Well, its been about a year now since Panini was granted an exclusive reign over NBA licensed basketball trading cards and its time for year number 2 to get on its way.
Basketball cards never really got off the ground in 2009, and I would argue that it took Panini until after the regular season was over to come out with products that really caught the collectors eye. Crown Royale, Timeless Treasures, Court Kings, Hall of Fame, and National Treasures all came out essentially after everyone knew that Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, and Tyreke Evans were the only RC's worth anything. We'll see about Blake Griffin - but he really hurt the company early in the season because he was the RC case hit most of the time.
Given that it was Panini's '1st year' making NBA cards in 09/10 we saw a lot of Football carry-over designs and set makeups. 2010/11 looks to be the same ... but every company does this now. The autograph and jersey card player pool was and still is - extremely small. You get the feeling that Antawn Jamison and Baron Davis change jerseys a lot. More seasoned collectors complained of the over-saturation of sticker autos - however it seems Panini has responded - as more cards will feature on card signatures in 10/11 brands.
Panini did have some breakthroughs with athletes that must not have liked Upper Deck & Topps much. We've seen more Scottie Pippen, John Stockton and Robert Horry autographs than I remember seeing in the past. The use of cut autographs was utilized in a few sets, but I'd like to see a Wilt Chamberlain, Reggie Lewis, Len Bias and Drazen Petrovic down the road.
The exclusive deals across all sports have been interesting to follow. Surely its helped sell every product in baseball ... except maybe 2010 Chicle and a few others. We've seen huge prices for non-autographed Bowman SuperFractors - which will be essentially be re-printed later on this year for 2010 Bowman Chrome, and even Bowman Draft Picks. I don't think we see this type of craziness if Upper Deck, Panini and others have #1/1's and Autographs of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper floating around at the same time Bowman came out in May. Its obviously apparent that Baseball has far more collectors than basketball - and that affects prices more than anything. That being said, I honestly don't think that any 2010 baseball prospect is going to have the career that Tyreke Evans is going to have in the NBA ... but baseball collectors are sure more willing to 'gamble' on a prospect than basketball collectors.
Honestly its a tough market in basketball cards. With LeBron James & Michael Jordan still at Upper Deck - its tough to go all in collecting basketball cards when two of the most valuable players of all time can't sign for you. Its almost like opening a 'searched' box of 1952 Topps with all the Mickey Mantle's and HOF pulled out ... sure you'll get some sweet cards ... but never the prized pull. LeBron James is far more polarized in popularity now, but any collector would gladly spend $100 on a box with a LeBron autograph inside.
Exclusive deals were designed to make collecting less confusing and help keep the supply of cards in check over the course of a year. With only 12 active guys on an NBA roster - and even less of them actually getting playing time and publicity - its already a thin market for basketball cards to begin with. Considering you still see plenty of 09/10 Basketball Product for sale (usually at a discount - ie: 09/10 Court Kings) its obvious that the supply is still too high for demand. If Panini wants year #2 to be a good one - I would suggest making less of each product so you end up keeping hobby dealers happy. Product that doesn't move is like that ugly bright green sweater at Macy's that never sells despite being 75% off ... and Panini has several product that fit this category. Unfortunately the NBA doesn't do much other than promote LeBron and Kobe - so such is life for an NBA licensee and basketball collectors alike.