There’s always room for improvement. So even though the NBA is now a 12-month league that we can’t look away from, we here at The Ringer have a few humble suggestions to make it even greater. Welcome to League Hack Week—the first of four weeklong series leading up to opening night of the 2017-18 NBA season.
From the mundane to the zany, here are actual suggestions we have on how to make the league better.
Shorten the Season, Already
Haley O’Shaughnessy: Cutting the NBA season down from its current 82-game eon is one of the oldest ideas on this list, but it remains the most radical. Making the league intentionally lose money sounds worse to Adam Silver and Co. than adding a 4-point line, and that’s exactly the outcome a shorter season would produce. But it would also reduce injuries and essentially solve the NBA’s rest problem.
It’s not like the league is any closer to a solution: In July, Silver reportedly told owners and executives he wasn’t against adding the option to impose fines on teams that rested players, an extreme and debatably unenforceable solution. Also, perhaps a violation of labor laws? Shortening the regular season not only gives important stars like Russell Westbrook and LeBron James the legitimate rest they need to recover, it also raises the importance of each game. How’s that for keeping nationally televised games competitive?
Bring the Power Play to the NBA
Jackson Safon: Each team gets one minute per game when they can invoke a power play and make the other team play four-on-five. There would be an inherent strategy element of figuring out when to use your power play, since it can be deployed to stem a run from the other team, to start a comeback, or just to laugh at the other team when they have to tell the worst member of their current five to get off the court. But the best part would almost be when the sub returns after the minute is up because you can just imagine Zaza Pachulia and his limping gait either running back on defense or going full Vivek Ranadivé and cherry-picking. Sign me up.
Make Dunks Worth 3 Points
Isaac Lee: Dunks are the most exciting displays of athleticism on the basketball court; why not incentivize them further? The rise of the 3-pointer has changed the way the game is played—3-point shootouts are more exciting than dunk contests these days. But why not restore the importance of plays around the rim? The fading relevance of big men would be reversed, as teams would put premiums on players who can dunk. Can you imagine coaches drawing up out-of-timeout plays for a dunk with five seconds left on the clock? Kevin Harlan would have a heart attack calling a clutch game-winning 3-point dunk. And, most importantly, I’m a Clippers fan; this rule would make DeAndre Jordan one of the most important players in the league. LOB CITY 2.0 BABY!
Introduce Visual Bragging Rights
Katie Baker: The NBA probably doesn't think it needs to take any recommendations from random European hockey leagues, but hear me out: In Switzerland, the top scorer on each team is outfitted with a ridiculous golden flaming helmet and jersey. The NBA should do this with, at the very least, sneakers. (Though I'd push for jerseys as well.)
I’d be cool with letting the teams determine what statistical category gets the honors, if only because it would be funny to listen to play-by-play guys try to parse whatever nerdy decision Daryl Morey comes up with. But assuming straight-up PPG is the basis, last season we would have seen neck-and-neck races between Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, John Wall and Bradley Beal (who finished with a 23.1 PPG tie), and, best of all, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Players would pretend not to care while simultaneously obsessing. Hypebeasts could go nuts over various limited-edition shoe releases ranging from understated and classy to “inspired by the Oval Office curtains.” It would all be an IRL manifestation of the beloved “He’s on fire!” from NBA Jam. There is no downside. I need this, and so do you.
Jonathan Tjarks: The NBA lowered the number of timeouts in a game this season from 18 to 14, and the number of timeouts that can be used in the final three minutes from three to two. More please! There’s nothing all that entertaining about watching coaches draw up an out-of-bounds play, see what the defense sets up in, then call another timeout to draw a different play. I’d much rather watch players react in the moment and be forced to think on their feet. The fewer the stoppages of play, the better. I’m a millennial. My attention span isn’t long enough to sit through all of that.
Juliet Litman: The NBA goes to fairly great lengths to give all players and teams the same opportunities to win (the cap spike of 2016 notwithstanding). That’s one reason why performance-enhancing drugs are banned—to maintain competitive balance—and, regrettably, HGH falls under this umbrella. I understand why certain substances aren’t allowed: Many are harmful when taken over a long period of time, their administration is difficult to regulate, etc. But HGH should be allowed. NBA players subject themselves to grueling travel, constant working out, and daily banging against other giant men. Injuries happen to everyone, and players should be allowed to take relatively benign drugs that help them heal faster. And if it also makes these professional athletes strong, what’s wrong with that? It’d make the basketball product better, too.
