Smaller Markets Cower As NBA Remains Top Heavy

Written by Steve Coulter on . Posted in Business, Sports

Steve Nash and Ray Allen Deals Highlight Growing NBA Problem

nba imbalance

Although small market Oklahoma City broke through and made it to the finals this year, the NBA is a league dictated by the big market franchises. The rich keep getting richer, the large keep getting larger; there should be a definite concern about where the league is heading.

In particular, the league’s free agency period is concentrating league power in a few key cities. This plundering of talent has unfortunately become the summer norm in league.

While several moves have been discussed and analyzed within the last week, most notably Joe Johnson’s move from Atlanta to Brooklyn and Steve Nash’s transition from the desert of Phoenix to the 12-lane highways of Los Angeles, there is one thing that has become pretty clear in the post-Finals fallout – the league is becoming increasingly lopsided.

Big Fish Set the Table

Players such as Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony leaving their respective small-markets in the last two seasons was a beacon of sorts for this transition, and the next big domino to fall may be Dwight Howard.

nba imbalance

The Howard saga remains up in the air as of today, but it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if the star center departs from small-market Orlando for some bigger scenery, whether it be the glamorized streets of the Big Apple with the Brooklyn Nets or the open terrain of Texas with the Houston Rockets (the league’s fourth biggest market).

What would be surprising is if a teams like Milwaukee, Indiana or Memphis came away as winners of any prized free agents.

Talent Drain

The Lakers fell to the up and coming small market Thunder so what do they do? They acquire another superstar, just like when they orchestrated their lopsided trade for Pau Gasol, delivering them two titles. Even though Toronto was a rumored destination for Steve Nash, he and the Lakers found a way to bring more star power to the most followed team in the U.S.

How can the small market teams rise up? A savvy front office and scouting department seems to be the only way. OKC got to where they are through the draft, and teams like the Denver Nuggets were able to milk huge deals for their departing superstars. Scouting is crucial to maintaining success, and finding the hidden gems year after year is so crucial. Oklahoma City has mastered this technique, but how long can the magic last? Can they continue to hit on prospects like Durant and Westbrook? Is it possible for this approach to bring an NBA title to a small market city?

nba free agency

In two more years, their third homegrown star James Harden will be a free agent, and he seems destined to have a number of suitors. Not only that, he’ll be worthy of a max contract that OKC can’t afford. Oklahoma City already has too much invested in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to offer anything in the same proximity to Harden than a team like Houston, L.A., or even the New York Knicks.

Imbalance Inevitable

The regurgitated formula may be aggravating for fans rooting on their local teams with no realistic chance of making it to the top; however, it has proven successful as the NBA Finals ratings this year were the best in nearly a decade. Is it sustainable though, or could we be headed for contraction?

Since Carmelo, Deron and LeBron walked, check that, sprinted away from the small streets of Denver, Salt Lake and Cleveland for the warm beaches of Miami and bright lights of New York, the NBA has been all about imbalance. The rich continue to get rich, while the poor, well, they continue to be used and abused. It doesn’t seem like this trend is going to cease anytime soon.



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