Golden State Warriors

The problem with value contracts

Where I’m from, avocados cost about two bucks. During some parts of the year, this might go up to closer to $3; other times they’re $1.50. Aside from the fact that this is the price which allows everyone along the chain of avocado production to make a little bit of coin, it is also the price which ensures avocado supply and demand stays pretty well balanced.

If you know anything about economics, this won’t be anything new to you. If one day the supermarket decided that the avocados should be priced at 20 cents, the first ten people to the supermarket would probably buy 100 each, and the rest of us would be ruing not having anything to put with our poached eggs. In contrast, if the supermarket suddenly upped the price to $50 per avocado, no one would buy them, and after a couple of days all the avocados would get thrown in the bin.

So what does this have to do with basketball, you might ask? NBA players, like avocados, have an inherent value. Of course, this is related to their ability to play the game and make a team better, rather than how much nutritional value they provide you with and what they taste like, but the concept is the same. The salary cap is a system which is roughly based around these inherent values, and is intended to ensure that talent is, at least to an extent, distributed across the league.

Another difference between players and avocados though, is that players have a say in their own worth. They can actively decide to sign a contract which doesn’t truly reflect their value. When they decide that they’re willing to take a pay cut so that their team can, say, sign Kevin Durant, the general consensus seems to be to say, ‘hey, good for them. Putting the future of their team ahead of their own personal needs’. As Draymond Green so pertinently stated after Game 1 of this year’s finals, ‘we’re out here trying to feed our families’, so why shouldn’t we laud them for making a sacrifice? Well, aside from the fact that I can’t imagine Dray’s family is going to bed hungry with the $16 million plus endorsements, appearances etc that he makes a year, it disrupts this concept of talent distribution.

Players shouldn’t necessarily be criticised for signing these kinds of contracts, and there certainly is an element of selflessness to it – though they aren’t exactly Nelson Mandela for doing it. This selflessness, however, is more related to the fact that they value a ring over an extra few million a year, rather than a desire to sacrifice for the greater good. It benefits their teammates, themselves, and their fans, but as for the rest of us? Not so much.

The NBA isn’t the most equitable league on the planet, but it isn’t the English Premier League, and as mentioned, the salary cap is one of a number of systems intended to ensure an element of competitive balance. This cap, as we know, acts to ensure teams can only have a playing group with a certain sum worth on their roster. When a player chooses to sign a contract which doesn’t reflect his true worth, it disrupts this system. The result? The Warriors.

I’m not one to say Golden State have ruined the NBA. They were that close to being beaten by Houston, and if that had’ve happened we would have all lost our opportunity to whinge and moan about them. Having said that – despite how good the Rockets are, the Warriors are clearly – clearly – the best roster in the NBA. If they play near their best, they won’t lose.

Now we have an NBA where other great players are scrambling to find ways to beat this juggernaut. Presumably, LeBron will join a far better team than the one he was on last season in a desperate attempt to challenge Golden State. Maybe that team will be Houston, but even if it isn’t the Rockets will no doubt be looking for that extra piece to their already Championship-quality roster as well. The balance is shifting, and a higher proportion of the best players in the league being on a select few teams is going to be the result. Of course the Warriors aren’t the first great team to get even better in their history, but they are the first 73 win team to sign the second best player in the world.

The Warriors themselves, of course, couldn’t give a single shit about any of this. They’ve been given the chance to be on the greatest team of all time, and seem to be having a hoot of a time while doing it. Good for them. I’d probably do the same. Unfortunately, I have about as much talent as Steph Curry’s little finger so don’t have that opportunity, and am instead forced to watch a league in which one team is clearly better than the rest, and everyone else is scrambling to stay competitive.

Draymond shouldn’t be criticised for taking a smaller contract than he could’ve demanded, nor should Durant. After all, they’re just trying to have a good time, and since so much emphasis is placed on rings, why not secure your place in history as one of the most successful players of all time? At the same time though, they do not deserve praise for earning a completely ridiculous amount of money instead of an even more ridiculous amount of money. Because just like the supermarket manager who decided to sell his avocados for well under their market value, they’ve upset the balance.

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