SportsProf

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Daryl Morey is Right

I've blogged about this point from time to time over the years, with the question being:  what is the purpose of having such a long regular season if so many teams make the playoffs?  I like that question, but there are others that are better.  Including in that group are the following:  1) how many games does it really take to differentiate among the teams and 2) if you cut the season in two, would the teams with the records that slot into the playoffs differ from the roster of teams after a full season?


The first question is as much rhetorical as anything else, but the NBA has a credibility problem because of Gregg Popovich's innovative brain.  Needless to say, if you can rest players, the season is too long because you do not care if you lose a particular game when the stars are resting.  Atop that, the advertisers and networks cannot be happy when their Saturday night marquis match-up is missing both teams' top three players (as happened recently).  The second question is something that your average mathlete can solve with the right data.  My guess is that a number between 50 and 60 as opposed to the current 82 might make sense.  You could spread games out a bit more, not have back-to-back games, build in more rest, make the games, well, scarcer.  Whether fans would be willing to pay say 1.5x the face value of a current ticket price if you reduce the number of games from 82 to 55 is an open question, however.  My guess is for some games, absolutely.  As for the last question above, Mike Greenberg of ESPN Radio asked and answered it this morning on his radio show.  Apparently, this year only two teams that would have made the playoffs on January 31 are not making the playoffs right now.  Perhaps the order of the teams in the standings is different, but the cream of the crop distinguished itself well before the All-Star break.


Atop that, there have to be all sorts of analytics that support a shortened season, including lengthening a player's career because he will have to take less pounding on his limbs as he runs down a wood floor that is positioned atop cement.  The playoffs could start earlier and be better (no, I would not take more teams).  The TV ratings will improve because each incremental regular season game means more. 


This would be a gutsy decision, akin to the government's repealing reams of statutes.  Why?  Because why governments are usually best at passing laws, they aren't so great at refining them or removing them.  Old laws remain on the books and sometimes can be used to prosecute people in ways that were long since forgotten.  That said, why is it against any rule -- written or unwritten -- that a sports league cannot shorten a season?  (Some leagues should also consider eliminating a few franchises).  That would be a courageous decision for the NBA and could also open up the possibility of international expansion.  For example, you could put a team in London, perhaps one in Madrid, Paris or Barcenlona.  Eastern teams could take a trip to Western Europe; Western teams could take a loop through Tokyo and Shanghai, for example.  The possibilities are endless.


Daryl Morey has been very successful as a GM and recently spoke out on the subject.  You can read what he said here.  He also is a very smart guy.


People should listen to him.

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