Watered-Down Basketball Association

Barry Rothbard

The NBA boasts three phenomenal teams led by three legitimate superstars. The Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, and San Antonio Spurs are undoubtedly tremendous teams in but are they actually as good as advertised? It is hard to judge teams that consistently play against inferior competition. These seemingly powerful teams wouldn’t stand a chance against Jordan’s Bulls, Magic’s Lakers, or Bird’s Celtics. The Toronto Raptors would never have a shot at becoming the two-seed in the East if they played in a more competitive era. The NBA has become an extremely watered-down league, but this fact has been overshadowed by star power.

The futility of the Eastern Conference is remarkable. The “best” team is the Detroit Pistons, which Chris Webber and his wobbly knees revived this season. The experienced Pistons still play tough defense, but this squad is clearly a far cry from the team that beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals three years ago. The Raptors are arguably the second-best team in the East even though they lack any NBA player who has accomplished anything in his career aside from Chris Bosh. The Cleveland LeBrons are a one-man show that relies way too heavily on one star. Sans Agent Zero (Gilbert Arenas) and one of the NBA’s most underrated stars (Caron Butler), the Washington Wizards are better suited for the lottery. The irony of the East is that a team that was on the brink of a playoff spot (my beloved New York Knicks) now finds itself with virtually the same record as the Philadelphia 76ers, arguably one of the worst teams in the NBA in the first half of the season. The Orlando Magic, New Jersey Nets, and Indiana Pacers have been extremely inconsistent all year long, but two of them will make the playoffs.

The West isn’t that good either. The “Big Three” are great teams. Utah and Houston would beat anyone from the East. But after that, no team is really any good. Kobe’s Lakers are young, inconsistent and rely wholly on Bryant way too often. At this time, the Los Angeles Clippers, who have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA, will make the playoffs with a sub-.500 record. Add to that a playoff-bound Nuggets team that has looked shaky at best with Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony and the result is a decidedly mediocre Western Conference.

The NBA should fix mistakes of the past and contract two-four teams. First, the NBA should obliterate the Portland Trail Blazers, whose players have proved to be too busy thinking about the “blaze” part of their name while falling off the “trail.” Find a way to put Brandon Roy on the Cavs (imagine him and LeBron) and allow the other two-three NBA caliber players on roster (Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge and maybe Jarrett Jack) to be drafted by other teams. The next team to go should be the Memphis Grizzlies. Aside from Pau Gasol, the Grizzles are mostly made up of players that should either still be in college or were playing college basketball within the past two-three years. I’m sorry, but guys like Terrance Kinsey simply do not belong in the NBA. Also, Chucky Atkins should not be an NBA team’s number two option.

The NBA should find a way for the Knicks to get Greg Oden and lose horrible contracts like Jerome James and Jared Jeffries. Also, Kevin Durant should be teamed with either Kevin Garnett or put on a franchise with tradition, such as Boston or Philadelphia. Then the NBA needs to pray that Oden and Durant live up to the considerable hype. At this point, the NBA can only be saved by more star power. As of now, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash make us forget about the Tyronn Lues and Nate Robinsons of the world who are currently starting (and actually putting up solid numbers) in the NBA.

In reality, the NBA is a league full of many superstars, but not many good teams. This is why the 2007 playoffs will start and end with the three deepest and most talented teams in the NBA. Enjoy watching LeBron possibly maneuver Cleveland to the Finals or Shaq and Wade romp through the East, because this season will most definitely end out West.