By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
There’s a history of bloody wars in the old continent, dating to the dawn of time. Since then things have changed and the latest power struggle between Euroleague and FIBA is one of the best examples of how the tendency to focus only in Europe hides the big picture.
While the “war” between the two sides doesn’t affect directly the Euroleague, which for the first time will be a “real league” with all the teams facing each other in the upcoming season, nobody pays any attention to the real issue, which is none other than the NBA.
Euroleague many times has stated that it has created a two way road for players who may stay or end up from the NBA for various reasons in Europe. Still the new financial data in the NBA already created a new landscape.
Until now with very few exceptions, NBA teams were happy to draft a European talent and let him work on his game for some years in Europe. This has changed. Players like Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dennis Shroder never played in the highest level of Europe. The NBA signed them at an early age and developed them – arguably better than Europe could – while giving them contracts that European teams could not offer. This year, players like Dragan Bender and Giorgos Papagiannis were drafted who have demonstrated just flashes of their talent in teams like Maccabi Tel Aviv and Panathinaikos and may never return in Europe.
The NBA for the last 20 years has been a true global league. The next step will be to became THE league all around the world. While the whole expansion to Europe idea – which is part of the general strategy of the American league – has become a story similar to the boy who cried wolf, you can’t deny the fact that the NBA can now spend more money than ever in order to sign the best talent available at any given time.
Just seven years ago, in 2009, Olympiacos was able to offer to restricted free agent Josh Childress a contract similar to the qualifying offer he got from Atlanta. The NBA salary cup that season was $57,7 million, while the salary cup of the 2017-18 season is projected to be $102 million. You can do the math, adding also the bad shape of European economy.
It may sound strange to American fans, but the European lifestyle, alongside lucrative contracts which were comparable to the NBA middle class and included perks – the most usual of them is the clubs paying the taxes – made many European players very reluctand to sign with the NBA. Even players who signed in the recent past, like Juan Carlos Navarro, practically lost money in the jump to the other side of the Atlantic due to the buy outs they had to pay from their own pockets to their European teams, or didn’t want to start over from scratch while feeling that the organization didn’t believe in them. This was the case of Vasilis Spanoulis and the Houston Rockets.
On financial terms, those issues no longer exists and the proof is the one year deal of Sergio Rodriguez with the Sixers, which lets him play in the NBA and pay his buy out without any problem. Until this summer it was unheard for an NBA team to spend $8 million in a Euroleague veteran. The ceiling in most deals until recently was $5 million. And if you make it in the NBA, the contract that you will get as a reward equals the budget of a Euroleague team. Just look at Boban Marjanovic who just after one season in the Spurs got a $21 million offer.
So is Europe destined to stay in NBA’s shadow? The answer is no because, contrary to the NBA, the clubs and the stars are equally driving the league. The fans identify themselves more through their clubs and will always be interested in their team, while the NBA, specially on the global stage, is much more about the players than the franchises.
Still make no mistake. The quality of the available talent will probably decrease at n inversely proportional rate compared to the NBA salary cap. Many top European players were already part of the NBA and even more will now never play for CSKA, Maccabi, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, Olympiacos or Panathinaikos.