Since the NBA is not a person but an association made up of hundreds of players, employees and executives, it can’t make any New Years resolutions. That’s a shame. Every person and thing should look to improve itself in the new year. Since the the NBA can’t decide for itself what to work on in 2017, I’ve taken the liberty of doing it myself.
The NBA doesn’t need to change, really, but a few improvements here and there would be welcome. Here are a few of my nitpicky gripes that the association could work on in the coming year. Please pass this on to Adam Silver if you can.
Make A Decision About the Intentional Fouling Thing
In the offseason the NBA expanded its away-from-the-ball-foul rule of automatic free throws from the last two minutes of the 4th quarter to every quarter. Everyone immediately agreed that was nice, but it still didn’t solve anything. Teams have continued to intentionally foul, and people have continued to complain.
Personally, I don’t care either way and understand both ways. It sucks to change a fundamental rule of the game for something that affects only a handful of players only some of the time. It also sucks to see a nice game become drawn out and boring with dozens of free throws. Just pick a side a go there. Change it completely and let the fouled party choose free throws or inbounding the ball. Or leave it be and tell everyone it’s not changing. Dragging the players and fans along like this is, well, a drag. In 2017, settle the issue once and for all.
Make the Timberwolves Great Again
Minnesota has Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine, three of the league’s brightest young stars. They’ve got Tom Thibodeau, a coach known for turning a young team into winners. And they’ve also got just 11 wins to go with their 23 losses. It doesn’t add up.
It’s not just confusing, it’s disappointing for everyone. The Wolves were supposed to be breakout excitements this season. The league is worse off with them at the bottom of the standings. They’re still fun, but a team that loses twice as much as it wins can only provide so much entertainment. I can’t offer any solutions regarding how to fix this, but it needs to be a priority. For the good of both Minnesota and the league at large.
Replay the Right Things
Replay is good. Getting the call right is good. Making the game as fair as possible is good. Using that goodwill to grind down the game in exciting moments, or even the regular moments, is a real disservice.
Golden State’s shot clock violation in the final seconds against Cleveland on Christmas comes to mind. That was an obvious call that was needlessly drug out. There were things that actually needed reviewed, like the two calls against Cleveland the NBA ruled the officials missed. If things like fouls or technicals could be reviewed, the NBA could do away with the often-embarrassing last two minute reports that even Kevin Durant despises, and get it right in real time. That should make everyone, players, fans, and officials, much happier.
For the Love of God, Get Russell Westbrook Some Help
He’s averaging a triple double on 35 minutes per game with a 42% usage rate. He has to score 30% of his teams points by himself. He makes a quarter of the team’s shots and assists on another quarter. I fear he may spontaneously combust right there on the court if he has to keep this up all year.
I’m sure he has no problem continuing to defy the limits of human performance until every muscle and tendon in his body backfires, but we can’t have that. We need to be able to watch him for years to come. Someone send some backup to Oklahoma City. ASAP.
Learn Some Lessons From FIBA
The world was treated to Olympic basketball in 2016, which uses FIBA rules. The 10-minutes quarters are weird, but the shortened shot clock after offensive rebounds, fewer timeouts and limited places to use them late in games often give games a better flow and more watchable final few minutes. Not having basket interference after the ball hits the rim is an tweak that’s just plain fun. The 7-footers and 3-foot-vertical-havers in the NBA could have a field day with that.
I’m not saying the league should adopt FIBA rules in full, but a few elements could be added to create a more enjoyable experience, one that would look more familiar to prospective fans around the world as well.
Get Paul Millsap on the Raptors
A great thing to see in 2017 would be two equally exciting conference finals. That means, in the most likely circumstance, that Toronto would have to give Cleveland a real challenge. The Raptors are playing incredibly this season, but they still have no realistic shot to put a scare into the Cavs. Millsap, who is apparently on the trading block, could change that.
The odds of a great Western Conference finals are pretty high. Any combination of Golden State, San Antonio, Houston, or the Clippers would be competitive all the way through. The Eastern Conference? Not so much. Put Millsap on that roster and then we can talk. It’ll take until June to pay off, but this would be an easy way to greatly improve 2017.