USA Basketball as English League: Part 2 – NBA Premier Leauge
One thing I didn’t address in the first article in the series was whether I would pick who was in each league first and then match or match and then figure out the league. I decided to take a dual approach. The NBA goes first, then the D-League. After that, I match first.
My method immediately causes some issues not addressed in other columns that just match the 20 Premier League teams with 20 of the 30 NBA teams. The most obvious issue is that neither the Lakers nor the Celtics came particular close to making the playoffs in the 2013-14 season and thus are not in the NBA Premier League, despite being 1 and 2 in all-time championships.
Then there are more complicated problems that require assumptions. Let’s start with this assumption: the NBA has made wise decisions about where to place its franchises. Seattle looms incredibly large in this assumption, but it seems an ok assumption to make if we aren’t changing the collegiate draft season. If you change the draft to academies, then one of two things will happen. The first thing that might happen is that northern teams thrive at the highest level because they can bring kids off the street during the cold months. They have to compete with hockey, but not seriously with gridiron, football, or baseball. Alternatively, the ability to play outside all winter opens up more players with more dreams in the south.
Alternatively, if you do stick with the draft, how does it work? Do each of the 92 teams get a pick in the first round? Instead of parachute payments, they get a high lottery pick for competitive balance? What about the teams outside of the 92-team structure? Basically, I ignore this issue. If people enjoy the alternative universe, I’m happy to look at how a draft or academies might work.
Do we keep the salary cap around? Teams are still not going to be able to completely stockpile talent due to roster limits. However, it has been 20 years since a team other than Arsenal, Chelsea, City, or United has won the title. In that time, San Antonio, Miami, Dallas, Lakers, Boston, Detroit, and Chicago have all won the championship. The gap widens even more if you look at the teams that finish second, which adds Cleveland, Orlando, Oklahoma City, New Jersey (now Brooklyn), Philadelphia, Indiana, New York, Utah, and Seattle on the NBA side, but only Liverpool and Newcastle on the Premier League side. My guess is if you looked at three and four the disparity would grow even more, but I think I’ve made my point.
I am using the league standings at the end of the 2013-14 season. The NBA playoffs do not matter as far as promotion relegation. Of course, since 10 teams are getting relegated, teams 18, 19, and 20 are safe in this initial league split.
I’ve discussed a bit about this alternative, but not discussed at all the criteria I am using. I’m not using anything scientific. Perhaps some sort of score system could improve this, but just doing the geography, demographics, tradition, and record research has been time-consuming thus far.
Here’s a rough view of my criteria:
Geography – mountains, cardinal direction, coast, etc.
Demographics – working class, hippies, bankers, etc.
Tradition – rivalries, politics, colors, names…I guess
Record – recent and historical championships, as well as near misses. Regular season success versus cup success.
San Antonio Spurs – Newcastle United
Both are from areas where at least some want to secede. Both wear black and white. Both are high on the all-time championship list, although Newcastle’s last championship was in 1927. Newcastle has won the Texaco Cup on at least two occasions, which gives them a connection to Texas, if not San Antonio specifically.
Oklahoma City Thunder – MK Dons
The Thunder are not hated like the Dons are because moving teams is accepted at some level in the US. However, Seattle is not happy about it. The teams moved in the opposite direction and the Thunder/SuperSonics have been way more successful than MK Dons.
I avoided the low-hanging fruit of Spurs/Spurs and Wolves/Wolves, so let me have this one.
LA Clippers – Manchester City
SPOILER ALERT: If the Lakers are MUFC, then City has to be the Clippers, even if there is a red/blue switch going on.
Indiana Pacers – Leeds United
Leeds has 3 titles and the Paces have none, but both teams are associated with yellow and blue. Also, Leeds is not particularly old by English football standards. The Pacers were started in 1967, so not old for an NBA team, but not super-new either.
Miami Heat – Portsmouth
You might think Manchester City. Both teams have recently bought championships (though to be fair, unless you have something completely ground-breaking, like early Wenger Arsenal, isn’t that what you do?). Aside from City already being taken by the Clippers, that does a disservice to City’s history, going back more than 100 years than the Miami Heat. While City has had some tough times, they also won the league in 1937 and 1968. Of course, if you stretch out the history of the Miami Heat, maybe they start to look more similar in terms of winning, but there’s still the fact that the Clippers are a better fit.
Southampton isn’t as far south as Portsmouth and Southampton hasn’t won any championships. Portsmouth’s championships were a long time ago, but at least they are on the board.
Houston Rockets – Sunderland
Yes, Newcastle and Sunderland have been flipped as far as all time championships. The Rockets have 2 and the Spurs have 5, while Sunderland has 6 and Newcastle has 4. You can flip them if you like, but Sunderland is red like the Rockets and Spurs are black and white like Newcastle.
Portland Trail Blazers – Burnley
Both are in the northwest, and both have at least one championship (2 in the case of Burnley). Burnley’s away colors are black.
Golden State Warriors – Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
Both have blue. Both are on the coast. Brighton is considered the gay capital of the UK. I get that they are in Oakland and not San Fran, but work with me.
Memphis Grizzlies – Reading
Both are on an important river. Neither has won a championship. Primary color is blue. Both citites are known for music.
