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Evaluation Time: What Kind of State Is the NBA In?

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Evaluation Time: What Kind of State Is the NBA In?
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Amidst a work stoppage, now is a good time to take a step back and assess how the NBA is doing as a whole.

As a huge NBA fan myself, I'm going to touch upon many important topics that effect the well-being of the league. And there is certainly a lot going on.

First off, let me start off by saying that the quality of players in the league today is outstanding. There are superstars on top of superstars. And the players are very marketable. It seems like every all-star has some sort of endorsement deal. Even the ones who aren't the most popular are heavily endorsed, such as LeBron James.

The variety of superstars is also exciting. We have young players who will be in the league for a long time, such as LeBron, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Derrick Rose, LaMarcus Aldridge, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, John Wall, Blake Griffin and more. That's a pretty long list, huh?

Even more so, there are still some great veteran players who are future Hall of Famers. Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce headline that list. Watching these guys play with and against the youngsters is awesome.

The MLB lacks true superstars that bring people to the ballpark solely to watch them. If Blake Griffin is coming to your hometown, you want to go to the arena to see him, even if the Clippers aren't any good. Baseball doesn't have very many of the those types of electrifying players or personalities. And with the exception of Crosby and Ovechkin, neither does the NHL. The NBA is exploding with these types of players, and that is a great sign.

In addition, the NBA is tremendously popular. Now, that is subject to a lockout. But we'll touch upon that later. Remember how many people tuned in to watch The Decision? And the NBA playoffs are always a big hit on television, particularly the NBA Finals. While walking around cities, you will see NBA jerseys all over the place.

A growing trend over the past few seasons has been the "teaming up" of great players. Although it was not through free agency, we saw Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen join Paul Pierce in Boston. Carmelo Anthony forced his way to New York to join Stoudemire, and another top player may be on the way. Of course, we all know about the Miami Heat's trio of stars. The Los Angeles Lakers have Kobe Bryant and three of the best front court players around.

But is it good for the game?

Well, maybe. It's to be seen. It worries me that small market teams such as the Timberwolves, Pistons, Raptors, Bobcats and Cavaliers may never have the ability to land the talent needed to compete. I do not want an NBA where eight teams seem to have all of the talent while the rest of league takes whatever is left. It's not competitive, and you're isolating too many fan bases.

The success that foreign players have had in the NBA is encouraging. When non-domestic players do well, it brings in new basketball markets, which is always good. Dirk Nowitzki is a great example, along with Yao Ming being the other most notable. Global markets means more revenue. Can't argue with that, right?

The bigger markets seem to be doing quite well for themselves in the NBA. Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas all have elite teams, while the New York Knicks appear to possibly be entering the scene.

Once again, this seems to equal bigger revenue in the forms of ticket sales and jersey sales. In addition, the cities themselves benefit when their teams are doing well. More fans go to restaurants and bars to spend money, which gets pumped into the local economy.

The game itself seems to be taking a little bit of an interesting twist as coaches are slowly breaking away from the conventional wisdom of having a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center on the floor.

The Miami Heat play a lineup of Wade, Mike Miller, LeBron, Bosh and Haslem in crunch time-a lineup with no true center or point guard. Even when they had Kendrick Perkins, the Boston Celtics never used a center in key situations. They instead played with two power forwards, Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis. The Knicks primarily used Ray Felton, Landry Fields, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Stoudemire— a group that involves two small forwards and no center. It's an interesting development.

As we all know, however, not all is peachy in the NBA.

Owners are becoming too loose with their money, and are preventing their teams from future flexibility and success.

I understand the basic economics of the game; if the owners want to overpay for a player, they can. And that's fine. But the league is absolutely flooded with atrocious contracts. Baron Davis, Eddy Curry, Al Harrington and Emeka Okafor are just a handful of examples. And there are tons of others. It's getting to the point where trades are made because of contracts, and not because of talent.

This lack of fiscal responsibility leads us into the lockout. The owners are claiming that they no longer have a profitable product.

Who is to blame for the lockout? Let me put it this way. Do I blame Rashard Lewis for taking $110 million? Not at all. Do I blame a certain owner for giving him that money? Of course! Do you want to make a profit? Then don't give $110 million to Rashard Lewis! Very, very simple.

For all the NBA has going for it, this lockout could wipe it all out. It will certainly test the loyalty of the fans if we start to lose parts of the season, or even the entire season.

And as the NFL learned, there is too much to be lost here. Too much money.

So let's stop fooling around and get this done. Because the NBA is in an exciting state, and it's only going to get better. Hold on, people.

Follow me on Twitter @JrMarkyMark

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