Is the Warriors’ recent dominance and influx of talent bad for the NBA? The league’s most influential official does not buy that argument.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily per se bad that the Warriors are so dominant,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a press conference Tuesday. “I’m not trying to create some sort of forced parity. What we’re really focusing on is parity of opportunity.”
So even if Silver praised the Warriors once again for winning their third NBA title in the past four years, the NBA commissioner and the league’s owners addressed competitive balance during the Board of Governors meeting.
It might not be surprising considering what just happened this month during NBA’s free agency. LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers, dramatically furthering the divided talent between the Western and Eastern conferences. The Warriors acquired former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins using their taxpayer midlevel exception ($5.3 million), which gives them a starting lineup full of All-Stars. Silver had already entertained such questions about competitive balance when the Warriors and Cavaliers met in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year.
“There’s a fair point to be made in a tax system when certain teams are spending significantly more than others, that’s not parity of opportunity,” Silver said. “Also, certain teams have advantages other teams don’t based on their resources and market and the wealth of the market. They may be in a position to go deeper into the tax than another team does.”
The Warriors are in that position. Though they were limited toward acquiring players on a taxpayer midlevel exception and veteran’s minimum deals, the Warriors have around a $142 million payroll because of their five All-Stars in Cousins, Stephen Curry ($37.4 million), Kevin Durant ($30 million), Klay Thompson (nearly $19 million) and Draymond Green ($17.5 million). The Warriors are nearly $19 million over the luxury tax, and, therefore, owe an additional $61.75 million in luxury tax penalties.
Still, Silver lauded the Warriors and other teams willing to spend money so they can hoist a Larry O’Brien trophy.
“Under the current system right now, we want teams to compete like crazy. The Warriors, within the framework of this deal, should be doing everything they can to increase their dominance,” Silver said. “That’s what you want to see. We want every team to compete in every way they can within the rules. If it makes sense to make adjustments to the rules next time, we’ll look into that.”
The NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2023-24 season, though both the league and players union could agree to opt out after the 2022-23 season.
Though Silver said that “people weren’t coming in necessarily complaining” about the league’s competitive balance, he said they have had conversations about possible solutions.
Silver did not reveal any “new ideas.” But he argued that “we have a very soft cap right now.” He again brought up travel concerns regarding a proposal to rank playoff seedings based off of record instead of conference affiliation. He expressed interest in meeting with the players union and labor relations committee to brainstorm initiatives.
Nonetheless, Silver conceded an obvious reality: “dynasties are nothing new in this league.” The Boston Celtics won 10 NBA championships from 1959 to 1969. The Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers won eight of the league’s 10 NBA titles in the 1980s. The Chicago Bulls won six NBA championships in the 1990s. The Lakers won five more titles in the 2000s.
“We recognized great players, superstar players will have a unique ability to make an impact on games,” Silver said. “Having said that, there are changes we can make to the system that I think can create more competitive balance and more quality of opportunity.”