NBA Evolution – Expansion, Realignment, Scheduling, In-Season Tournament!

by Matt Fischer

The NBA has been a forward thinker in modern professional sports and with the season in a break, it’s time to talk NBA evolution. It embraced sports betting before the other major American sports leagues did and has always embraced rule changes to improve their sport. It’s time for the NBA to evolve the league to meet modern society as a whole and grow it’s audience.

My four step plan to evolve the NBA will expand the audience and strengthen the bond fans have with the National Basketball Association.

What's Inside

NBA Evolution

  • Shorter games, shorter season
  • In-season tournament
  • Expansion and Realignment
  • National TV Triple Headers
Sign up for Free NBA picks, predictions and more by email or text from SportsFormulator

NBA Expansion

Step 1 of my plan involves expanding the NBA from 30 to 32 teams. After the loss of the Sonics to Oklahoma City (now the Thunder), Seattle has been yearning for a team. So let’s return the Sonics to Seattle and give the NBA it’s 31st team.

And we’re not going to be like the ridiculous NHL and have an odd number of teams so we need an expansion partner for Seattle. Let’s welcome Las Vegas to the NBA! We’re at 32 teams to match the NFL, America’s most popular sports league.

NBA Realignment

With the NBA now at 32 teams, we can’t tilt the six divisions by having two of them with one more team than the others so in step 2 of my plan, we realign the NBA into eight, four team divisions.

We split the league still down the middle with Eastern and Western Conferences but now each conference will have four divisions. With adding two western teams, we’ve got to re-balance by moving the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Eastern Conference. (please forgive me lack of creativity with the division names)

New Eastern Conference:

Boston CelticsMiami HeatMilwaukee BucksDetroit Pistons
Brooklyn NetsOrlando MagicChicago BullsCleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ersAtlanta HawksIndiana PacersToronto Raptors
New York KnicksCharlotte HornetsMinnesota TimberwolvesWashington Wizards

New Western Conference

Seattle SupersonicsLos Angeles ClippersMemphis GrizzliesDallas Mavericks
Portland Trail BlazersLos Angeles LakersOklahoma City ThunderSan Antonio Spurs
Golden State WarriorsLas VegasDenver NuggetsHouston Rockets
Sacramento KingsPhoenix SunsUtah JazzNew Orleans Pelicans

The Stern Cup – An In-Season NBA Tournament

Now for step 3 and the part of my NBA evolution plan that I think can grow the NBA the most, an in-season tournament! I’ve named the tournament after the late former NBA Commissioner, David Stern.

The tournament is modeled after the World Cup, with the beginning of the tournament in pods. We start with eight, 4 team pods that with games being played at neutral sites. This can bring the NBA to cities that can help grow the audience for example, Kansas City, Nashville, Vancouver, etc. It’s a great way for the league to evaluate new and former markets to expand what fuels professional sports in America now, television revenue.

The pods are based on prior year’s records with a first, second, third and fourth place team from different divisions placed in the same pod with two teams from each conference. For example, the Boston Celtics would be a #1 seed, the Denver Nuggets #2, #3 Washington Wizards and #4 Houston Rockets.

The winner of each pod advances to a single elimination, eight team tournament in a NBA host city. It’s like a second league wide gathering in addition to the NBA All-Star Game. I recommend splitting these annual events with the All-Star Game being hosted by one conference and the Stern Cup Finals hosted by the other conference.

This needs to be sandwiched into the season around the All-Star Break but between the Super Bowl and March Madness. I’d schedule the Stern Cup to coincide with the All-Star Break so I’d have the finals a few days before the All-Star Game and create a celebration of basketball for the Association.

68 Game Regular Season

A reduced NBA regular season is a must in the NBA evolution. It has to stop short changing fans who by to see their favorite player on his often, only visit to their city. The wear and tear of 82 games and potential of 28 additional playoff games has led to a load management problem in the NBA that leaves fans dissatisfied with the product too many times and led to less intriguing match-ups.

We shrink the season to 68 games in the regular season with each team playing it’s divisional foes four times. They then play the rest of the league with a home and away series. This simplifies the schedule and leads to more impactful regular season games and less load management.

40 Minute Games

So we’re reducing the season which can lead the NBA’s tv partners in a lurch but don’t worry ABC, ESPN and TNT! We’re going to shorten games and give you triple headers. The league needs to focus on tv more and create 2 hour viewing windows and shortening games to 40 minutes will do this.

With adding two new teams in the western time zone, it gives additional opportunities to set up a six hour viewing window for national tv and sports betting partners. Games can tip off beginning at 7 PM ET nightly and go until games wrap up on the West Coast. This will more than make-up for the loss of regular season games in television revenue.

These shorter games will add intrigue and help reduce load management as well. They’ll allow stars to play a greater portion of the game and we’ll get to sports betting results quicker. All of this leads to more fan engagement and bigger tv deals.

The NBA is in a great place and with it’s ever growing list of stars, is ready to evolve with changes that can lead it to challenging the NFL for sports supremacy in the USA.

Let me know your thoughts on the evolution of the NBA on our social media – TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Check back daily for data driven NBA predictions all season.