And the defending champions are from Canada, which market isn't counted in ESPN ratings.
Load management means that the stars don't necessarily play in the game.
No dynasties right now for casuals to root for or against.
Kawaii Leonard is probably the best player right now, but he makes a poor ambassador for the game because he doesn't market himself.
Lebron's Lakers games come on too late for people on the East coast to watch.
A lot of key star players are injured right now. Espn and TNT loaded up on Pelicans games early in the season, so fans could see Zion, but he's injured.
As someone who used to watch a lot of games I honestly haven't watched a full game this year.
Mostly the product is crap, it's all finesse, there is too much flopping, no hard fouls, no post play, it's just 3s basically and drive and kick with flop city. Similar to the NFL they've let the fantasy stats drive the sport instead of the watchability of the sport.
Doesn't help that Curry and Durant are injured, LeBron is such an assclown that people are either total stans or can't stand the guy. That's probably the 3 biggest stars in the game. After that you have Harden who is even more unlikeable than LeBron and plays the game in the most unfun to watch way. Half the teams are terrible and no they have no chance.
It's just not a good product right now and ultimately that's what it comes down to. Similar for me to the post Jordan decade where you just didn't really have a great product for ages.
Sadly it seems all the sports are going down this PC/SJW/legal fright path where they're more worried about not getting sued for anything than the product and then they want to get political while completely alienating those that make up huge portions of their fanbases, almost like they don't understand the demographics that watch their sport.