Sunday, May 6, 2012

Small Markets, Big Dreams

     Nowadays, several executives and NBA owners believe that their team has to be located in a big market to win consistently. Many analysts think that the swagger and flare of the big cities will attract more and more superstars to join their teams because of the personal revenue and endorsements they can earn. Several teams have relocated in recent years, including the Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans, the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City and now known as the Thunder, and the New Jersey Nets who have relocated to Brooklyn for next season and beyond. There are a couple teams who are seeking to move, most notably the Sacramento Kings.
     However, I believe that most teams shouldn't move. Sometimes, owners might have to make the decision to move if they can't pay taxes or other financial variables come into play, which I can understand. But if you need to move because you think you're not generating enough revenue, then you have done a bad job at hiring employees and workers. For instance, Bruce Ratner has been determined to move the Nets to Brooklyn since 2004. Let me remind you, that's the year after the team went to two straight NBA Finals championship series. The fanbase was at an all-time high, they were loyal, and revenue opportunities were blossoming. What possibly could have been so horribly bad about New Jersey? You're near one of the biggest cities in the world in New York City. I know the Meadowlands have been more of a construction site rather than a sports entertainment base, but with the Metlife Stadium that was just recently built, tell me Mr. Ratner, you couldn't let Mikhail Prokhorov use mostly his money to build the Barclays Center in East Rutherford? You just had to build it in Brooklyn? Do you really believe that you can "steal" Knicks fans? Most of whom have been loyal or if not, like the team because it is currently on an upswing. You couldn't just demolish the Izod Center, which has not been the greatest arena, and build the Barclays Center in the same spot? One billion dollars is one billion dollars. No matter where the Barclays Center was built, it would have cost that no matter what. If Nets fans don't know, did you know Mikhail Prokhorov actually wanted to keep the team in New Jersey? But Bruce Ratner wouldn't let him purchase the franchise unless he agreed to move them to Brooklyn in the new Barclays Center. Just because you move across the Hudson River does not mean you're going to generate revenue. Yes, there will be plenty of interest in the short-term. But if the team doesn't perform well and win games, then it will be a costly disaster for the franchise. They've also lost a lot of fans from New Jersey. Honestly, I think the Nets were stupid in how they handled this whole charade. If they won games, people would have showed up and supported the team more. If they bought in better players, they would have generated more revenue. It's as simple as that.

     So now, for franchises who are in the small markets but want to succeed, what do you do? Several have failed, but some have relished in the small market, including the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, and most recently the Indiana Pacers. But what can teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Portland Trail Blazers do to succeed in the league?
Rookies Kyrie Irving (left) and Tristan
Thompson (right) have given Cavaliers fans
an initial burst of excitement. Can they lead
the team back to the playoffs?
     First, teams must draft well. Small markets are not usually going to impress the superstars. If your team is in the gutterhole, you must spend countless hours examining the rookie class and draft who fits best to your team and has the most skill at the desired position. You also want to draft incoming rookies with the least ego. They're driven to succeed for themselves and will do whatever they can to get more money, which they know is not greatly obtained in the small-market areas. You want players who you believe you can keep for a really long time. If those rookies live up to their initial contracts, you should sign them before the last year of their contract expires. By that time, you should know if your player has flourished and will only continue to grow. Second, any valuable assets that you believe you don't want or need for the rebuilding process you should move for a superstar. This includes trading expiring contracts, young players, and future draft picks. I would suggest moving the raw young players, because they have potential but they won't really help your team right away. Obtaining a superstar legitimizes your team, and if paired with the right young players, your team can make a run at the playoffs. Third and lastly is don't do anything rediculous during the offseason. This is in both free agency and the NBA Draft. I would personally stay away from projects who did not perform at their greatest in college, and still "need to develop." They might be raw talent, but sometimes they might never actually develop. Also, if you're trying to win right now, I would stay away from international players. Some have talent, like Ricky Rubio and Dirk Nowitzki, but many fail to develop and become what they're expected to be like Darko Milicic. However, if you're building for the future and willing to wait a couple years for your draftee to play in your uniform, then I say why not? Draft them if you'd like. Also, don't waste your pick. If you have a late pick in the second round, don't waste it on some international player people have never heard of. There are always diamonds in the rough like Manu Ginobili and Isaiah Thomas. In free agency, if your team loses out on the players you want most, don't sign players with much less talent to long-term contracts. If a player hasn't found his niche or just hadn't succeeded with his past team, I'm not saying don't sign him, but don't give him an insane contract. Even if it's a position of need, you shouldn't give those kinds of players deals more than two years long. It's a mind game that can kill your salary cap if you don't play it wisely.

     There are plenty of ways to make small market teams to succeed. If your team's GM is smart and does their homework on players, they will make the right moves for your team and take your team (hopefully) to the promised land. Drafting well is the biggest key for these teams, because if you want to get to the top you have to start from the bottom. Also, once the first round is over, I'll post a new entry including matchups, predictions, and more on the semifinals of this year's NBA Playoffs. Thanks for reading!

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