Competitive Balance

Competitive Balance

Last time here at Winners Win I facetiously claimed that the Golden State Warriors have already won the upcoming season’s NBA title. There’s been plenty of fallout from his move. While some “experts” on ESPN have called it a cowardly move, I’m a lot more bothered about this Super-duper team being an important issue in the negotiations in the next CBA. The chances of a lockout have increased greatly unfortunately.

The main 2 questions about KD to GSW are:

Is it good for the League?
What about competitive balance?

Is it good for the League?
Well it depends on your perspective. The people most aggrieved about his decision are the diehards, and who aren’t fans of GSW. The excitement of watching the NBA has been diminished as instead of wondering who’s going to win the title; you expect GSW to win it or injuries rob them of it.

But diehards will be watching regardless and on the other hand casual fans will love it. There was huge interest in the Warriors, and the NBA by extension, when they started last season with that winning streak. There was huge interest when the Miami Heat formed their big 3 and they’ll be huge interest again this season with the big 4 at GSW.

At Pinnacle GSW are 1.80 to win the title, which implies they have a 55.6% chance of winning it. If they’re fully healthy entering the playoffs they’ll be much lower than that. According to an article at Sports Insights they’re the shortest price for a team to win the title prior to the season since the 1997/1998 Chicago Bulls.

Here’s some of the recent title winners &/or favourites odds:

NBA past winners

Full article here:

What about Competitive balance?
On JJ Redick’s podcast, recently he’s been talking about the KD story. He doesn’t have a problem with the move, he frames it by saying some people would only be happy if every single team went 41-41 (I doubt anyone wants that), and then goes on to say that in the last 7 years, 6 different teams have won the NBA title.

I don’t think that point proves there’s competitive balance either, but it did get me thinking about how that compares to other leagues and other sports….So using Wiki, I had a look at how many different winners each major sports league had in the last 5, 10, 15 & 20 years:


Starting off with the soccer leagues The Premier league doesn’t look so bad compared to some of the other leagues, especially the joke leagues in Scotland, Greece & now Italy. In Italy Juve have won Serie A the last 5 years and are 1.425 to win it this season. The German league’s had plenty of different winners. I would have assumed Bayern had won it loads but I really don’t follow this sport that much anymore.


Plenty of competitiveness (by this metric) in Union. Now’s a good time to point out that some sports leagues have a small number of teams competing, like most of the leagues here. NRL is one of the most competitive leagues in the world while closer to home only a handful have won the Super league. The only thing I want to say about AFL is that I don’t understand why anyone would pay to watch it!


The future of cricket is T20, but it doesn’t have a long history so far. Considering the nature of the sport it’s no surprise to see lots of different winners.

US Sports

Now on to the sportsmost popular in the US and there’s plenty of different winners except some of the basketball league in Europe.

Anyway, just because a league has had a load of different winners in the last number of years doesn’t mean it’s a competitive league. You could have 10 different winners in the last 10 years, but if prior to each season the favourite went off at sub 1.20 and coasted to the title, then it’s not competitive. Despite having a different winner each season.

The Olympics starts in a weeks time. And to my mind, the most uncompetitive team sport is international basketball. If the US sends a good team then it needs a miracle stop them winning. Last week the men’s team was 1.10 to win the gold with Pinny, they’re down to 1.059 now. While the women’s team is at 1.08. I can’t think of any other major team sport where the favourite goes off at such short odds. Yes it’s uncompetitive, but I’ll still be watching!

The most dominant sports team ever assembled may well have been the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team nicknamed the “Dream Team”. It was the first American Olympic team to feature active NBA players such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson & Larry Bird. They had an average margin of victory of 43.8 points in the Olympics.

GSW win the 2016/17 NBA Championship!

If you’ve got at least a passing interest in the NBA, then yesterday you may have heard the biggest free agency news since “The Decision”: Kevin Durant was leaving the Thunder to join the Warriors.


Yep, a top 3 player in the league is joining the 73-win best team in the league. (Yes, GSW didn’t win the championship in June, but they were still clearly IMO the best team last season).

Personally I was hoping that KD wasn’t going to join the Warriors, just from the point of view that it’s going to be boring in terms of who’s going to win the title next season, and for next few seasons assuming the Warriors keep this big 4 of KD, Curry, Thompson & Green together. They won a record 73 games and have upgraded their “death line-up” by swapping Harrison Barnes, who isn’t actually that good, for Kevin Freaking Durant! If you don’t mind waiting 10 months you can back them to win the 16/17 title at 1.91 at a few books which is a joke price. They were 1.91 coming into these playoffs just gone. Now all their main competitors are worse due to players leaving/retiring or ageing: SAS, Cavs, OKC & Clippers.

An alternative bet if you’re so inclined may be to bet the under on an over-inflated win total. With signing KD and letting a few guys go they won’t be as deep. They broke the record last season and with all the media scrutiny surrounding that they won’t be busting a gut to break it again. After this post season, with the injuries they suffered in the playoffs their priority should be to rest players a lot more during the season, coast to the no.1 seed and make sure that their stars are healthy for the playoffs. They’ll be so good that they can rest players and coast to 65+ wins. Add in the chances that Curry will never have another season like his 15/16 self, and the chance of injuries and any win totals in the 70s should likely be opposed (assuming the odds are around 1.83 – 1.91).

People may draw comparisons to Lebron leaving to form a big 3 at Miami, and that they “only” ended up winning 2 titles (out of 4 Finals appearances). Well, it is true GSW may “only” win 2 more titles, which would be a under achievement. But this GSW team is far superior to Lebron’s Heat. This team could very well be the greatest team of all time. Curry and Durant are 2 of the top 3 players in the league. If you have 1 of the those guys with 4 average players you’ve already got an above average offense. Klay Thompson is another high volume, high efficiency player. Then there’s Iggy & Draymond who are 2 of the elite defenders in the game, and Draymond is unique in that he can guard positions 1-5, run the point and shoot 3s. It may be interesting to see how this team starts the season, how they gel etc…but after they start absolutely trouncing even the best teams it’s going to get boring. No team is going to be able to successfully defend a team with multiple players with the 3 point range that they have. And scoring on them is going to be very difficult too.

Back to “The Decision”, and I think that this is worse in the narrative point of view as Lebron wasn’t joining the best team in the league, and he was leaving a team that he was carrying single handedly…Then just when you think they can’t get any more unlikable, they sign noted dirty bastard Zaza Peculiar to a bargain contract!

But TBH if I was KD I would have done the same thing: leave a dump like Oklahoma City to live in the Bay Area with multiple championships seemingly guaranteed.

Every cloud…

“in years to come; trading away James Harden will be referred to as the moment it all went wrong for the Oklahoma City Thunder”

This is a massive step forward for OKC finally becoming irrelevant. If you don’t know the history of how & why this team relocated from Seattle, here’s some essential viewing:

Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team