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The NBA last expanded in 2004. The Charlotte Bobcats joined the league and spent a decade as the Bobcats before rebranding and bringing back the Charlotte Hornets.

Now, nearly two decades after adding their franchise, it’s time for the NBA to expand again.

No, expansion isn’t imminent. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has routinely shot down any rumor to that effect. But in recent years, Silver hasn’t completely brushed aside the idea as idle gossip. Instead, Silver has said the league “dusted off some of their analysis” on the topic.

This week, Silver’s new negotiating partner at the NBPA, Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio, said she is of the mindset that the NBA is ready to expand as well.

“We do want more teams, I think it's good for the business,’’ Tremaglio said during her opening keynote conversation with SBJ executive editor Abraham Madkour. “Ideally, we hope that there will be more teams popping up in the U.S.’’

What makes it time for the NBA to expand? Let’s break it down.


Labor Peace

The NBA and NBPA have established a long period of labor peace. The last CBA negotiations were barely a blip, despite some major changes to contract structures, and the like, being pushed through. That was nearly five years ago now.

Then, behind Silver on the NBA side and former Executive Director Michele Roberts on the NBPA side, the two parties managed to work through the pandemic. The 2019-20 season paused for roughly four months in 2020 before resuming and completing at Walt Disney World. That was no small task, and required immense coordination on the part of all parties involved.

The next season was full of challenges with various mandates, guidelines and laws, but the NBA played a full, if pared down, season. And the 2021-22 season has completed with very few postponements and a full 82-game slate.

None of that happens without the league and the players having a good working relationship. And that labor peace is necessary before you add any more parties to mix in the form of new teams.


Talent Pool

When the NBA has expanded in the past, it’s led to a somewhat watered-down product for at least a couple of years. The way the rules work for expansion, it’s hard for an expansion team to be good quickly. They work with limited resources, lower salary caps, draft handicaps and pick their initial rosters from the ends of benches around the league.

It’s that last part that matters though. The NBA is as deep in talent as it has ever been. There are quality players in the 11-17 (including Two-Way players) spots on each roster. Some of them just don’t play because the guys in front of them are that good.

In addition to that, it’s expected a new round of expansion would come with smarter run teams than in the past. They might be willing to eat a questionable contract or two for additional assets. That will lead to a handful of vets who need a fresh start popping up on expansion rosters.

And, as the expanded rosters during the pandemic-challenged seasons taught us, there are a lot of really good players on the fringes of the NBA just waiting for a chance.


Draft Reform

It’s expected that the NBA and NBPA will tackle draft reform sooner rather than later. It’ll probably wait until the next CBA negotiations, but could come before that. With the advent of the G League being a now stable minor league, and the creation of the G League Ignite for players who don’t want to attend college, it’s time to change things up a bit with entry into the NBA.

It’s expected that players will again be allowed to make the leap from high school to the NBA again. There may be parameters put around that to safeguard those players making that leap, but it’s expected to be pushed through. That further increases the pool of talent coming to the league, and is another indication that two more teams can be supported.


Cities Ready

There are several cities that are ready for expansion teams. Primary cities mentioned are Seattle and Las Vegas, but at least five or six others are considered viable candidates.

Seattle has upgraded Climate Pledge Arena (formerly Key Arena) enough to host an NBA team. There’s also talk of building an entirely new building in another area of Seattle, should they be awarded a team. In addition, Seattle’s major has continually said he regularly pushes for a team to be brought back to the Emerald City

In Las Vegas, there are plans to build a brand new, state-of-the-art arena, with the primary goal of getting an expansion team. In the interim, there are several sites that could host an expansion team, should that new arena not be ready.

If not one of those cities, then places like Louisville, St. Louis, Kansas City, Vancouver, Montreal and Mexico City have all been mentioned as potential expansion sites. Some of them are champing at the bit to get team, especially Louisville, which has been pushing for expansion for nearly a decade now.


Maintaining “Basketball” Cities

As it pertains to Seattle and Las Vegas, the NBA has seen those as “basketball” cities. Seattle has a long history of turning out great players and had the SuperSonics for years. Las Vegas is the home of NBA Summer League, as well a location where several players live and train in the offseason.

However, Seattle has the Seahawks in the NFL and the Mariners in MLB, and added the Kraken in the NHL this year. Las Vegas now the Golden Knights in the NHL and recently added the Raiders in the NFL. There are rumors that Las Vegas could be a relocation spot for an MLB team too.

Now, basketball isn’t likely to lose its foothold in either of those cities. But the NBA is cautious about letting new teams, especially in direct season competition like the NHL, gain too big of a following to be overcome. The league understands that consumers have only so much expendable income. Getting those dollars funneled towards the NBA is a priority.


Immediate Cash Infusion

When asked about potential expansion in 2021, Adam Silver said that the reported $2.5 billion expected expansion fee was “very low”. It’s now expected that the expansion fee for each team would be somewhere between $3 and $3.5 billion. That’s $6 to $7 billion dollars that goes directly into the league.

In addition, expansion teams often operate under reduced revenue sharing and the like in their initial years. Even with a new TV contract coming, and then being split 32 ways vs 30, that expansion fee is a hefty chunk of change.

And it’s that new TV contract that also makes expansion somewhat more likely. While that pie would get further divided with two more franchises and up to 34 more players, there’s expected to be more than enough to go around. In addition, two more teams would mean two more Regional Sports Networks added. That’s just further income into the NBA coffers.


Increased Interest in the NBA

The NBA just released that they pulled their highest TV ratings in three years. NBA League Pass subscriptions are at their highest levels in history. And social media engagement is through the roof.

The league is ready to bring in new markets, and it will be easier than ever because there are readymade fans in those markets already. There’s not going to be any selling anyone on the NBA game, as there was when Charlotte (the initial version), Miami, Minnesota and Orlando joined the team. And the game has grown enough internationally, and the Toronto Raptors having been such a success, that growing that way wouldn’t be any sort of worry either.


NBA Reform

The NBA is in a position to rework their current division and conference setup in a major way. The schedule continues to be a major topic of conversation. While no one is advocating for less overall games, expansion could be a way to keep the current number of total games across the league the same, while lessening them for each individual team.

If Adam Silver really wants to push through his in-season tournament, it could be easier with two new teams and an overhaul of the schedule. Mostly, the NBA will continue to tinker with ways to make their winter-time product (regular season) as meaningful and exciting as their spring-time product (playoffs) is. Two new teams would help with that.



If you add it all up, it’s time for the NBA to expand. It’ll have been over 20 years since the last new team joined the league by the time an expansion team takes the floor.

While neither the NFL or MLB have expanded in that time period, they have relocated teams, re-aligned divisions/conferences/leagues and undertaken other drastic changes, like postseason expansion.

The NHL has added two teams in that time period, in two prime cities of Las Vegas and Seattle. In addition, MLS has grown by leaps and bounds since the NBA last expanded.

Mostly, when both Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio are openly admitting expansion is being discussed, it’s really time. Those are the two with the power to push expansion or block the discussions from even being started. It seems like both are ready to embrace the idea of adding teams to the league.

While expansion may not be imminent, it would be no surprise to get word within the next two-to-three years that the NBA is expanding with two new teams starting play within the next five years.