Dallas Mavericks – Middlesborough
There are teams closer to Newcastle and Sunderland than Middlesborough, but you have to go further down the pyramid. To get a Premier League team you have to go all the way down to Hull, and the fluid nature of things makes me think the current league is not the most important thing. Both are the least successful of the Texas/Northeast 3. While Middlesborough hasn’t won the league, they do have a cup, which is kinda like winning the playoff. Middlesborough is currently wearing blue for their away kit as well.
Toronto Raptors – Cardiff City
Cardiff is the capital and largest city in Wales, but Toronto is not the capital of Canada. Regardless, the capital (Ottawa) does not get a team in my alternate universe, so 1 out of 2 will have to do. Cardiff was just relegated last year, though currently it does not look like they are going back up. The Cardiff dragon is somewhat related to a raptor. Work with me here.
Chicago Bulls – Aston Villa
There’s an argument to be made that MUFC is the Bulls, but that has to do with global appeal that may not last another generation for the Bulls. It turns either Beckham, Best, and Ronaldo or a combination of them into Jordan. There’s also a couple of obvious arguments for Arsenal getting the nod here.
Ultimately, the success of the Bulls is in a single era, and except for one season, the same is true of Aston Villa. Aston Villa does have some international cache due to winning the European Cup.
Aston Villa have been runners up more than they have won, which is unlike the Bulls, who have never lost once making it. Ultimately, being the biggest club from the heartland is what gives them the nod for me.
Washington Wizards – Chelsea
Both have been around a while, but neither is as old as some of the other clubs. Also, both teams are in the nations capital. Others think they are the Mavericks, because of Cuban/Abromovich, but neither of those guys has been or will be there forever. Chelsea certainly has been the more successful of the two, but the Wizards do have a championship from 1978. Both teams have had most of their success in a single lump, the Wizards being in the 1970s and Chelsea’s in the past decade.
Brooklyn Nets – Tottenham Hotspur
I’m not going to pretend to have great insight into Brooklyn or Tottenham as I’ve never spent much time either place. My understanding is both have a history of not being the nicest part of town (though Brooklyn has neighborhoods in it of course). Regardless, it gets us the Arsenal rivalry and I have it on good authority from a Spurs fan that it is an adequate comparison.
Charlotte Hornets (Bobcats last year) – QPR
Gillingham might be a good call due to the racing associations with Kent, but they were already taken. Maybe if they were still the Bobcats I’d have gone with Sunderland. According to Wikipedia, Charlotte has no rivals, and really, my 16 years in the state back that up. The Wizards are in the same division as the Hornets, so that should give us enough for a QPR/Chelsea rivalry.
Neither team has won a championship.
Atlanta Hawks – Ipswich Town
Only Portsmouth has won a championship from the south east of England. No team from the south west has ever won. Ipswich Town is at least in the east, and is certainly not north. Both teams have a single championship. It’s a little disappointing the championships were not just a few years difference, since we like to divide things into decades, but they were pretty close – 1958 for the Hawks and 1962 for Ipswich Town. While this is pretty common in the NBA, both teams are associated with animals, though it is a horse for Ipswich.
Phoenix Suns – Gillingham FC
There is only one place considered a desert in England, and it is in Kent. Gillingham is in Kent. AFC Wimbleton wouldn’t be a bad call because of the Phoenix association, but I went with someone else for them. Neither team has one a championship.
Fun fact for Lord of the Rings fans. Despite not having it in the name (like Hampshire), Kent is a shire.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Wigan Athletic
I’m not going to pretend I know much about rugby, but I have it on good authority that Wigan is a rugby town. Even though Wigan is in Greater Manchester, which screws up the geographical comparisons I am making it avoids the laziness of being Wolves and Wolves (although that would make more sense with the midwest being the Midlands). Neither team has won a league championship…or come close (although Wigan did win the FA Cup). Both use blue.
New York Knicks – Arsenal
This is not exactly fair to Arsenal, who sit third all-time in championships, while the Knicks sit a dismal 9th, but if the Nets are going to be Tottenham, this is where we have to go for our rivalry. I know at least one of our readers would like to see the 76ers here, and due to being 5th all-time in championships, maybe there is an argument. Arsenal-Spurs is the most heated London rivalry, at least at the top level, so keeping that in take was more important than getting closer on the success level. The fact of the matter is Arsenal is a London club and if you hate New York, you should really think twice about adopting them, since London is New York on steroids.
Although not specifically related to Arsenal, this seems as good a place as any to think about geographic distinctions for a bit. For us to make any sense of this in terms of Premier League numbers, one may need to move away from the city model and move to states. California thus becomes London, New York City includes Philadelphia and becomes greater Manchester, and Texas becomes the Birmingham area. It still does not really match up, but there is not a great way to parallel the domination of London. Maybe a better way to do it would be to include all of the state of New York, and then all of New England and Pennsylvania as “London.” This way you get the historical New York-Boston rivalry as part of “London” and you get New York as the cultural seat that London is. Of course, LA isn’t exactly a backwater so maybe it just makes sense to think of LA and New York as dual Londons with some combination of Texas, Florida, Ohio and/or Chicago/Milwaukee becoming greater Manchester and Birmingham. Mostly, I tried to stick with New York as London and many of the other geographic distinctions go away.
Denver Nuggets – West Brom
The Hawthorns aren’t exactly in the mountains, but they are the highest English ground. West Brom has a single championship, but that’s pretty close to the zero for the Nuggets. Blue is associated with both clubs, though a slightly different shade.