Basketblades: Basketball on Skates
Kate Knibbs: Basketball is a fast-paced sport, which is good, but it is also getting way too predictable, which is bad. To make it even faster-paced and less predictable, I propose a new rule: Every third game, players must wear rollerblades. We could call it “basketblades.”
Think of it—the same sport you love, but now all your favorite players will be challenged to adapt to dribbling with wheels attached to their feet. New stars will rise based on their blading agility, while others will fall (I imagine it will be a lot harder to dunk). Before you dismiss this idea as “wacky,” “impossible,” or “sponsored by the International Inline Skating Association of America,” I ask you to consider hockey. Do you remember what hockey was before they started wearing skates? It was basically LACROSSE, my friends. Would you rather watch hockey or lacrosse?
Justin Verrier: Powered by the unlikely point-guard tandem of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns cobbled together a top-10 offense and outshot their preseason over/under by 23 wins. Their reward? The worst slot in that year’s draft lottery. In their stead, the viewing public was treated to a 38-win Hawks team, sans Al Horford, attempting to fundamental their way past the verticality-era Pacers in the first round of the postseason.
While the NBA goes out of its way to weed out tankers, presumably in the interest of providing a better on-court product, objectively superior teams are routinely left outside of the playoff field based purely on geographic location (and, in some cases, arbitrarily grouped geographic location). In the past five seasons alone, seven teams with better records were left out of the postseason. In the past 10 seasons, 15 better teams got shafted.
Long travel—and, more importantly, the excess wear and tear that results from 82 games of it—is still a concern best avoided. But that still doesn’t explain why we can’t keep the 16 best teams in play once the regular-season games are over.
Change the Way Double Technicals Are Resolved
Paolo Uggetti: Penalty kicks in soccer, as unfair as they are in deciding games, are fun as hell. So, why don’t we incorporate a similar concept in basketball for far less meaningful scenarios? I’ve always hated double technicals because they don’t accomplish anything. After two players tussle, we have to get something more than just a warning for each. As far as jump balls, I like the concept, but let’s kick it up a notch.
So, here’s the deal. The two players called for a double technical or a jump ball are called onto the half court, while other players stand aside. A one-minute game of one-on-one ensues. Whoever scores first, that team gets the points and the ball. It’s like a basketball penalty kick except both players are the striker and the defending goalie at the same time. (If no one scores in the allotted minute, possession will be determined by whoever hits a 3 from the top of the arc first.)
At last, this will be a way to see one-on-one battles we’ve always craved and hypothesized. If the two players involved hate each other, it’s even better. You get to settle your dispute on the court. By playing a blacktop-style game of one-on-one.
Let’s Have a Shot Clock … for Free Throws
Matt James: Free throws kill the rhythm of a game and can make the last few minutes of clock stretch out to near infinity. Free throws are too free. Let’s speed up the game while adding some urgency and excitement. Here’s what we should do:
- From the ref’s whistle, the fouled player will have 24 seconds to attempt his first free throw.
- There will be a 12-second shot clock for each subsequent free throw beginning the moment the ref returns the ball to the player.
You may be wondering:
- What if a player is somewhat injured on the foul?
- Isn’t this going to make substitutions more difficult?
My response: I don’t care, and you shouldn’t either. Free throws are like a lunch break right now. Let’s make them more like a NASCAR pit stop.
It Might Finally Be Time to Fix the Corner 3
Danny Chau: I love the corner 3. I love that it is a way for modern players to stick it to olden designers who didn’t have the foresight to consider the technical advantages of having an incongruous 3-point arc all the way around. I love how it was the domain of specialists like Bruce Bowen and Kyle Korver. But now that everyone is in on the clubhouse secret, I think it’s time to wonder why we still allow the corners to be nearly 2 feet closer to the basket than any other segment of the arc.
Bigs are stepping out to attempt those shots with greater and greater frequency; what should amount to a shot attempt with a lessened degree of difficulty often becomes a tightrope walk. The short corners were a way to help the league see the inherent advantages of the 3-point shot, but now that everyone has assimilated, let’s make things equal. Let’s also give players enough room to shoot comfortably without worrying about stepping out of bounds.
Let Players Play in Street Clothes for One Game Every Season
Jason Concepcion: Hoodie Melo was one of the great viral story lines of the summer. The NBA should build on that robust, organic branding by letting its players—the most marketable athletes in America—showcase their individual styles and play in street clothes for one game out of the year. Melo in his hoodie. Jimmy Butler shirtless in ripped jeans. J.J. Redick in a suit while wearing a Rolex. The possibilities are endless. Let’s do this.