Would NBA 'Roster Model' Work? Duh.
Mistakes and dysfunction and overreaching? Its OK, we all do it at one time or another. For example, I thought it would be a great idea to start covering the NBA just after my favorite team won the title but just before the worst labor situation maybe ever.
Getting back to the point, one such episode of overreaching is occurring right now courtesy of Ira Winderman, a Miami Heat beat writer who also works at one of our favorite sites, ProBasketballTalk. In a post Winderman, often insightful, overacts to a PowerPoint presentation put out by the league to sway the players to agree to the proposed CBA.
The league essentially would like rosters to be constructed thusly:
1. Superstar $17 mil
2. All-Star $14 mil
3. Starter $10 mil
4. Starter $8 mil
5. Starter $8 mil
6. 6th Man $ 5 mil
7. Rotation Player $4 mil
8. Rotation Player $3 mil
9. Rotation Player $2 mil
10. Rotation Player $1 mil
11. –15. Remaining $3 mil (split amongst the rest)
Using these figures we arrive at $75 million in total, conveniently the projected Luxury Tax level for next season (if "next season'' ever happens). Winderman finds this structure ridiculous and a worthless outlay from which to build a championship team. He even challenges his readers to "Go ahead, try to fit any recent championship model into such an alignment," presumably believing it impossible.
Challenge accepted, Ira.
I give you "Team X" a "hypothetical'' NBA team with the following salary structure.
1. Superstar $17 mil
2. All-Star* $12.6 mil *should be
3. Starter $10.6 mil
4. 6th man $9.8 mil
5. Starter $8.6 mil
6. Starter $7 mil
7. Rotation Player $7 mil
8. Rotation Player $4 mil
9. Rotation Player $2.8 mil
10. Rotation Player $1.8 mil
11. -15. Remaining $4.4 mil (split)
The total of this roster comes to $85.6 million, about $11 million over the luxury tax threshold using next year's projected limit. How could you possibly construct a championship roster from this outlay? Everyone knows you need at least two superstars to win a championship in the NBA! The astute among you might see where I'm going with this.
This is, of course, NOT a "hypothetical team.'' This was a real NBA roster that was actually highly successful and recently won a championship. That's right, "Team X" is the Dallas Mavericks, and those are the 2010-2011 salaries of Dirk, Chandler, Butler, Terry, Kidd, Marion, Haywood, Stevenson, Brewer, Barea, respectively with Beaubois, Jones, Mahinmi, Cardinal and Peja composing the 11-through-15 spots.
The overall salary total comes in above the tax threshold, but clearly you CAN win a championship with this structure, especially if the mid-level player salaries were a bit better controlled. … because a team just DID.
In the first piece I wrote for DallasBasketball.com, I off-handedly mentioned that last season's Finals served as a bit of a referendum on how championship teams are built. I didn't really intend that to be taken as gospel, but we are seeing some version of that come to reality. It seems the NBA really is taking the "One Superstar per Team" salary structure and seeking to impose it league-wide in the name of competitive balance. This is the "new world order" that Ira is so afraid of.
Perhaps I am being too hard on Winderman though. He is a beat writer who covers the Heat and it is important to keep in mind his motivations, or at least the press-row chair from which he views the world. However, competitive balance is the point of this model, and we are "talking parity" here, Ira. What we are not talking is the relative destruction of multiple franchises as their stars force their way out to play with their buddies for destination franchises. Owners are seeking to prevent such events from occurring again through this and other proposals.
Furthermore, there are many ways to allocate this proposed $75 million (or whatever value eventually gets agreed upon). It's still possible to shoehorn in a few more "Superstar"-level players on one roster as long as you pay everyone else less.
The Heat – the team playing inches away from Ira's press-row chair -- got to within two wins of a championship doing just that.
Where Winderman does make some valid points is criticizing the league's belief that there are 60 Superstars and All-Stars. Perhaps its just semantics, but there aren't 30 "Superstars" in addition to 30 other All-Star-level players, out there in the NBA. In reality that's really only one group.
What there are is too many players being paid as such, and that's a key issue in this lockout. It's the Rashard Lewises, the Gilbert Arenases, and Eddy Currys of the league that completely blow the salary structure, not the Dirks, LeBrons or even the Boshes.
What the owners need is someone to save them from their own irrational exuberance in giving out atrocious contracts to mid-level players. They're attempting to pay for their own mistakes on the backs of the players. Unfortunately though, just like you can't legislate morality, maybe you can't collectively bargain the prevention of your own mistakes, overpaying, and ultimately, our own mess.
The league is trying, though, with a model that doesn't deserve to be laughed off as "impossible to win with.'' Even if you hate the offer, you cannot laugh off the roster model. And don't think this concept is now moot because there is no settlement. The owners will eventually push this model again. And amid the mistakes and dysfunction and the overreaching, the model will have validity.
The Dallas Mavericks have been winning with it for a decade and just captured a title with it.