For everyone who cares about the NBA, this will not be easy, so I will do my best to get through this uncomfortable discussion as fast as I can. I love the NBA as much as the next person, and I believe that it houses the greatest collection of athletic talent on the Earth, but there is one gargantuan problem with the Association:
The league is so incredibly broken that the only thing that can save it is a lockout.
I know that this is an uneasy discussion for most, and those who feel sickened by this realization, I understand your pain. This agonizing truth came to light on Feb. 1, 2008, when the Memphis Grizzlies gave up a top 12 player in the NBA in Pau Gasol for four Mexican jumping beans and a pack of Bubblicious.
Just kidding folks, the trade was actually Pau Gasol and a second-round pick for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittendon, Aaron Mckie, Marc Gasol, and two first-round picks.
Looking at the actual trade makes the former trade seem less absurd. Now soon after this exchange, Memphis General Manager Chris Wallace became the laughingstock of the league and everyone wanted to see if he would trade them a dollar for 30 cents.
For all of you who think that Mr. Wallace willingly executed this trade, I have some swampland in Louisiana that I would like to sell you. The owners of basketball teams are having an increased role in day-to-day operations, and as the economy worsens, their purse strings will tighten on these teams.
How else can you explain the attempted trade of 26-year-old defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler to Oklahoma City for Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox, and DeVon Hardin?
How about the versatile All-Star Richard Jefferson going to San Antonio for the corpse of Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto?
If you are still not convinced what are your thoughts on the Cavaliers acquiring Shaquille O'Neal for Sasha Pavlovic and Ben Wallace? (Note: Wallace admitted that he is giving serious thought to retiring months before this trade was completed).
The list of lopsided trades in the NBA is so long that the recently Vince Carter for Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, and Tony Battie looks like the steal of the century next to any of these stinkers.
Expiring contracts have become the new form of currency in the NBA my friends. Teams that have no hope of making the playoffs are looking for any possible way to shred payroll and if that means trading an all star for three players who would be picked last at a pick-up game at the YMCA then so be it.
At least they will be missing the playoffs at a lower price to the owner.
The NBA's current economic model creates a situation in which the rich get richer and the poor hope to get lucky in the NBA draft. Bad teams look to organizations like Oklahoma City who have acquired multitudes of young talent through the draft and see them as models for how they should operate.
While Oklahoma City has some of the best young talent in the NBA, a closer look at their transactions proves them to be closer to lucky than good.
Before the 2007-2008 season they traded a future hall of famer (Ray Allen) to the Boston Celtics for Delonte West and the fifth pick which turned out to be Jeff Green. In that same draft, they acquired their franchise player in Kevin Durant.
They lucked into him by having one of the worst records in the NBA and thus received the second pick in the lottery. The following year, they continued their run as one of the dregs of the Association and fell into the fourth spot in the draft and selected their point guard of the future, Russell Westbrook.
In the 2008-2009 season, they were on pace to break the record for worst record in the history of the NBA and ended up with the third pick in the draft and they selected Pac-10 player of the year James Harden.
Basketball executives rave about the talent Oklahoma City puts on the floor every night but what have they done to earn it? They traded a future hall of famer for a decent player in Jeff Green and were so bad that they "earned" three picks in the top four. Is this really the type of franchise we want the rest of lower class of the NBA to emulate?
One of the most pivotal trades of the 2008-2009 season was made partially because of financial reasons. Joe Dumars traded one of the best point guards in the NBA in Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets for mercurial over-the-hill superstar Allen Iverson.
What was Joe Dumars’s backup plan just in case the trade worked out for the Nuggets? (The Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals and the Detroit Pistons were swept by Cleveland in the first round, you do the math.)
Iverson was in the last year of his contract and at worst Detroit would have $20 million coming off the books at the end of the season.
Expiring contracts pose more value to bad teams than perennial all-stars. The NBA is the only league where something like this can happen. Can you imagine the Bills trading Lee Evans to the Eagles for Reggie Brown, L.J. Smith, and a fourth-round pick?
The entire NFL would be up in arms but is that trade all that different from the Richard Jefferson deal?
I apologize for having to put you through this discussion. I understand that it is a difficult realization for many and believe me when I say that it was not easy for me to write these words.
The problem is that if no one raises these issues then we all may be in for a rude awakening on Dec. 15, 2010, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.