This is a basketball fan’s favorite time of year! NBA playoff races are heating up and March Madness is here. Everyone is filling out their brackets hoping it is perfect but soon we all realize someone like Middle Tennessee is here to spoil our idea of a perfect bracket. These basketball games are entertaining and anybody can win at any given time. The unpredictability of the entire tournament is what captivates us as sports fans.
This year I really started to think about how the NBA could do some sort of tournament to excite the fans of teams who don’t have a chance to win a championship, while also making the best teams compete at a high level as well, if there was a tournament in the NBA. This would be a tournament where a team like the 76ers or Suns may have a chance to win. Okay let’s not get ahead of ourselves, maybe they upset a team because they probably can’t win the entire tournament. A few questions came up, such as what is the prize? Is it a necessity? Why would a team like the Warriors want to even be a part of this tournament? What if a star player gets hurt and can’t compete in the playoffs? When would it take place? There are many questions raised but this is more hypothetical than reality and the thought of a 16 seed Philadelphia beating a 1 seed Golden State with something on the line sounds so captivating.
This tournament should obviously take place in March and be held at one single location. The defending champion’s arena would host the tournament as another reward for winning the championship. It would give the players the feeling of a tournament setting similar to the NCAA tournament. It would be a four day tournament that starts the Sunday before the first round of the NCAA tournament. For example the NCAA tournament first round was on Thursday, March 17th. The NBA tournament would have started on Sunday, March 13th with the championship coming on Wednesday, March 16th. The NBA should then give the players a rest and not schedule any regular season games until the following Monday so that we can focus on the kids who are playing in the NCAA tournament. It is hard to choose to watch a NBA game on Thursday-Sunday during the first and second round with so many games being played.
We all love watching the huge stars of the game but what about the guys on the end of the bench who practice just as hard every day of their career to average less than two minutes per game? Teams would hate the idea of this tournament because they don’t want their superstar players to get hurt heading into the playoffs, which is understandable. Each team, per tournament rules, would be allowed to sit up to three players for the tournament in which they forbid them to compete. It doesn’t mean the team is forced to sit three players but may sit up to three, or they could choose to sit none. This allows us to see other players showcase their talents while not subjecting the stars to the possibility of injury. In addition to sitting up to three players, you may call up players from the D-League, but a team must sign them to a 10 day contract prior to the tournament starting. A team would be allowed to sign as many players as they sit for the tournament without a roster penalty. For example if a the Warriors sit Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson but have a full roster of 15, they don’t have to cut a player in order to sign three D-League players to play in the tournament.
Why would a team like the Warriors, Spurs or even Clippers want to participate in this? This tournament isn’t necessary for the NBA but would grow the sport and maybe even push it to compete with the NFL. The prize would be an additional first round pick in the upcoming draft. The pick would follow the pick that a team already has. For example, if the Bucks have the 13th pick in the draft in the tournament they would draft again at 14, so each year there would be 31 first round picks even though there are 30 teams. If a team has no first round pick then they get the last pick of the round. Each player will also receive a paycheck bonus for winning determined in the rules of the tournament. This is enough of a prize that will make players and teams fight hard to win. Teams value draft picks and if you’re the worst team in the NBA and somehow pull off the upset and win the tournament you would have the first and the second overall pick in the draft. It would go a long way in building the team into a playoff team. All teams would love more first round draft picks and it is enough of a prize for even the good teams. The bonus to players for winnings just gives them an individual incentive to win the tournament.
All sports are popular or make us passionate because they are fun and make us feel like a kid. We all have competitive spirit in us and love a good underdog. A March tournament in the NBA would be fun, entertaining and intriguing. I think it is time to bring some March Madness into the NBA.