Will NBA Follow NHL’s Lead?

The former planet Pluto (what's a former planet?) takes six of our days, nine of our hours, and 36 of our minutes to spin once on its axis. Only two planets whose existence is still recognized — Mercury and Venus — take longer to do this: 59 Earth days for Mercury and 243 for Venus; and Venus rotates backwards, which is absolutely frightening!

Furthermore, the largest of Pluto's five moons, the one that is closest to the ex-planet, and the first to be discovered (Charon, in 1978) just happens to revolve around Pluto once every six days, nine hours, and 36 minutes — meaning that it is "tidally locked" to its host planet, never changing position from what part of Pluto it is visible in the planet's sky (making it always invisible from half of the planet's surface).

Similarly, the NBA and the NHL have been "tidally locked" to one another for most of the past five or six decades, in such matters as the number of teams in each league, the number of games in their regular-season schedules, and how many of their teams make the playoffs.

In 2017, the Vegas Golden Nights became the NHL's 31st franchise — and the Knights were an overnight sensation, finishing in first place in the Pacific Division in their inaugural season; and after upsetting the Winnipeg Jets in five games in the Western Conference semifinals, they were in turn upset by the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup finals (remember that in Canada it is pronounced "STAN-ley Cup," not Stanley CUP").

Four years later, a 32nd team, the Seattle Kraken, was added, with the Arizona Coyotes being concomitantly moved from the Pacific Division to the Central Division — but still in the Western Conference.

Now, as if on cue, the NBA is broadly hinting that it is poised to add two new teams — wouldn't you know, in Las Vegas and Seattle!

But where the NHL did not conduct a realignment along with its expansion (except for the aforementioned move of the Coyotes from the Pacific Division to the Central Division), the NBA might be more inclined to do so: Beyond the obvious — transferring the Minnesota Timberwolves from the Western Conference to the East (the T-Wolves log more mileage per season than any other team in the league — in fact; no other team even comes close), the NBA might seriously consider realigning the conferences into four 4-team divisions — producing the following result:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
New York

Northern Division

Central Division

Southeast Division

Western Conference

Southern Division
New Orleans
San Antonio

Southwest Division
Oklahoma City

Northwest Division
Golden State

Pacific Division
Las Vegas
L.A. Clippers
L.A. Lakers

For the regular-season schedule, each team plays the 16 teams in the other conference twice each (as they do now), with teams in the same conference, but not in the same division having three meetings (making it much easier to break ties between two such teams, since there would always be an odd number of games between them).

The remaining 14 games would be same-division games, with each team playing two of their three division rivals five times and the other one four times (again, increasing the likelihood that a tie-breaker will not go beyond head-to-head results).

The playoff format can either be kept exactly the way it is, or some priority can be granted to division winners (surely a team that wins their division is entitled to an automatic playoff spot — which has not been the case since the 2016-17 season).

In the first four years of the '70s, the NBA had 17 teams, split into three four-team divisions and one five-team division.

They can pretty much go back to doing the same thing once Las Vegas and Seattle go in as expansion teams — times two.

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