There is only one LeBron James. Last offseason every team and their mother made an attempt to get him on their team. The team that got him made the finals. The teams that missed out on him were visibly upset.
In the lockout a lot has been said about parity. In the NBA, a few great teams rule the league with an iron fist. How are small market teams to compete (San Antonio is conviently left out when this point arises)? There will be a lot of talk about hard caps and contract set ups to ensure that the talent in the league is distributed so that one team can’t buy all the best players. I want to reiterate a point though: no matter what changes happen to the salary cap, no matter what changes happen to player contracts, and no matter what happens with revenue sharing…
- PARITY IS IMPOSSIBLE IN THE NBA
Here’s a breakdown of the top 30 players according to Wins Produced last season:
Table 1: Top 30 Players in the NBA for the 2010-2011 Season
|Chris Paul||New Orleans||1||80||80||2865||0.358||21.4|
|Pau Gasol||LA Lakers||5||82||82||3037||0.258||16.3|
|Blake Griffin||LA Clippers||4.3||82||82||3112||0.248||16.1|
|Kris Humphries||New Jersey||4||74||44||2061||0.344||14.8|
|Landry Fields||New York||2||82||81||2541||0.273||14.4|
|Lamar Odom||LA Lakers||4||82||35||2639||0.26||14.3|
|Kevin Durant||Oklahoma City||4.3||78||78||3038||0.216||13.7|
|Russell Westbrook||Oklahoma City||1||82||82||2847||0.201||11.9|
|Tim Duncan||San Antonio||5||76||76||2156||0.26||11.7|
|Kobe Bryant||LA Lakers||2.1||82||82||2779||0.2||11.6|
|Manu Ginobili||San Antonio||2.6||80||79||2426||0.225||11.4|
|Deron Williams||New Jersey-Utah||1||65||65||2465||0.213||11|
If somehow the top players were redistributed to every team in the NBA there would still be a major rift. The difference between LeBron James and Andre Miller is huge! Even using the dreaded PER or Wins Produced’s less attractive cousin Win Shares we see a similar problem. The difference between the best player in the league and the 30th best is gigantic.
- Wins Produced – Kevin Love (1) with 25.8 vs. Andre Miller (30) with 10.5
- Win shares – LeBron James (1) with 15.6 vs. Amare Stoudemire (30) with 8.0
- PER – LeBron James (1) with 27.3 vs. Paul Pierce (30) with 19.8
It was over five years ago in The Wages of Wins when Dave, Marty and Stacey used the term “Short Supply of Tall People” to explain the problem with parity in the NBA, and this idea is still important. There simply aren’t enough good players to go around in the league. This problem gets worse when some teams have the audacity to get more than one elite player (eg: Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami).
What’s more, the good players tend to stay good. LeBron James and Dwight Howard have been MVP candidates for years now. Once a team has one or more elite players they can contend; the teams without these players cannot. The truth is that the owners know this; the owners don’t expect parity. Most owners can’t get a LeBron. But if the system is shaken up and a few star players are forced to change teams then there’s a chance, however small, that a star may head their way. So at the end of the lockout we may see some stars on new teams and we may see some new rules. But what we won’t see is parity, because as the NBA currently stands that’s impossible.