The NBA would not be the success story it is today without the visionary leadership of the late-great David Stern. But among the list of grievances fans have with Stern's polarizing tenure as commissioner is relocating the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City.
Seattle has been without a team since 2008, but that injustice could be righted soon. Associated Press reporter Willie G. Ramirez tweeted that the "NBA wants to finally announce expansion to Las Vegas and Seattle during the Clippers' two preseason games at Seattle's Climate Pledge Arena, on Sept. 30 and Oct. 3."
Ramirez later deleted the tweet. However, if the NBA does add two expansion teams, it would dramatically reshape the league.
One Western Conference team would have to be moved to the Eastern Conference to balance out the conferences. With 16 teams in each conference, that means one Eastern Conference division would hold six teams. Below are three speculative ideas on how it could shake out.
Out of three possible Western Conference teams, the Minnesota Timberwolves are by far the western-most organization. But, Minnesota is a less than two-hour flight to every Central Division team.
It would be a dramatic decrease in travel time compared to the Timberwolves' current travel schedule, which includes regular trips to Portland and Oklahoma City. Plus, it would create an opening for a Seattle team in the Northwest Division.
For the Hawks, it means they face the Timberwolves three or four times per season, up from two. Additionally, some of those games will require a 2.5-hour flight up north during the winter.
If one of the remaining two Western Conference teams were moved to the Eastern Conference, they would likely end up in the Southeast Division. The Memphis Grizzlies are just a 1-hour flight from Atlanta and a 2-hour flight from Miami.
Adding the Grizzlies to the Southeast Division would be exciting for Hawks fans. They would get to see All-NBA point guard Ja Morant play in Atlanta more than once per season. A divisional rivalry between Morant and Trae Young would be great for the league.
However, one possible hangup could be television. There is a lot of overlap between the Hawks and Grizzlies television markets on Bally Sports networks. That could be one of many unforeseen challenges in moving the Grizzlies to the Eastern Conference.
New Orleans Pelicans
Moving the New Orleans Pelicans to the Southeast Division might make the most sense. It takes less than a 2-hour flight to get from New Orleans to any of the other five Southeast Division team locations, which is a modest increase from the team's current travel schedule.
Like Memphis, moving New Orleans out of the Western Conference would open up a spot in the Southwest Division for a Las Vegas team. Similarly, NBA fans on the east coast would be happy to see Zion Williamson more than once per year.
Bottom Line: The NBA will eventually expand. Most likely into Seattle and Las Vegas. But, the reporting on this issue is still not confirmed. In June, commissioner Adam Silver did not commit to expansion in the near future. Several hurdles must be cleared before two expansion teams are added to the league. However, when expansion takes place, it will definitely reshape the league and directly impact the Atlanta Hawks.
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