By Shawn Dennis
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the possibility of the league expanding a day prior to the start of the season on December 22, 2020, to which he responded, “it’s sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point.” The addition of a new team is something that hasn’t been done since the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) joined back in 2004. Keeping the league even and having a propionate number of teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference has to be a part of the conversation to keep this idea sane in my opinion. I say this because I believe the competition barrier between both conferences will be separated if the addition of a new team is present in only the West or only the East.
As much as we would all love to see new teams in the NBA, it seems as if we might have to wait a bit longer for it to happen. With the current state of the world, I think Adam Silver has too much on his plate to try to put all the pieces together and expand the league. However, I think there’s a high possibility that the Minnesota Timberwolves are on the move, as owner Glen Taylor has been attempting to sell the team for a hefty price tag of $1.5 billion. Yes with a b.
For the hell of it, let’s take a look at answering two questions: when the T’Wolves are sold, where will they end up and if an expansion goes down, what are the top locations for both conferences?
First, the situation in Minnesota. Glen Taylor has been trying to get rid of his team that’s had a ridiculous 13 top ten first-round picks since 2006, two of them being the first-pick (three if you want to include the Kevin Love trade with Andrew Wiggins). They have a dismal 17-30 playoff record and have only been there twice in the last 15-plus seasons. As much as I love the jerseys and seeing a team in a lower market like Minnesota, it’s time for them to change area codes. What city comes to mind? Obviously Seattle.
Since the Seattle Supersonics were replaced by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008, the basketball-crazed city of Seattle has been up in arms about it. NBA players like Richard Jefferson, Isaiah Thomas, and even Kevin Durant who once said back in 2008 that he would “love to own a team in Seattle.” This move is inevitable whether it’s when Minnesota has been sold or the expansion being finalized, Seattle will have an NBA court again.
For the desired destinations for an expansion team, it’s hard to believe that the NBA will take a chance on new states or cities to have a major turn out for fans. Luckily, the Thunder have an incredible fan base and when they were allowed in the Chesapeake Energy Arena, they truly lived up to their name by having one of, if not the loudest arena in the NBA. Yet there seems to be a bigger concern about the expansion: the level of competition.
Out of all professional sports in the U.S. the NBA has had the most predictable league in who will make it to the championship. For the last 10 seasons or so, you can make a hefty bet that whatever team LeBron James is on, they’ll be in the Finals. Likewise, the superstar tandems joining forces like the Warriors, Cavaliers, Lakers and the Heat have made the NBA playoffs almost too unwatchable by practically already knowing the outcome.
This has made Adam Silver more skeptical with the idea of an expansion, but I think it’s worth mentioning that the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL proved the doubters wrong with their impressive performances, making it to the playoffs in all three of their seasons and the finals in their first.
Regardless of the oddsmakers having their part and the inevitably of Seattle’s return with the departure of Minnesota, I believe Las Vegas will end up with the team in the West and Kansas City in the East. By having the summer league being played in Vegas and the high market already existing, Adam Silver would be taking no chances by having a team placed there. T-Mobile Arena, where the Golden Knights play, is the perfect place to have the court and if not, building a new arena won’t be a problem given all Vegas is surrounded by is flat land.
For Kansas City, I think the combination of college basketball along with the boost from die hard fan base with the Chiefs won’t give Silver any issues either. The travelling aspect won’t be a problem either as it’s ideal for both conferences. I know both of these locations are boring and predictable, but I don’t see Adam Silver taking any risks in the near future to jeopardize the sake of the NBA in any way possible. Especially with the league losing billions of dollars because of the pandemic, this expansion could literally make or break the league. This would also lower the cap space for teams and make singing veterans and lower caliber players to have a decrease in pay, which might make them look for other ways to make cash.
An honorable mention for locations are Baltimore and Austin. Yes, polar opposites, but Baltimore is in desperate need of more infrastructure and money to flow through. Austin has the weather and a new MLS team that would be perfect for players who want a warm place and cheaper living to move to.