Replacing the NBA All-Star Weekend
The Factors to Consider
It's easy for NBA fans like us to come up with All-Star weekend replacements, as we won't be directly affected by the outcome once a change is made. Heck, maybe replace it with a mini playoffs tournament where the results would affect actual playoff positioning and seeds. But for the league and its players, it boils down to two simple questions. Will it mean more or less money for the NBA, the franchises, and the players? And will the players get more rest?
Making money is presumably the foremost consideration for any business or money-making association, and getting more time off is always a goal for any employee or worker. For many years, NBA players have expressed their desire to have the regular season shortened, or at least extend the entire NBA calendar to accommodate more rest days. To say the least, players have gotten the short end of the stick; and this has resulted to players resting on road games or back-to-backs. For NBA fans, the most happiness you can get out of an NBA game is to see your favorite team's star player—and because of stars (often veterans) opting to rest rather than play the entire 82 games, it creates some built-up frustration.
NBA players are human beings, and workers in their own capacity. They deserve to both receive as much compensation they can get, and as much days off as can be allowed for their bodies to recover. When players retire after a career of at least ten years, you can bet there's some lifetime injury directly attributable to playing basketball for so long. And no matter what, fans will never be able to understand that it isn't just these 82 games wherein the players are working their butts off. The unseen hours where they prepare their bodies for long stretches of games fill in the gaps of the days where no games are played.
And this is one the basic reasons why the NBA has established the All-Star break—it is to give players at least one full week to recuperate and let their minds and bodies recover from the grueling NBA schedule. But at the same time, the league needs revenue during a break in the action. And even with just two weeks of no action, there's a lot of money to be lost or to be made. And this is where the balance has to be struck between the three bodies—the league, the franchises, and the players.
1. Midseason Tournament
Let's start off with the most popular alternative, which has been suggested by players, analysts and league representatives alike. Having a midseason tournament means no rest for some, if not all NBA players, but it could in some way have bearing on playoff seeding. For example, if you would replace the all-star break with a tournament between the worst teams in the NBA to compete for the last two playoff spots in each conference, you almost completely solve the tanking problem. The dilemma with this idea though, is that it works as an incentive to high-ranking teams by giving its players rest. It punishes lower seeded teams by making them play with very high stakes.
But if the tournament exempted no NBA team and was mandatory for all, then it doesn't really solve the tanking problem and at the same time it produces the opposite of giving players additional rest. Now since it is a high-stake tournament which affects playoff standings, players are prone to over-exert themselves and then probably tank on some later portion of the season.
The advantage is on the league, because creating a high-stake competition in the middle of the season will generate interest and boost ratings. But again, all this league revenue is at the expense of every NBA player.
One way to make the midseason tournament work is to just have as few NBA games a day as possible, permitting more days in between. Since it's participated by all teams, then everyone gets a fair share of playing time and days off.
2. Moving the NBA Draft Right After March Madness
What if the NBA Draft was moved to end-of-March instead of during the last legs of the NBA playoffs? First off, this would create more interest because college players who recently showcased their talents on March Madness will get a chance to be handpicked by agents with fresh eyes. While these players drafted won't probably play right away, having them drafted beforehand would create hope for currently struggling NBA teams. And at the same time, it would also eliminate tanking at the end of the season, such that the only focus for anyone is to make the playoffs.
By having the NBA Draft at the middle of the season, you could also have the Draft Combine set anticipation for it all. The middle of the season could be a time for NBA scouts and general managers to showcase their talent, where interest for the NBA is still high - unlike the end of the playoffs where the league loses steam once the champion has been crowned.
Another advantage of having the draft in the middle of the season is that it makes the Trade deadline (if after the break) far more interesting, because teams can trade draft picks. Teams who tank early in the season will surely be incentivized, but you can bet they won't tank anymore when they're able to create a better roster for the future.
3. Inter-Division Championships
You could say that this is yet another form of midseason tournament. But picture this - every NBA division (there are six) will have its own championships. And the winner of the tournament will automatically have playoff representation. However, so that teams won't tank the rest of the way, the guaranteed playoff position must not affect actual playoff seeding.
Pursuant to this idea, this means that if you're a 30-win team by the end of the season but you won the division title, you can still get the 8th seed over the team which won 42 games, for example. You could even create awards just for the inter-division championships, like MVP and best defensive player.
One advantage of this is that you could spread this tournament out for two weeks, where one week it's only the Eastern Conference divisions playing, and the next week it's all West. This creates a fair amount of rest while not sacrificing league revenue or team revenue. It also boosts player motivation by creating a clean slate where unknowns can have the chance to shine.
4. G-League Versus NBA Showdown
This is perhaps the craziest idea I could come up with. The basic goal of this alternative is to eliminate tanking. In soccer leagues, if a team doesn't perform well, it gets relegated to the minor league. In the same vein, if this idea were pushed through, it could be the G-League team playing in the playoffs instead of the low-performing team. This idea is very problematic logistically, not to mention the conflict of interest that would arise if a G-League team would face its NBA counterpart. Obviously, the G-League team would tank - or, this could be a way for an NBA team to farm a secondary NBA team. Another problem is that, these G-League players are paid really low salaries compared to NBA players, so in essence if we let them play in the playoffs it could be tantamount to slavery. Or - if the NBA somehow found a way to institutionalize financial incentives for the G-League players playing in the playoffs - then the problem would be solved.
But then again, who wants to watch a bunch of minor leaguers play in the playoffs? Maybe I would, if Zion Williamson was in the team.