The NBA needs to realign. It’s hip, it’s popular, and, unlike everything else doing it, actually makes sense for the NBA.
The last time the NBA reorganized was before the 2004-2005 season when the Charlotte Bobcats diluted in the association and the NBA Board of Governors half-assed it’s way to new conferences by thrusting the New Orleans Hornets into the Western Conference and putting the Bobcats in the East.
This brings us to the first issue the NBA has: Western and Eastern conferences. Yes, the NBA has used this system for years, but tradition should not be the deciding factor. One of the reasons the league broke up in Western and Eastern conferences is because it is more cost effective for travel. That used to make sense, but now airline travel is more effective, comfortable (have you been on a Virgin America flight?) and common that breaking up an entire league based (partly) on it seems ridiculous.
Also, there is the math that presents a problem. The NBA has only eight and a half true western teams — Golden State, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Sacramento, Phoenix, Denver, Utah, Portland and half of San Antonio — and the Western Conference needs 15 teams. The NBA forces seven and a half teams — Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Memphis, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans and half of San Antonio — to play in the West when five of them should be in the East and two of them (OKC and San Antonio) can swing either way.
The other and final issue is this. By depending so much on geography, the NBA limits potential for expansion. Want a team in Pittsburgh? Virginia? Baltimore? New Jersey? Too bad. The only place that looks like a logical expansion target is Seattle, and they will likely get a team when another team moves, not because of expansion.
So, first I get rid of East and West and replace it with American and National. Cliche? Yes. Does it work? That’s why I’m using it. (If you have a better idea, leave it in the comments) That means instead of Eastern and Western conference finals, it will be American and National conference finals.
It also means two conferences with three divisions of five teams. A West, Central and East division in each conference.
In my new NBA alignment, I tried to keep old rivalries in tact while also doing my best to instigate new or infant ones.
It was tough choosing where to place the Thunder, but seeing how Kevin Durant will be one of the top 2 players in the NBA for the next decade, I decided to keep him in the West, betting on the potential for another LeBron vs Durant finals, Durant vs Kobe National Conference Finals or Durant and the young Thunder franchise vs Old Guy (Boston/Chicago/Indiana).
I also decided to place Miami and Boston in the same division to play on what is the best rivalry in the NBA. You may think it is a short-sided and shallow attempt to play on what-are-only-current sentiments, and you would be right.
Much of the current disdain between the teams is gone with Pierce and KG moving on to Brooklyn (which we will get to) but the pain of Ray Allen leaving for Miami will sting Boston fans for years (and years and years and years).
New York is also in that division. So, if you are keeping track, that means Miami, Boston and New York play each other four times each. That makes 12 games between the three of them in games that matter for the division title.
However, I decided to separate New York and Brooklyn and put them in two different conferences. Why? Because New York is the center of the universe, and putting one New York team in each conference creates intrigue and vested interest in both conferences, not just one.
So, Wes, you must have separated the two Los Angeles teams too, right?
Not so fast. I decided to keep both LA teams in the same division for one simple reason and one more complicated one. The simple reason first: It’s great fun to have two teams that play in the same arena play in the same division. Too much fun to give up.
Now the complex one. Asking eight teams to travel to LA to play two different teams seems ridiculous when three teams could make travel plans to LA and play two games instead of one. At least they have the option. I know I said travel costs isn’t a deciding factor in creating conferences, but my last name is “Goldberg” for Dr. Brown’s sake. I’ll find a way to save some money.
Also, the new layout makes expansion to anywhere more do-able. With eight true Western teams, and an expansion to 32 teams, like the NFL, leads to four easy-make Western divisions. This allows the NBA to expand in the East, where it is more valuable, without worrying about which Eastern team to throw to the Western Conference.
With all that out of the way, I now present your new NBA.
East: New York, Boston, Miami, Atlanta and Toronto
Central: Indiana, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland
West: Golden State, Sacramento, Portland, Utah and Denver
East: Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Washington, Orlando and Charlotte
Central: Memphis, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans and Minnesota
West: LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, San Antonio
After the lockout in 2017 would be a perfect time to implement the new alignment.
Let us know what you think in the comments section below!