NBA AM: Does the NBA Really Need Parity?

The Warriors and Cavaliers have been truly dominant. Is that a bad thing? Cody Taylor discusses.

5 min read
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Ask any basketball fan about the NBA playoffs this year and it likely won’t take long before they mention how lopsided most of the games have been.

There have been far too many blowouts to this point, and the Golden State Warriors are on the verge of becoming the first team in NBA history to turn in a perfect 16-0 playoff record. It’s astonishing to think that even some the game’s most iconic players were unable to accomplish such a feat.

While Michael Jordan finished his basketball resume with a perfect 6-0 record in NBA Finals matchups, his teams still suffered defeat at least a couple of times. And continue down the list of all-time greats, there will be at least one loss mixed in somewhere.

The subject of parity in the NBA has come front and center, with many debating the topic each day. Watching the Warriors dismantle the Western Conference—and now the Eastern Conference in the Finals—has caused many to wonder just how much competitive balance there is currently in the league.

It’s even more concerning that the Cleveland Cavaliers completely blew through the East after arriving at the Finals with a 12-1 record, and are now just one loss away from being swept. Of course, the Cavaliers have not yet been mathematically eliminated, but it seems all but certain the Warriors will win their second championship in three years.

As much as the subject of parity has been discussed in recent weeks, the lopsided play still hasn’t resulted in a drop in ratings. In fact, the early returns on this year’s NBA Finals series indicate it has been a completely opposite result.

It was announced on Thursday that the 2017 NBA Finals are the most-watched Finals since 1998 through three games, according to Nielsen. The series is averaging a total live audience of 19,984,000 viewers, which is up 11 percent from 2016.

As most fans were finally relieved to witness the closest game of the series on Wednesday night, it became the most-watched Game 3 on ABC after drawing 20.5 million viewers, an increase of 22 percent from last year. Despite much criticism from fans and everyone alike, the league has not experienced a downfall in viewership.

For the past three seasons, many have questioned if a third-straight Finals with the Warriors and Cavaliers is good for the NBA. Based on this year’s ratings, it appears as though the rubber match between the teams is a great thing for the league. At the end of the day, the NBA is a business and wants to have its biggest stars on the game’s biggest stage.

With the Warriors and Cavaliers in the Finals, the league has just that. On one side, there is Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, while LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are on the other. Would the viewership still be the same if the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics had made the Finals instead?

Maybe not.

Between the two teams, they also feature some of the most polarizing players in the game, as well. Some will likely even tune in to root against Curry, Durant, Green or James. It even became a spectacle in last year’s Finals when the Cavaliers began to mount their series comeback down 3-1.

Both of these teams have come under fire this season due to the makeup of their rosters. By having so many All-Stars on one team, the idea of having these star-studded teams has come into question. Durant was even asked prior to the Finals if he was to blame for the lack of parity in the league by choosing to sign with the Warriors.

The idea of a super team was not just created this season. It wasn’t created last season or even the season before that. Teams have been putting these rosters together for years. Remember when Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers? How about when the Lakers had Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy?

Those are just the successful super teams that have been formed. There have been far too many others that have failed (See: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard). It seems a bit unfair to criticize Durant and the Warriors for joining together (or even James in Cleveland or Miami) when the league has seen this happen countless times before.

The league is trending toward having multiple All-Stars on one team. Teams recognize that’s what it’s going to take in order to have a chance to compete for a championship. As the Warriors and Cavaliers dominate the super team conversation now, the next super team could be built this summer.

Can the Boston Celtics attract a player like Gordon Hayward in free agency? Would they be open to trading for a player like Paul George or Jimmy Butler? The next super team could very well be upon us and it won’t take long for the next one to form after that.

While it’s easy to sit back and say that it’s getting old watching the same teams in the playoffs, the ratings indicate otherwise. The last time the ratings were this high, Michael Jordan was still playing. For a league seemingly still trying to move on from Jordan, they are doing a pretty good job at it.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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