The NBA is poisoning major sports

This week, the Golden State Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year deal worth $5.3 million. This comes after the Warriors won 73 games in a season, signed the second best player on the planet the following offseason and cruised to back-to-back NBA titles. There was a phrase going around this postseason that “KD ruined the NBA,” and now it’s safe to say that the Warriors collectively have ruined the NBA.

But that’s just the beginning.

Over in the NHL this week, the Toronto Maple Leafs landed John Tavares, one of the league’s best players for the next seven years. A heartwarming story, as the Mississauga, Ontario product returned home to play with his childhood team he grew up idolizing. The Leafs instantly bounce into Stanley Cup contention, with Vegas already putting them as the favourites to win the cup next year. On the outside looking in, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with this deal. Then you dive into the contract itself. Tavares’ base salary over every season he’s signed with Toronto doesn’t go over $1 million per season. Some players who spend half their season in the minors make more than Tavares will make just off of base salary. The $77 million that Tavares will make comes mostly from signing bonuses every year, handed out straight in cash by the Maple Leafs. For this year of his contract, Tavares will receive $15.25 million, which he actually already received the day he signed with Toronto. Because of his low base salary, Tavares’ cap hit is only $11 million per season, despite getting paid over $16 million a season. While it’s only the first time this has happened in the NHL, it’s a slippery slope that the league will continue to slide down unless the league steps in. With more free agents next off-season, teams will use the method used by the Leafs to take in top-tier players while lowering cap hits.

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And in the NHL (and the other major sports), not all markets are like the Maple Leafs. Most teams across the NHL don’t have this kind of money to throw around in salary bonuses in order to attract these players. The Ottawa Senators would have to sell the barn in order to make an offer like the one the Leafs made to Tavares. Meaning that only the richest teams in the league can afford the top players in the game, even with a salary cap in place. And it all started with the Golden State Warriors.

Granted, the MLB doesn’t have a salary cap, so teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox have been poaching the top talent in baseball for years. But that’s not what we want in major sports, the unfair balance in payrolls and talent on certain teams. To an extent it’s okay, but when some major league players are making more money than the Oakland Athletics are paying out to a whole team, it’s a little ridiculous.

While the NFL hasn’t quite experienced anything like the NBA’s current landscape has, there’s no saying certain players come together to create super-teams in the future and chase championships. The NHL now seems to be heading in that direction, and the MLB has been unbalanced for decades. The NBA is pretty much decided for the next two years, as we await something to change in Golden State.

And that’s not a good thing for sports.

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Don’t believe the Toronto Raptors hype

Sure, the Toronto Raptors are having the best season in their franchise’s history, and there’s an argument to be made that they could take down the best teams in the Eastern Conference and advance to their first ever NBA Finals appearance. But it’s Toronto.

The Raptors are prominent under-achievers, they have been since they entered the league back in 1995. They’ve had some great players, some great teams, but the organization simply hasn’t been able to win when it matters. It’s happened time and time again, and it’s happened a lot in recent years, with the Raptors simply unable to break through the ceiling despite three Atlantic Division titles in the past four years. It almost feels like you could put the Golden State Warriors in Toronto Raptors uniforms, and they would find a way to bow out in the second round. It’s simply not in their franchise to be a solid team in the post-season.

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I actually like the Raptors, they came to my hometown of Victoria, BC for training camp this summer and I got the chance to meet DeRozan, Lowry, the whole gang pretty much. I follow the Portland Trail Blazers out in the West, but I always keep tabs on the Raptors just because they’re “Canada’s team” and they’re always on the local sports stations. I remember the Andrea Bargnani days, the Jose Calderon era, Chris Bosh backpacking the team for a handful of years, and I truly want the Raptors to go all the way this year. It’s just not going to happen. Not with the Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving standing in their way, and past that, they’d still have to get by LeBron, which they never have, and never will be able to do. I don’t care how bad the Cavs are playing right now, come playoff time, LeBron becomes a different level of dominant, and he could single-handedly take down any team in the NBA, except for Golden State.

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And that’s really the bottom line. Even if the Raptors do have a miraculous run and find their way out of the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history, there’s no way, and I mean NO WAY this team beats the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven series. Unless Curry and Durant go down at the same time, the Warriors are winning the championship this year. You could put the Houston Rockets and the Boston Celtics all on one combined team, they’re not beating the Warriors. The Warriors are better than the dynasty Bulls or Celtics, the only team I could see standing somewhat of a chance against them is the early 2000’s Lakers because of the inside presence of Shaquille O’Neal, but it would still be close. The NBA Finals trophy simply isn’t up for grabs this year. Not without a miracle anyways.

