Nobody asked me about the NBA Draft and ‘Contraction,’ but …

One of the basic problems with ‘expansion’ in professional sports is that you don’t have enough talent to go around. That is called a ‘dilution’ of the talent … of ‘quality.’ Many years ago, coach Dick Motta said, “When I came into the NBA, there were 14 teams and there were five great centers and five great point guards. Today, we have 22 teams and there are still just five great centers and five great point guards.” By the way, those 22 teams had 11-man rosters, a total of 242 players. Today, you have 30 teams with 15-man rosters, a total of 450 players. It’s hard to find 450 quality players.

Several years ago, NBA Commissioner David Stern mentioned the word ‘contraction,’ meaning a reduction of the number of teams in the NBA. He might have been testing the waters or truly considering such a move. He was not alone in this. About the same time, Major League Baseball talked rather openly about ‘contraction.’ As I recall, they were talking about eliminating the Minnesota Twins and the Milwaukee Brewers. The NFL? With 32 teams? Legendary coach Sid Gilman said, “You need two quarterbacks for each team and you can’t find 32 solid QBs, much less 64.”

What does ‘contraction’ have to do with the NBA Draft or the NBA Lottery? Perhaps nothing. But, today, a too-young kid will think he can make the NBA because there are 450 possibilities to do so. So, you wind up diluting the draft and diluting the lottery. But what if the NBA only had 24 teams with 12-man rosters, for a total of 288 open slots? I’m of the idea that a lot of athletes would think twice about declaring themselves available for the Draft. They might think: “Hey, making the team and making the starting five will be tough. Maybe I need another year or two of NCAA ball.”

Up until 1960-61, the NBA had only 8 … eight! … teams! The result? The Boston Celtics had a roster full of people that are in the Hall of Fame today. None of this “Three super stars and 9 water-carriers” suiting up. Every team was loaded. To get that effect today, you’d have to take four 15-man NBA teams (60 players) and compress them into one 12-man team. You know, take Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and New Orleans and make one team of all that talent. You’d solve some draft and lottery problems with that because NCAA players would have doubts about trying to be a ‘lottery’ pick.