Over the last few weeks, I have sent a message out to a handful of NBA fans regarding the question: If the NBA were to retract and eliminate four teams, who would they be and why?
The outstanding responses I received, coupled with Forbes’ most recent report on each NBA team’s value, has brought me to our discussion point. I want to send out a quick thanks to all those who participated.
Retraction is a word that has come up quite a bit in recent discussion. With the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expiring, many NBA executives have suggested that a retraction would be the best way to improve both the quality of play and brand.
Before we proceed, I would like to say that I am not a fan of retraction. Being from the Northwest, I have seen what losing a team has done to Seattle. Obviously the Sonics were not retracted, just relocated—but the principle is the same. When a city loses a team, basketball fans suffer.
That being said, if there was to be a retraction I believe the teams most likely to go would be the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Memphis Grizzlies, the New Orleans Hornets, and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Franchise net worth, attendance records, and peer opinion were all studied and taken into account.
These four teams all ranked in the bottom five for net worth. Three of the teams are amongst the league’s worst in attendance, and the Hornets are owned by the NBA because of financial troubles.
If these four teams were retracted there would have to be a way to disperse the players who are under contract. Any free agents (restricted free agents included) of these teams would not be included in the draft, and would be free to sign with any team that pursued them.
The remaining players would be put into a pool for a dispersion draft. The draft would be a serpentine draft—much like fantasy drafts are conducted—that would allow the team with the worst record draft first.
Each player that is drafted would then have the opportunity to negotiate a new contract with the team that just acquired their rights. If no contract agreement could be reached, the player would then be required to sign a one-year deal, where he would make 90% of his previous year’s salary and become a restricted free agent in the next year’s summer.
From Memphis, Marc Gasol, Hamed Haddadi, Sam Young, Shane Battier, and Leon Powe would all be free agents.
The free agents from Milwaukee would be Chris Douglas-Roberts, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Earl Boykins, and Michael Redd.
Minnesota only has one available free agent this year, Sebastian Telfair.
Finally, free agent from New Jersey would be Marco Belinelli, Jason Smith, Marcus Banks, Willie Green, Carl Landry, and D.J. Mbenga. David West and Aaron Gray would have the option of being free agents or entered into the draft, because they both have options on their contracts.
The dispersion draft would feature talent such as Kevin Love, Zach Randolph, OJ Mayo, Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut, Michael Beasley, Emeka Okafor, and the crown jewel of the draft, Chris Paul.
The dispersion of the available talent would genuinely make each team better. The quality of each roster would be drastically improved. Teams would be able to stockpile better talent, and every game would be more competitive. The NBA could even market this as a television special, much like they do with the annual NBA Rookie Draft.
The NBA D-League could also potentially benefit from a retraction. New D-League teams could be inserted into the cities that lost their franchises.
With fewer NBA teams, executives could focus on making the D-League more of a legitimate farm system, much like professional baseball and hockey have. The goal would be for every NBA team to have their own D-League affiliate that they could manage, and allow their younger players to develop in.
Obviously, many players would head for Europe and a bigger paycheck than the D-League could offer, but a legitimate chance of being called up to the NBA would be enough to keep a lot of players on this continent.
Although a retraction appears unlikely, it also seems to be an attractive option to NBA executives. While I don’t want to see any cities have their franchises torn away, I would also love to see more teams with two or three superstars.
Additionally, being a huge proponent of the D-League, I believe that a retraction would be one of the final steps towards legitimizing minor league basketball in America.