While the Raptors currently lead the Eastern Conference down the home stretch and are on pace for a 60-win season, it’s best not to get hopes too high for Toronto, even though the hype up here in Canada will be through the roof if they do indeed get past the Celtics and the Cavaliers. While their bench has been terrific this year, Lowry and DeRozan aren’t enough to get past the likes of LeBron and Kyrie’s Celtics.

The playoffs leading up to the finals will be a show, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t see Toronto winning it all.

5 legitimate threats to take down the Warriors in 2018

There’s no question. The Golden State Warriors are the heavy favourites to repeat as NBA Champs in 2018. With Kevin Durant still under contract along with the regular trio of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, the Warriors are posed to be unstoppable once again.

However, the NBA offseason has been frantic to say the least. With a couple more moves still in the works, it’s hard to determine, but here’s five NBA teams that have a legitimate shot at dethroning the Golden State Warriors in 2018.

Honourable mentions: Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers

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This could change any day, but as long as Kyrie Irving is still a member of the Cavs, the Warriors’ biggest rival are still threats to take down the reigning champs. Any team that has LeBron James on their roster has a legitimate shot at a championship, and the Cavaliers have an established supporting cast to help LeBron. While Kevin Love hasn’t produced the way he did with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he’s still a good matchup for the likes of Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia, or Kevin Durant if he moves to power forward. Tristan Thompson is a great athletic rebounder, and there’s some room for improvement at the shooting guard position with J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. Kyle Korver and newly acquired Derrick Rose will provide scoring support off the bench, but the Cavs really need Kyrie, the man who put the Dagger in the Warriors in 2016, to return to Cleveland if they want to win their second title in four years.

San Antonio Spurs

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With some rumours that the Spurs are in the running for Kyrie Irving, San Antonio will be the Warriors biggest threat in the stacked Western Conference, Kyrie or no Kyrie. With the always underrated Kawhi Leonard leading the way with the veteran presence of LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, the Spurs have championship experience with a mix of young superstardom. The Acquisition of Rudy Gay should’ve made more waves in the league, but many question if he’ll fit in Gregg Popovich’s system. Many also question the caliber of Tony Parker’s play at the age of 35, especially with his injury problems as of late. We could possibly see Patty Mills play more of a starting role in 2018, with Dejounte Murray being groomed to take over the role in the future. It’s a definite weak spot on this team, but under Popovich’s reign, the Spurs will make it work. With Pau Gasol back to help in the front court, and Popovich calling the shots, you can never count out the Spurs to take down the Warriors in a seven game series.

Houston Rockets

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After getting bounced in the 2nd round by the Spurs in 6 games, the Houston Rockets had one of the biggest offseasons in the league. Acquiring Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers was a huge acquisition for the Rockets, who now have a second scoring option on their starting five aside from James Harden. With Eric Gordon, the reigning sixth man of the year, Trevor Ariza, the developing Chinanu Onaku, Nene and P.J. Tucker rounding out their roster, the Rockets should be a threat to make the conference finals this year. With rumours of Carmelo Anthony wanting to join the Rockets, there could be bigger things on the way for the Rockets, but as of right now, it would take some luck, but the Rockets pose the second highest threat in the west aside from the Spurs.

Boston Celtics

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Although they finished the regular season as the 1st place team in the Eastern Conference, there was a lot of critics that the Boston Celtics could make it out of the East against the Cleveland Cavaliers. After being shown the door in five games, it seems most of those critics were right. With Isaiah Thomas’ defence being a liability, and no huge scoring threats alongside him other than Al Horford, the Celtics just didn’t have enough firepower to take down the Cavaliers. In the offseason, the Celtics signed star forward Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz. Now we’re talking. With Thomas, Horford, Hayward, and growing stars in Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum, and a supporting cast of Jae Crowder, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart, the Celtics are one of the few teams who might actually beat the Warriors in terms of depth in 2018. The majority of the Celtics’ roster isn’t very playoff experienced, so they’ll have their sights set on dethroning the Cavaliers in the East, but if they can do that, the rest of the road is pretty easy on their road to the NBA Finals. They are also one of just two teams who can stand a chance against the stacked Warriors.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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One of the more pipe dream teams to take down the Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder made the biggest splash of the offseason, acquiring Indiana Pacers’ franchise cornerstone Paul George. Add to that, the Thunder boast the league’s reigning MVP in Russell Westbrook, and with just those two names, they can contend against the Warriors. The only hole for the Thunder is a lack of depth and scoring out of the front court. Steven Adams and Enes Kanter are pretty one-dimensional bigs, and while the addition of Patrick Patterson will shake things up a bit, they still need a little help if they’re going up against Draymond Green and the Warriors. If Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, and Paul George does his thing, the Thunder stand a chance against the defending champions.

But let’s be honest, it’s nearly impossible to pick another team winning the championship next year. Let’s hope someone pulls it off.