Bulls

Kevin Durant's Golden State decision is a winner for the NBA

Kevin Durant's Golden State decision is a winner for the NBA

Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors has stoked many different reactions from NBA players, coaches, agents, fans, and media members. However, there seems to be one area where everyone can agree – the Warriors are the heavy favorites to win the 2017 NBA Finals. The Warriors will likely be the clear favorites to win the NBA championship every year for the foreseeable future.

The Warriors added the 2013-14 NBA MVP, who is in the prime of his career, to a team that won an NBA-record 73 games and was one game away from winning the 2016 NBA Finals. It seems easy to make the case that Durant going to the Warriors will be bad for the NBA because there will be little competitive balance. More specifically, the Warriors will be so dominant that no other team will have a realistic shot at winning the title. In theory, that should not be a good thing for the NBA.

Competitive balance is often described as the core element that makes sports successful. Why would NBA fans, media, and sponsors want to be a part of the league when the champion is “known” before the season starts? Fans are not going to watch or attend games when the outcome is not in doubt. The media will not cover games as closely for the same reason. If fans and media are not engaged with the NBA then sponsors are less likely to want spend their advertising dollars with the league. As The Ringer’s Micah Peters writes, “It was fun, you guys, but I think it’s time we start a new league and not tell Golden State about it.” Without competitive balance the NBA cannot be successful.

The only problem with this argument is that it is not true (usually a big problem for arguments). The NBA has not had competitive balance in a long time, and the league has been at its strongest when it has dominant teams. Seven NBA teams won 33 of the 35 NBA crowns between 1980 and 2014. The most memorable parts of NBA’s history during this time period are filled with dominant teams and players. From Magic Johnson and Larry Bird with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, respectively, to Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls to Kobe Bryant with the Lakers to Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA has been filled with dominant teams throughout its history. The converse of few teams winning so many titles is that most teams rarely compete for a title.

This year is no exception. The NBA Finals was a rematch of last year’s showdown between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James appeared in his sixth straight Finals. The dominant storyline this NBA season was how quickly the Warriors became the overwhelming favorite to win the title after starting the season with 24-game winning streak. The Thunder nearly defeated the Warriors in the playoffs during a seven game Western Conference Finals, but the Thunder were one of only maybe 2-3 teams in the Western Conference that had any real chance of beating the Warriors (the Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers being the others, in my opinion). Few teams in either the Eastern or Western Conferences had a realistic shot at winning the championship. And yet NBA attendance hit record a high for the 2015-16 season and television ratings increased from the 2014-15 season. The Finals were the highest-rated since 1998.

Dominance as a driver of audience interest can also be seen in other sports. Leagues throughout the world have arguably never been more popular or more successful at a time when fewer teams than ever before appear to be competitive for a championship. Durant’s decision to join the Warriors could produce the most dominant team in any major professional sports league throughout the world. And that is likely the best possible outcome for the NBA.

Adam Grossman is the president of the sports sponsorship and analytics firm Block Six Analytics. He is also the co-author of "The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders for a High-Performance Industry." In addition, he is currently an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University, where he teaches classes on entrepreneurship and quantitative analysis. Grossman also contributes to Forbes. Follow Adam Grossman on Twitter @adamrgrossman.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

lauri.jpg
USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.

 

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

dw.jpg
USA TODAY

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

Former Miami Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. is reported to be nearing a deal with the Bulls. In an interview with The Athletic, it was stated: "Walton, 23, says he knows where he’ll play next season. An agreement is in place, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, is requiring him to sit on the news until next week. All Walton can put out publicly is this: 'Long story short, I’m good. I’m going to a great situation. All I can say.' "

And while it is not yet known if the potential contract will be a two-way deal or not, Walton would provide an intriguing lottery ticket for the Bulls. 

The team mostly ignored looking for a backup point guard on the market. There is obviously a belief in the organization that Cameron Payne will have some internal growth, making him the best option. And the trade of Jerian Grant for essentially nothing, shows even more that Payne is there guy. Retaining Ryan Arcidiacono is a nice move considering the hustle that he showed last season at both the G League and NBA level, but it still leaves the Bulls thin in terms of established backup PGs behind Kris Dunn. And that is where Walton comes into play. 

Walton was a four-year player at the University of Michigan, where he played in some big-time games and showed immense leadership potential. But in terms of strictly on the court skills, there is one thing that he does extremely well: space the floor. 

In his four years at Michigan, Walton took a total of 581 3-point attempts, and knocked them down at a 40.1 percent rate. His elite shooting is enough to make him a legitimate rotation player for Fred Hoiberg. And while Payne still may develop into a better player, his outside shooting is his calling card despite never being elite at that skill at the NBA level. And in fact, when you compare he and Walton’s stats from college, the G League and the NBA, it becomes apparent who is the better shooter right now.

3-point percentage at NCAA level: Payne- 35.9 percent, Walton- 40.1 percent
3-point percentage at G League level: Payne- 33.8 percent, Walton- 37.7 percent
3-point percentage at NBA level: Payne- 34 percent, Walton- 41.2 percent

Now obviously, there is a “small sample size alert” for the NBA level, as Walton has only taken 17 3-pointers at the NBA level in his limited time with the Miami Heat. But these numbers show that even dating back to their freshman years of college, Walton has been the more efficient shooter from 3-point range.

Cameron Payne has the edge when it comes to playmaking, and this is based off of the fact that Payne has maintained an assist rate above 30 percent through all of his G League stints, while also having a low turnover rate (9.9 percent). Walton didn’t come close to Payne in terms of G League assist rate, and his 17.9 percent turnover rate at the G League level shows that his decision-making has yet to catch up to his shooting. 

Ultimately, Walton is going to be most effective as an off-ball guard who can make quick decisions, and knockdown the 3-point shot at a high level. Though if Summer League was any indication, his passing out of the pick-and-roll is getting better. And while Payne certainly is a good shooter, his game is much more predicated on having the ball in his hands, and playing in the pick-and-roll. With so many players on the Bulls who can create their own shot, Walton could end up being the cleanest fit with this constantly evolving Bulls roster.