During a segment of the Bill Simmons Podcast, Simmons suggested that the NBA will add expansion teams to Seattle and Las Vegas, which would expand the NBA from 30 to 32 teams and mark the return of the Seattle SuperSonics.

Seattle SuperSonics Sonics NBA New Franchise Las Vegas Bill Simmons
Xavier McDaniel from the Seattle SuperSonics during a home game at the Seattle Center Coliseum in 1987. (Image: Rick Stewart/Getty)

If the NBA adds two teams to the Western Conference, they would have to realign conferences and redesign divisions by sending one team to the Eastern conference. All signs point to the Minnesota Timberwolves swapping conferences.

Simmons also suggested that LeBron James will be the point man of the future NBA exspansion franchise in Las Vegas.

“LeBron wants to be an owner,” said Simmons. “He wants to run one of these teams.”

Simmons estimated the NBA could net $6 billion to $7 billion in expansion fees, which should placate the current 30 owners about giving up a slice of the NBA’s lucrative TV rights.

Return of the Seattle SuperSonics?

Seattle lost their NBA franchise when the SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008 and were renamed the Thunder. At the time, the Sonics had just drafted an up-and-coming kid from the Texas Longhorns named Kevin Durant.

The city of Seattle and their taxpayers had a thorny relationship with any future professional sports team owner because of their reluctance to build a new arena with tax dollars.

The NHL launched the Seattle Kraken this season and the Kraken play their home games at Climate Pledge Arena. It’s the old Key Arena, where the Sonics once called home. Instead of building a new venue, the Kraken renovated the space during a $1.1 billion redevelopment of the land underneath the iconic Space Needle. The old Key Arena was renamed Climate Pledge Arena, which is now the home of the Kraken and the Seattle Storm from the WNBA. With a revamped venue in place, Seattle is ripe for an NBA expansion team and itching to bring back the SuperSonics.

Meanwhile, there’s a swanky newish arena in Sin City. The Las Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL in 2017 and they play at T-Mobile Arena, which is located just off the Strip behind Park MGM. The venue hosted numerous college basketball tournaments, so it’s also ready to be the home for a future NBA expansion team in Las Vegas.

Realignment: T-Wolves in the East?

If the NBA adds new expansion franchises to Seattle and Las Vegas, they must rebalance the conferences because you cannot logistically have 17 teams in the Western Conference and 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. So, someone from the Western Conference has to move to the Eastern Conference.

With 16 teams in both conferences, the NBA would reorganize divisions with four teams in four divisions. That means the creation of a new division in both the Eastern and Western Conference.

Three teams could easily join the Eastern Conference based on their geography: Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, or the New Orleans Pelicans. All three of those Western Conference teams play in the Central Time Zone.

At this juncture, the Minnesota Timberwolves are the team most likely to leave the Western Conference and join the Eastern Conference because they are much closer to cities like Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis, than any of their current divisional counterparts in the Northwest Division.

You can make valid geographical arguments why the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies to join the Eastern Conference. It’s just weird to have teams in southern cities linked to the Western Conference. The Grizzlies were originally the Vancouver Grizzlies before moving to Memphis, which is why the current team is lumped in with the Western Conference.

The Pelicans were the original Charlotte Hornets before owner George Shinn relocated the team to New Orleans in 2002. When the NBA awarded Charlotte a new franchise with Michael Jordan as one of the owners, the new franchise took on the moniker of the Charlotte Bobcats, and the New Orleans Hornets switched their name to the Pelicans. The Pelicans should be playing in the Southeast Division and not in the Southwest Division.

Future NBA: 4 Divisions in Each Conference

We decided to conjure up names of the new divisions with the addition of the North Division in the Eastern Conference, and the addition of the Mountain Division in the Western Conference.

We’re under the assumption that the Minnesota Timberwolves join the Eastern Conference. If so, then the Timberwolves would be a part of the new North Division along with the Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, and Detroit Pistons.

The new version of the Central Division would include the Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavs, Washington Wizards, and Philadelphia 76ers.

The Southeast Division would have the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, and Charlotte Hornets.

The Atlantic Division would include the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Toronto Raptors.

NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE
ATLANTIC NORTH SOUTHEAST CENTRAL
Boston Celtics Chicago Bulls Miami Heat Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto Raptors Milwaukee Bucks Orlando Magic Washington Wizards
Brooklyn Nets Detroit Pistons Atlanta Hawks Cleveland Cavs
New York Knicks Minny Timberwolves Charlotte Hornets Indiana Pacers

 

NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE
MOUNTAIN PACIFIC NORTHWEST SOUTHWEST
Denver Nuggets LA Lakers Portland Trail Blazers Dallas Mavs
Utah Jazz LA Clippers Golden State Warriors Houston Rockets
Memphis Grizzlies Phoenix Suns Sacramento Kings San Antonio Spurs
OKC Thunder  NEW LAS VEGAS TEAM SEATTLE SONICS
New Orleans Pelicans

In the Western Conference, the new Mountain Division would include the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies, and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Seattle SuperSonics would join the Northwest Division along with the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, and Sacramento Kings.

The new franchise in Las Vegas would join the Pacific Division with the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, and Phoenix Suns.

The Southwest Division would include the New Orleans Pelicans and all three teams from Texas: Dallas Mavs, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets.

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