NBA: Why Small Market Teams Will Be a Thing of the Past in the NBA

Josh Rosenblat@JMRosenblatContributor IIIFebruary 26, 2011

NBA Commissioner, David Stern (pictured), is leading the NBA though a massive overhaul of the structure of the league.
NBA Commissioner, David Stern (pictured), is leading the NBA though a massive overhaul of the structure of the league.Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Somewhere in his office on Fifth Avenue in New York, NBA Commissioner David Stern is smiling.

Surely he watched the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks game at Madison Square Garden. Newly acquired Knick, Carmelo Anthony, had 27 points and 10 rebounds in his victorious Knick debut. The trade that brought Anthony to New York from Denver is one of the biggest in-season trades in recent memory, leading Anthony to claim that, "New York basketball is back," in his press conference Wednesday.

After years of ridicule and barely reaching the level of mediocrity, the NBA's largest market is finally relevant again.

But, like almost all positives, there are a few gaping negatives derived from this trade. The negatives all come at the expense of the rest of the small market teams in the NBA. Like the Nuggets, the Utah Jazz occupy one of the smallest US television markets with an NBA franchise. The Jazz, unwilling to extend the contract of their star, Deron Williams, the Jazz traded him to the New Jersey Nets. The Nets, preparing for their move to Brooklyn in 2012, needed a headline player to attract fans as they relocate to NYC.

These two examples of small market franchises giving up their stars to, reveals seismic change in the landscape of the NBA.

Both the Jazz and Nuggets are located near the bottom third of NBA teams in terms of television markets with NBA franchises. On the other hand, Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony landed in the number one rated television market in the United States, New York.

Are these just coincidences brought upon by the NBA Trade Deadline, or are they something bigger? Has the NBA become a business where only the rich and prosperous can succeed?

More evidence to support the notion that the NBA is beginning to become a league governed by the amount of money franchises can obtain is the current ownership situation with New Orleans Hornets.

This season, the NBA decided to secure ownership of the Hornets, due to its conflicts at the head of the organization. Despite their 35-25 record, good enough for the 5th seed in the in the Western Conference if the season ended today, the Hornets struggle to bring fans to games, ranking near the bottom of the league in attendance. And according to many of the NBA's most respected personalities, such as Dallas Mavericks' Mark Cuban and the Los Angeles Lakers' Head Coach, Phil Jackson, requiring the other 29 teams that make up the NBA to help pay for the upkeep the franchise is unfair. Jackson even went as far as saying, "If New Orleans happens to win the championship does everyone get a trophy in the NBA?"

Although Jackson's sarcastic comment may seem arrogant and selfish, he does raise an interesting question.

Is the NBA better off with a higher concentration of talent in cities that are considered larger markets? Or, in other words, is a top-heavy league a positive for the NBA?

Unlike the NFL, the current king of American sports, many NBA franchise lose money during the course of a season. With having the most talented and competitive teams in cities where basketball is extremely popular, the NBA would be able to redistribute some of the extra revenue derived from the large market teams, and allocate it towards some of the teams located in smaller markets, allowing them to more efficiently cover their costs, and raise their profits.

But aside from the economic side of the power shift, another option is presented.

This alternative is one that is often frowned upon by basketball purists and casual fans alike. This idea is the termination of certain teams. By buying out the worst performing franchises (in terms of profits), the NBA would be able to create a more profitable and competitive league, with an increased talent level.

These scenarios provide two major positives to both the NBA and its fans; an increase in talent level and competition and the rise in the amount of money made by the league and its franchises.

So, what do these three recent examples of a separation of NBA teams due to financial factors mean for the future?

Well, a lot of the league's future depends on the creation of the league's newest collective bargaining agreement (the current CBA ends on June 30). If the NBA decides to follow the NFL's model by instilling a hard salary cap, the creation of "super teams" in large market cities, will not occur. This is because the hard salary cap would essentially even the playing field between the NBA franchises of small markets and large markets by decreasing the maximum amount of money franchises could spend on their players' salaries.

Overall, it is clear that the NBA has seen drastic changes during the past year and those changes will continue to occur until the looming expiration of the CBA is addressed. With the latest trades and outcry over the collective ownership of the New Orleans Hornets, it is almost impossible to foresee any outcome other than a major discrepancy between franchises located in larger and small markets. And lastly, the only thing in the way of a complete overhaul of the NBA is the possibility of a hard salary cap to come into effect as a result of a new CBA.

But only time will tell what direction the NBA will proceed.

And as the cliché goes, "Money makes the world go 'round." And the NBA is no different.

Josh Rosenblat is a high School student from Chicago looking to find a way to break into sports journalism. He often writes about the NBA and the Chicago Cubs, as well as College Basketball and the NFL. You can email him at joshua.m.rosenblat@gmail.com or follow him on twitter @JMRosenblat. Feel free to send him comments.

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