ANBL numbers game is a divisive issue
Australasia's premier men's basketball players believe the NBL's points rating system is unfair and overly restrictive, and they want it abolished.
But they may be up against it as they seek to remove arguably the greatest restriction on their employment, with New Zealand Breakers general manager Richard Clarke suggesting the parity tool works well and is here to stay.
At the moment the Australian NBL has both a salary cap and a points rating cap. Each club has A$1 million ($1.26m) to dispense in salaries, but must also fit their 10 contracted players within a 70-point range, with players rated between one and 10 depending on their statistical output or background.
Players association boss Jacob Holmes, a forward with the Adelaide 36ers, has said the collective regards the abolition of the points cap as its top priority in discussions with the league.
And experienced Breakers guard Daryl Corletto has also spoken out, saying the mechanism was restrictive and shortened careers of players who have been loyal to the league.
Holmes, Corletto and most players believe they are being hit twice in a form of double-jeopardy, having to exist in a market that has both a salary and player rating cap.
But Clarke said the player rating cap worked effectively alongside the salary cap to spread talent fairly and felt clubs would be reluctant to do away with it.
"The league and clubs are happy with it as a system," said Clarke. "It's something that's always in need of refinement, but right now it's part of the licence agreement, and seems pretty much embedded."
Clarke's view was that the points system removed the "grey areas" of a salary cap and made the achievement of parity much more black and white.
And because of the benefits accrued for clubs bringing through their own young talent, it also encouraged player development, which was a good thing for the league.
"Where it gets tough is if you have a settled team, and sometimes as they're getting better it's hard to keep that team together," said Clarke.
"But what it does is create a lot of parity in the league. Since the points cap has been revised with a lot of the grey areas taken out, over the last four years we've generally had very even seasons with six teams in the playoff mix right up to the last weekend."
Clarke said it was then the challenge facing clubs to exist within the restrictions of the points cap. For example, this season the Breakers' decision to re-sign Corey Webster meant they had room for only a nine-point import. Luckily Will Hudson fit that bill, and was also the type of player the club wanted.
"It means you have to recruit well and identify players you want early. Recruitment is a huge part of whether you're going to be successful in this league or not."
The points cap was also a further mechanism to control spending at a time when most clubs were operating in a market where break-even was a best-case scenario.
"Until NBL clubs are getting the sort of money from TV rights that's being splashed around the other major sports in Australia, there just isn't the money there to pay the players a lot more anyway.
"Not having a points cap isn't suddenly going to mean there's a lot of extra money to spend."
To that end Clarke also backed the NBL's recent stance on continuing to turn down the application for a second Melbourne team until it stacked up financially.
"It looks like a good decision. We'd rather they be cautious than have teams come in and only last a year or two then go out again."
- Sunday Star Times
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