NBA leaning toward parity

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

Toronto Raptors, 2018 NBA champions?

While a title within the next decade is still unlikely for the Raptors, the odds of it happening go up significantly if the league implements a hard salary cap in its next collective bargaining agreement.

New Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis believes it will come to pass and that it is a good thing.

He is correct.

The NBA has been a league of haves and have-nots for far too long and with super teams such as the Miami Heat and possibly an Amare Stoudemire-Chris Paul-Carmelo Anthony-led New York Knicks coming about, the gap is going to only grow more cavernous.

Seven different teams have won championships in the past 20 years and there have been just nine over the past 31.

Expansion has added a cluster of new teams since 1988, but only Miami has won it all. The other cities have been shut out, as have a great many existing locales.

Few want to see professional hoops continue in the direction of Major League Baseball -- how many fans has baseball tuned out thanks to the ridiculous salary disparity that sees a handful of teams doling out $100 million-$200 million US a year in payroll while 12 clubs pay out less than $73 million with a couple under the $40-million mark?

Yes, the NBA has a salary cap, but it is a soft cap with a luxury tax for those teams that can and want to pay more. They are charged a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax that is divvied up to teams under the luxury-tax line, but the payouts don't seem to be lifting the "poorer" clubs.

The back-to-back champion Los Angeles Lakers have a $95-million payroll, several other contenders spend north of $70 million.

Meanwhile, 15 of the NBA's 30 teams -- including the Raptors -- spend less than $66 million.

How many of those lower-spending teams are being given any chance of even making the second round of the playoffs this season? Two, the Chicago Bulls -- who will soon see their payroll balloon when stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah get hefty extensions -- and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are in a similar position.

In the NBA, where rosters are made up of the least amount of players in team sports, you have to spend money to win. Generally you need as many highly paid stars as you can get.

Exceeding the luxury tax allows teams to do that.

Commissioner David Stern was high on the idea of putting in an iron-clad team salary maximum the last time the league and its players were in the midst of negotiations and he is keen to get it done this time. Many believe there will be a lockout before next season largely because of the hard-cap debate.

Leonsis was fined $100,000 by Stern on Thursday for saying he expects the NBA to put in a hard cap like the NHL. Leonsis also owns the Washington Capitals, who topped the NHL standings last season.

Many believe the hard cap won't happen this time either, but consider that NBA players go through money faster than most other professional athletes. Odds are they cave when they start missing their cheques.

Stern knows this. He also knows that the NFL is the biggest sporting juggernaut around in part because of the parity that allows fans in all of its cities (except, perhaps for that long-suffering bunch in Oakland) to believe a Super Bowl appearance or victory is highly feasible.

The NFL has had nine different champions in the past 12 years alone.

A hard cap won't solve all of the NBA's problems.

But it will go a long way.


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