Expansion and Realignment for the NBA

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NBA Expansion, Realignment, Playoff Revisions, and a Real Lottery

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing a month-long hiatus and a recalibrated 2020 postseason, now is the perfect opportunity for the National Basketball Association to reconsider foundational structures.  Realignment, playoff revisions, and, dare I write, expansion should all be on the table.

Adam Silver and others have long and openly desired changes to the NBA.  Their primary goals appear to be increasing global popularity and maximizing revenue.  To some extent, the reformers envision a process where the past is mostly cast aside. Instead, the future is shaped based on the current reality.  Travel, on-demand viewing, and a deeper talent pool create circumstances vastly different than those that existed when the NBA was established decades ago.

This author’s proposal expands the NBA by two teams. Moreover, the plan realigns the divisions, reforms the postseason, and dramatically alters the draft lottery.  In this first of a two-part series, the reader is invited to comment on their thoughts on expansion and realignment.

NBA Expansion

In 1970, 28 teams competed at the highest level of professional basketball.  The players were drawn almost exclusively from the United States.  Moreover, the American population was nearly half what it is today. In addition, most of the best athletes pursued careers in baseball and football.

However, in 2020, the NBA has only 30 teams, draws talent from around the globe, and is arguably the second choice (after soccer) for most of the world’s top athletes.  In short, basketball has the talent to expand.  Adding two franchises would further increase the popularity of the sport and generate more revenue.  An even 32 teams would also allow for a healthy realignment, but more on that later.

Determining the best locations is no easy task.  Yet, one obvious answer leaps to nearly every fan’s mind.  However, the other recommendation is a bit ambitious but with captivating possibilities.

Seattle SuperSonics

  • With 4 million people, Seattle is the 20th-largest metropolitan area in North America.
  • The Sonics have a proud (and mostly successful) history in the NBA. The franchise won the 1979 NBA Finals and three conferences finals while being led by three Hall of Famers.
  • The Seattle Center Arena is about to be fully renovated.
  • Attendance is relatively high for the only professional basketball team in town, the Seattle Storm.
  • The color scheme, oh, the color scheme.

Mexico City Captains (Capitanes de Ciudad de Mexico)

  • Largest metropolitan area population in North America with 21.6 million people.
  • Home to the G League’s Mexico City Captains.  The club previously competed in Mexico’s National Professional Basketball League, making back-to-back appearances in the finals and earning a fourth-place finish in the Americas League.
  • An NBA team in the Mexican capital could cement the sport in the national landscape, make further inroads into all of Latin America, and foster generations of players.


So with 32 teams, realignment is necessary.  The NBA should continue to maintain its two geographically-oriented conferences.  Placing the teams into four divisions of eight teams each will add extra significance to division titles. These divisions will foster regional rivalries and facilitate a revised playoff format.

In a nod to player requests for a shorter regular season schedule, teams will compete in a 74-game regular season.  Above all, this change will keep players healthier for an expanded playoff format.  Each team will play the following schedule: 21 intradivision games, 8 inter-division games, and 8 interconference games. Subsequently, regular season play will pause for All-Star celebrations. After that, teams will resume their schedules with 8 interconference games, 8 inter-division games, and close the season with 21 intradivision games.  This division-weighted schedule will be important when it comes to qualifying for the revised playoffs.

When drawing division lines, some difficult choices had to be made. For example, placing the Central Division in the Western Conference is likely to generate some controversy.

Time zones largely dictated, with eastern, central, mountain, and pacific time zone teams grouped together as much as possible. However, this realignment reduces travel costs for some of the league’s poorest teams.

The Realigned NBA:

Eastern Conference
East DivisionSouth Division
Boston CelticsAtlanta Hawks
Brooklyn NetsCharlotte Bobcats
Cleveland CavaliersMemphis Grizzlies
Detroit PistonsMiami Heat
Indiana PacersNew Orleans Pelicans
New York KnicksOklahoma City Thunder
Philadelphia 76ersOrlando Magic
Toronto RaptorsWashington Wizards
Western Conference
Central DivisionWest Division
Chicago BullsGolden State Warriors
Dallas MavericksLos Angeles Clippers
Denver NuggetsLos Angeles Lakers
Houston RocketsMexico City Captains
Milwaukee BucksPhoenix Suns
Minnesota TimberwolvesPortland Trail Blazers
San Antonio SpursSacramento Kings
Utah JazzSeattle SuperSonics


What do you think?  However you feel, be sure to comment, retweet, like, and offer your own plans.  Thanks for reading, and look soon for the second installment focusing on playoff and draft lottery changes.

Also, follow me on Twitter at @BBGoldenHall and follow us @OT_Heroics for more great content!

NBA Expansion, Realignment, Playoff Revisions, and a Real Lottery

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1 comment

  • SonicsSoon says:

    Swap Utah and Mexico City, and it’s good. Mexico City is roughly the same longitude as Dallas and San Antonio and would be a natural rival to the southern tier of the Central Division.

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