This Halloween week gave us everything. We had two Giants wrestle, an all-star game in D.C., and brief Kyrie drama. I don’t want to talk about any of it, honestly. This week I want to broadly talk about the state of NBA viewership before getting into some NBA analysis. Let’s get it started.
NBA and making the most out of viewership
A lot has been made about this year being one of the few years where the main storylines will completely be about basketball. As an NBA junkie, this makes me happy. As much as dreaming about potential stars coming to your favorite team has its perks, it’s clear that the talk didn’t necessarily lead to more eyes on basketball.
The league pushed its online presence and made the mistake of assuming that it would lead to increased viewership. Instead, it has lead to the growthof a separate group that doesn’t interact with the actual product.
There’s nothing wrong with #NBATwitter and the casual fans who enjoy engaging with memes and trade speculation rather than the actual game. The leagues actual issue is they don’t actually market their product in an engaging way. The league is an 82-game season plus the playoffs which mean large chunks of the year are games that aren’t going to decide anything. Because of this, the league needs to engage in storytelling to keep interest. They can do that in a magnitude of ways.
The NFL provides fans some of the best behind the scenes action in the league. Every year, there’s already one team in the league that fans have a connection to because of the Hard Knocks series. There’s a weekly Mic’d up segment, ESPN has a series where players relive some of the greatest games.
Another place the NFL got right was within the actual coverage of the game. Whether it’s coverage on game day or shows throughout the week, you’re bound to learn something because they’re littered with analyst being allowed to breakdown the game rather than give commentary on headlines.
The NBA has long stable of former players in the media, but companies like ESPN seldom use them for that type of coverage. Instead, the format for NBA coverage is:
1. Take clickbait-like headline
2. Answer headline
3. Rinse, repeat.
Despite the abundance of NBA analysts that are on TV, the coverage rarely reaches anything that is intellectually stimulating as it relates to actual basketball.
The only program that does more to analyze the game is NBA TV, but they just recently started offering NBA TV as apart of LP and the shows lack an entertainment value that keeps an audience engaged. It also doesn’t help that coverage does little to prop up some of the smaller market teams that have fans who are just as committed to the game.
OK, I’ve gone on awhile so let me just bring this altogether.
A. ESPN, I understand you profit from the #NBATwitter culture since part of your business is generating clicks. However, you also invest a lot of money in the NBA and are part of pushing a product that does not help expand the amount of eyes that could be tuning in to watch your televised games. You have the personnel to run a more game-driven show and should heavily consider taking advantage of that. If you’re going to “stick to sports” do it better.
B. NBA, give us more access to teams/players that engage fans in the action.
C. NBA, while we’re here…. the problems that exist with League Pass up to this day are embarrassing. For the amount of money you sell it for, NBA TV should already be included in the product, not being sold as a separate product. Also, do more with NBA TV, the concepts are smart and do a much better job of focusing on the game but it’s too stale. You need more engaging personalities and shows with different formats.
D. Small. Market. Teams. Exist. Please discuss them.
Steph Curry and the reforming the Charge
When Steph Curry went down with a broken hand after an Aron Baynes charge attempt, the uproar of #BanTheCharge tweets was overwhelming. My gut reaction was, “tough play, but not every tough break (no pun intended) means rules need to be changed.”
With more research, I think I’ve begun to side with the Nate Duncan/Dave DuFour theory of banning charges that are either a product of help defense or fast breaks. Neither situations are players making actual plays on the basketball and both have been the cause of serious injuries despite averaging out to have very limited value.
To clarify, a situation like this would still be a charge:
But a situation like this, where the defender isn’t trying to make any play on the basketball would be gone:
This Curry injury actually wasn’t as egregious as some other examples, but nonetheless put the spotlight on a dangerous defensive move that can have some adverse effects. Furthermore, to stick to the theme of growing the game, limiting these calls equals more chances for exciting plays at the rim. The things that end up going viral and bringing more eyes to the product.
Luka Doncic vs. LeBron James
Ok, some basketball.
On Friday night, LeBron James and Luka Doncic battled in Dallas. Doncic had 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists. James had 39 points, 12 rebounds, 16 assists, and the last laugh in a 119-110 OT win. This was the largest disparity of age between two players that had a triple-double in the same game. I think outside of the gaudy stat lines, what really made these performances special was just how gifted both of these players are as playmakers. Both of them make passes that 99.9% of the NBA can’t so they frequently catch players going through the motions defensively before they helplessly see the man they thought they were defending score.
KCP doesn’t think anything is coming because he’s trailing Tim Hardaway Jr. and preparing for him to shoot out to the perimeter at any moment. Think again.
Lakers set up a double stagger with LeBron and all five Mavericks are sitting on the second one involving Anthony Davis as they sleepily let Avery Bradley scurry to the rim. James delivers.
Watching two of the best wing play creators have it at the same time was a treat. It served as message to the word that James still sits on the throne with a nod to the new “bad MF’er” waiting for next.
Aron Baynes rebirth
No, breaking Steph Curry’s hand is not the most interesting thing about Aron Baynes. Back in FIBA, Baynes started showing off a more confident (tho awkward) three-point stroke. Through 8 games overseas he shot 52.4% on 2.6 attempts a game. Not a lot of attempts, but for a huge sturdy big whose defensive value as a rim protector is enormous, the ability to stretch the floor was a game-changer.
Fast-forward to now, and the Phoenix Suns are the surprise of the NBA and that’s in large part thanks to Baynes who is averaging 15ppg while shooting 46.2 3P% on 4.3 3PA.
The Suns have relied on Baynes heavily on the offensive end where they’re 21.7 points better per 100 possessions when he’s on the court.
We’re still knee-deep in #SmallSampleSZN so I’ll leave at this: Bookmark his performance, because if the Suns fall back down to earth and need to prioritize losing again, Baynes could become one of the most sough-after trade chips in the league.