Chicago 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.

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

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USA TODAY

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

The Bulls are in complete rebuild mode, and that means they have little use for 35-year-old Dwyane Wade.

ESPN's Nick Friedell reported last week that it's a matter of when - not if - the Bulls will buy out Wade. The future Hall of Famer is due $24 million this upcoming season, but how much Wade receives in a potential buyout could hold things up in the short-term.

The question then becomes: where would Wade land after he passes through waivers and becomes a free agent?

A potential destination is joining good friend LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Wade could also consider going back to the Miami Heat, where he spent the first 13 years of his NBA career.

And if he did, budding star Hassan Whiteside says the team would welcome back Wade with open arms.

"It'd be great," Whiteside told the Sun Sentinel. "It's a three-time NBA champion coming back, coming in and really helping a team out. It would be great."

Stay tuned, but it seems like a Wade-to-Miami reunion is a real possibility.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

2018 draft class is loaded at the top

Quietly, you can bet Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had a little celebration after hearing that prep star Marvin Bagley III was going to graduate from high school early and enroll at Duke for the 2017-18 season, making him eligible for the 2018 draft.

Bagley, a 6'11 power forward from Los Angeles, is being compared to longtime NBA star Chris Bosh, right down to his smooth left-handed shooting touch. Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocked shots during his junior season for Sierra Canyon H.S. He's also fared well against NBA competition at the highly-regarded Drew League in L.A. this summer. Bagley’s physical tools are off the charts, and you can count on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski preparing him well for life in the NBA.

Most NBA scouts and execs expect the No. 1 overall pick to come down to either Bagley or Michael Porter Jr., who will play his one season of college basketball at Missouri. The 6'10 Porter averaged an amazing 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds last season against Seattle high school competition. He's considered a more dynamic scorer than Bagley with more range on his jump shot. Some scouts believe he could quickly develop into one of the league's elite players with Kevin Durant-type length and shooting ability at the small forward position.

International swingman Luka Doncic is also highly coveted by NBA teams. The 6'8 swingman has excellent shooting range, and is also capable of creating his own shot with outstanding ball-handling ability. Forget the stereotype of European players being mechanical and unable to compete athletically, Doncic is capable of being an 18-20 point scorer in the NBA and should go in the top five next June. He's considered one of the best international prospects in the last decade.

Two 7-footers also will hear their names called early on draft night 2018. University of Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season, while Texas freshman center Mohamed Bomba has an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan. Sure, the NBA has moved away from the traditional low post center, but teams are still looking to acquire agile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Depending on how they fare against top level college competition, Ayton and Bomba could round out the top five.

Other names to watch in the lottery portion of next year's draft include Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams, Michigan State's forward duo of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and the latest one-and-dones from John Calipari's Kentucky program, center Nick Richards and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

In case you missed it, ESPN released its preseason win total expectations for the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and the Bulls were dead last with a projected record of 26-56. Now, I'm not sure a team with veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez and the three young players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota will be quite that bad, but if you're going to rebuild, the idea is to get the best draft pick possible, and the Bulls appear to be on course for a top-five selection depending on how the lottery falls.

If the Bulls are able to land an elite talent like Porter Jr., Bagley III or Doncic in the draft, then use their $40-50 million in cap space to land a couple of quality free agents, the rebuild might not be as painful as some fans are fearing.

Last dance for LeBron in Cleveland?

Well-connected NBA writer Chris Sheridan dropped this bomb on Twitter Wednesday, quoting an NBA source, "This will be LeBron's final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair." Don’t forget, Sheridan was the first national writer to report James was going to leave Miami to go back to Cleveland in 2014, so his reports definitely warrant a little extra attention.

Okay, we've already heard countless rumors about James planning to join the Lakers after next season. He's built a mansion in Brentwood, is close with Magic Johnson and will be able to bring another superstar with him to L.A. like Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Plus, the Lakers have a number of talented young players in place like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and a promising coach in Luke Walton.

Add in the likelihood Kyrie Irving will be traded before training camp opens and LeBron's long-standing poor relationship with Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, and you have the perfect formula for another James' free agent decision next July. Although, I'm not sure why LeBron would want to go West, where Golden State is positioned to dominate the league for another five seasons, with strong challengers like the Rockets and Spurs still in place. 

But if we've learned anything from watching James over the years, he's clearly a man who wants to align the odds in his favor. So don't rule out anything when it comes to James' free agent decision. If the Cavs make a home run trade for Irving, maybe LeBron decided to plays out his career in his home state. If not, look for him to find a team with the cap space to bring in another top star to run with him.

Back in 2010, the Bulls carved out the cap space to add two max contract stars, but lost out to Pat Riley in Miami. This time around they won't be on James' July travel itinerary.

One thing we know for sure. Where LeBron plays in 2018 will be the number one story throughout the NBA season.