Looking at NBA Expansion possibilities

Minds were intrigued over the past weekend when Adam Silver said that while expansion is not imminent it is inevitable. So could it be within the next five years that the NBA expands to 32 teams? With that thought in mind, let’s look at some of the possibilities and how an 82 game season would work with 32 teams.

It’s no secret that the balance of the NBA has been out of whack over the past decade with the West being the powerhouse conference while the East is the sisters of the poor. This is more evident when looking over the past seven years during the superteam era.

One way to balance out the leagues could be to put two expansion teams in the Western Conference which would balance things out a little more while two teams are trying to grow and become competitive.

The other reason that the NBA will expand? It’ll bring more money into the league. If the NHL could get $500 million from Bill Foley and the Vegas Golden Knights then why couldn’t the NBA get a similar fee if not more as they have a much better television deal.

Now for some of the cities that could be in the mix for a team.

The first city that has to come to mind is Seattle. It’s been a long decade since Kevin Durant was playing games for Seattle before they moved to Oklahoma City. With Clay Hansen and company looking to bring the NBA back to Seattle they would be the prime candidate.

Another city that is going to be a prime candidate is Las Vegas. The NBA will wait to see how the NHL performs in the market first before expressing any interest but if the Vegas experiment works, you can bet the NBA will be calling.

There’s several other interesting candidates including Mexico City. The NBA has put on several regular season games with great success in Mexico City which can open up other revenue streams and a new and exciting market.

With the Chargers out of town, San Diego could be looking for a new pro league team to fill winter days when the Padres aren’t playing. Or perhaps, St. Louis or Kansas City could be other candidates.

Now what would a league look like? Well the NBA has two options with either an 8 division setup or a 4 division set up. The challenge is trying to make equal scheduling for each team. Seattle has been told by the NBA that they have first rights to any expansion that the NBA does. So let’s assume that the NBA becomes intrigued by the success that Vegas shows as an NBA market. An 4 division set up with 8 teams would look something like this:

Division Atlantic Central South Pacific
Team Name Atlanta Chicago Dallas Golden State
Boston Cleveland Denver Las Vegas
Brooklyn Detroit Houston Los Angeles Clippers
Charlotte Indiana Memphis Los Angeles Lakers
Miami Milwaukee New Orleans Phoenix
Orlando Minnesota Oklahoma City Portland
New York Toronto San Antonio Sacramento
Philadelphia Washington Utah Seattle

Divisional Games: 4 games each (2 home, 2 away)-28 games

Intra divisional games within conference: 3 games each (alternate 2 games home, 2 away)-24 games

Inter conference games: 30 games (2 home, 2 away with 14 teams, 1 home with 1 and 1 away with 1, rotating through a 8 year time period where it will balance out with 15 games against each team in an 8 year period).

The first thing that you will notice is that the Minnesota comes over to the East which makes sense since they’ll be paired with teams in their geographical region and Toronto was a logical fit for the Central as well. The trickier challenge was deciding the eighth team in the Central but Washington makes the most sense as it’s at least not too far to Cleveland and Philadelphia pairs better with New York, Brooklyn and Boston.

In the West, it’s a lot smoother as with Minnesota going to the East, Oklahoma City, Utah and Denver can be in a division with the Texas teams and other Southern teams. It allows Portland to seamlessly go with the Pacific division. The only issue is scheduling and whether or not the NBA would like to go with every team playing a home and home with each team in the other conference. By rotating them, there is only year in an eight year span that there would be one game with one team in each division of the other conference.

But what if the NBA were to go to a radical 8 division, 4 team model? It actually works out better from a scheduling standpoint.

Division Atlantic Central South Coastal
Team Name Boston Chicago Dallas Golden State
Brooklyn Indiana Houston Los Angeles Clippers
New York Milwaukee Oklahoma City Los Angeles Lakers
Philadelphia Minnesota San Antonio Sacramento
Southeast North Mountain Pacific
Atlanta Cleveland Denver Las Vegas
Charlotte Detroit Memphis Phoenix
Miami Toronto New Orleans Portland
Orlando Washington Utah Seattle

Division Games: (4 games each, 2 home and 2 away)-12 games

Inter conference games: (3 games each, 2 home and 1 away for 10 teams, rotating every year; along with 2 designated rivals where you play 4 games each, 2 home and 2 away)-38 games

Cross Conference games: (2 games each, home and home with each team)-32 games

Besides some wacky names and travel issues, this has the potential to be very intriguing. The scheduling works out great with still 4 games against each team in the division and playing each team in the other conference twice. The interesting thing in order to get to 82 games is having designated rivals outside of the division which would allow for preservation of those rivalries.

For example, Chicago would have Cleveland and Detroit as their designated rivals. Or New York could have Indiana and Miami as their designated rivals. There are two ways to do this, you could match up divisions so both rivals come from that division or you could split them up between divisions.

The 8 division setup allows there to be more focus geographically. The only question is does it devalue division championships? There would be 8 automatic berths into the playoffs and then the top 4 teams that don’t win their division would advance into the playoffs.

There may not be a perfect answer to expansion in the NBA but it’s fun to look at these possibilities and see what would fit.

If you have any expansion ideas, let us know in the comments below or email MRosenberg@wrlr.fm

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