult because many small market teams struggle in putting together consistent winning teams while retaining their drafted stars.
The other challenge is few small market teams draft big name stars. The Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, and Toronto Raptors stand out as teams that are in small markets, have struggled on the court, and have had a difficult time landing stars that can help their teams become playoff contenders. The NFL has big name stars in many small markets, which helps keep interest for those teams, even if they struggle with those stars on their team. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers’ quarterback), Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings’ running back), Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers’ quarterback), and Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers’ safety) are just a handful of NFL stars from small market cities that are regularly featured in commercials. All of these players were also drafted by their current team.
The NBA would have a better chance of achieving the parity it desires if the rules in the NBA draft are changed to decide the order of the draft, based on records. A provision that would help guard against teams intentionally losing games to get the best draft pick is to prevent teams from having the top three picks in consecutive seasons. The potential for landing top-tier talent will always be alluring through the draft because of the potential to have a young star transform a franchise to a winner. The potential draft class for the NBA includes two of the most hyped freshmen in college basketball in years: Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Jabari Parker (Duke). It would be phenomenal for the NBA if the best player in the draft had a chance to transform the worst team in the NBA into an exciting championship winner.–OnPointPress.net.
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant.