LeBron James Talks Expansion

When it comes to the two winter team sports — the NBA and the NHL — it is forever about keeping up with the Joneses.

And since the NHL already has 32 teams, it is now time for the NBA to follow suit — and judging by these pearls of wisdom from LeBron James, look for it to happen sooner rather than later, even though NBA commissioner Adam Silver is hedging a bit, although he does admit that it would make eminent good sense for expansion teams to be added in not only Las Vegas (as LeBron is suggesting), but Seattle, as well.

But what would a 32-team NBA look like?

In matters of this sort, the devil tends to be in the details. But in this case, the details would be anything but devilish.

First off, the only team that would need to switch divisions and/or conferences would be the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were never a good fit for the Western Conference's Northwest Division to begin with. A move to the Eastern Conference's Central Division would be eminently logical for the T-Wolves.

Second, once Minnesota is moved, where to slot the Las Vegas and Seattle expansion teams poses no problem at all: the Vegas team goes in the Pacific Division, thus creating a natural "desert rivalry" with the Phoenix Suns, while the Seattle team goes in the Northwest Division to re-create the natural rivalry with Portland.

This means that there would henceforth be one six-team division and two five-team divisions in each conference — and other than the Timberwolves, who one will think will welcome the opportunity to have the Bucks, Bulls, Pistons, Pacers, and Cavaliers as division rivals instead of the faraway Thunder, Jazz, Nuggets, and Trailblazers, no team would have to move from the division in which they presently reside.

And the latter point will be far more relevant if the NBA is open-minded enough to emphasize division rivalries for a change, as the NHL did for more than a decade starting with their 1981-82 season: in those years, the teams in the six-team Patrick Division played each other seven times each, while the teams from the five-team divisions had eight meetings. All other teams, regardless of division or conference affiliation, played each other three times apiece.

Under the new alignment proposed here, the teams in the two six-team divisions — the Central and Pacific Divisions — would play one another six times, with the teams in the four five-team divisions having seven meetings each. All other teams would play each other twice, whether they are in the same conference or not.

With a regular-season schedule so "unbalanced," the playoff format should ideally match that: In this case, that means the top two teams in each division not only making the playoffs, but also getting to evade the play-in, which would involve the three third-place teams, seeded seventh, eighth and ninth according to record, and the fourth-place team with the best record, seeded 10th.

But after the results of the play-in are known, the surviving field in each conference is re-seeded, based strictly on record, except that in a case of a tie, higher division finish is the first tie-breaker. The surviving teams are then re-seeded once again for the conference semifinals.

Normally you're not supposed to let the inmates run the asylum. But what LeBron is proposing is anything but crazy.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site