“LeBron James has Taken His Talents to South Beach.” “Carmelo Anthony Refuses to Sign Extension, Wants to go to New York.” “Chris Paul has Requested a Trade Out of New Orleans.” “Dwight Howard Wants Out of Orlando.” “Kevin Durant Joins Already Formed Superteam.”
Unless you are a fan (or bandwagon rider) for the team acquiring the player, they are the type of NBA headlines that cause everyone to drop their jaws and shake their head. In a league where General Managers are supposed to have the power to form a team, the players control where they play and who they want to play with. In a league where playoffs are supposed to be a 16 team competition seems to be narrowed down to a maximum of 4 teams. Star players have evolved from having the “I want to beat the best” mentality to “If you can’t beat them, join them”. It is not a positive trend for the NBA, especially compared to other professional sports leagues who seem to have every season up for grabs.
The fact of the matter is, even if the NBA Finals are called before the season tips off (ie. Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers), basketball fans remain loyal to watching the sport. No matter how much people hate a super team, they WILL pay top dollar to see them play live. They are exciting to watch and seeing the creation of dynasties is a special experience in itself. However, people do not take into consideration the negative factors that come with it: Basketball markets being ruined in other cities, Head Office officials losing their authority, Head Coaches being fired because of conflict with one player, and so on so forth. Even Commissioner Adam Silver has showed disgust in this trend, but there is nothing he can do about it. One possible solution for the NBA to solve this issue is implementing a policy commonly used the NFL….THE FRANCHISE TAG! If only Oklahoma City was able to tag Kevin Durant, maybe fans would get to see another competitive Thunder vs. Warriors series. Again, if only.
For those who don’t know, the concept of a franchise tag is fairly simple. Each off-season, each team is designated one tag that they can apply to any unrestricted free agent on their team before free agency opens. The tag will then lock the player in for one year and pay that player the average salary of the top 5 players at that particular position. This has prevented (or at least limited) players from forming superteams and gives management some bargaining power. Of course, every executive decision has pros and cons so let us outline the biggest factors if this was implemented in the NBA.
Owners vs. Players Dispute
Players hate franchise tags. It not only limits their options for free agency, but also prevents them from obtaining long term lucrative contracts. The introduction of a franchise tag would certainly be disputed from the NBAPA. The last thing fans would want to see is a lockout shortened/cancelled season. The NBA isn’t as horrible as the NHL when it comes to lockouts but 1998 and 2011 did happen.
Being tagged also leads to players holding out until a maximum long term deal is reached. In professional sports, sometimes getting a top 5 average salary just isn’t enough. Players want to be considered THE BEST, not just in terms of accomplishments/rewards but salary is a factor as well. For the average hard working individual with a regular 5 figure occupation, it often raises eyebrows when players refuse to sign let’s say $29 million contracts instead of let’s say $30.1 million. It’s simple, they feel their resume should put them above the other guy who is making $30 million. This is where you truly understand the domino effect of EVERY player’s contract.
If you are a high caliber player like a LeBron James, then there’s a good chance that if you hold out heading into the season, the team will meet your demands and pay whatever you need (like Von Miller in the NFL). However, if you are a player like J.R. Smith, you are almost certain to get tagged and management won’t care if you sit on the bench all season. Then again, J.R. Smith getting paid top 5 shooting guard salary is a bit of a stretch.
Basketball only has 5 players on each team on the court at once, less than half that of American Football. You have your point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and yes it still exists, the center. Depending on the line-up, players play multiple positions (eg. Back-up point guards sometimes come in at SG, SFs move down to PF, and every SG can be considered a SF). Depending on the salaries of each position, players would definitely change their considered position to get the higher salary.
In a case in the NFL, pro-bowl Jimmy Graham is considered a tight end. In football, Wide Receivers generally put up bigger numbers than tight ends and thus, are rewarded higher salaries. However, Jimmy Graham was a special case who not only put up numbers that were better than most wide receivers, he sometimes lined up on the field as a wide receiver. So when the off-season came and Jimmy Graham was franchise tagged as a tight end, him and his agent were certainly not happy. Hypothetically if the NBA ever did implement a franchise tag, they would probably have to do top 5 salaries in general, rather than for each position.
The NBA is a business and a very powerful billion dollar business. In the words of Kanye West, “NO ONE MAN SHOULD HAVE ALL THAT POWER!” This is what the discussion would be all about: Players or Management having more power. This argument goes way beyond the hypothetical idea of a franchise tag. Who deserves to have more control? The talented players who bring in the revenue or the business savvy managers who run the organizations. This is why there always are and always will be ongoing CBA negotiations, as both parties always want more power.
So the question remains: Should the NBA implement a franchise tag? There are arguments for both sides but in the end, the main goal is to prevent super teams and once again make the NBA competitive. Players need to learn to build off the situation they are in and not take the easy route to championships.