Since the 2004 addition of Charlotte to the NBA, the league has stayed at 30 teams. We all know this. Another thing we all know is that in the ‘08-‘09 season, the Seattle SuperSonics began to play not in Seattle but Oklahoma – the Oklahoma City Thunder. The league, making more money than ever, would benefit from this. You have to take risks, or you will end up plateauing as a business and that is not what Adam Silver wants.
With the international explosion, as well as the unprecedented amount of NBA talent jobless on the streets, the time is ripe for expansion. So let’s look at the top 5 NBA relocation candidates, and how their franchise may begin (note – these are assumed, what-if-style assumptions), starting with:
Nashville (Nashville Blues)
Louisville (Kentucky Colonels )
Las Vegas (Sin City Saints)
#5 – San Jose, California
Former NBA/ABA Teams – N/A
Possible Names – Vipers, Pharaohs, Stingrays
Best Franchise Name – San Jose Pharaohs
San Jose is the 17th biggest city in the nation and has been involved for years in relocation talks with the Sacramento Kings. There are numerous snakes in SJ, including vipers. They are famous for museums (specifically Egyptian ones) and beaches, thus Pharaohs and stingrays.
Led by former Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren and EttoreMessine, 4-time Euroleague champion and former Spurs assistant widely regarded as one of the best minds, not in the NBA, they follow the analytics revolution very closely. Their expansion draft was very prospect-heavy, with a lot of perimeter-oriented players. This team will shoot a LOT of three-pointers.
San Jose Pharaohs Roster: Cory Joseph, Mike Muscala, James Ennis, Dewayne Dedmon, DeAndre Liggins, Andrew Bogut, Robert Covington, Skal Labissiere, Tyler Ulis, James Johnson, Demetrius Jackson, Luc Mbah a Moute, Joe Johnson
It seems as if the Stingrays are going the Celtics route, being OK while still being bad enough to get a high draft pick. Because, well, tanking will not fly in a state that has the Warriors, Clippers, and DeMarcus Cousins (and Kobe’s ghost). Season 1 was very good – then VERY bad. They start 10-8, an eighth seed – until they realize that they’re actually pretty bad, and go 25-57, receiving the #2 pick.
After Markelle Fultz is selected #1, the ‘Rays go in-state, picking Lonzo Ball – thinking that he would put fans in the seats while also providing star talent. And while he did get fans in the seats and the jersey stores, his odd shooting form, and poor defense prevents him from being anything more than a spark plug. Sometimes the eye test matters more than stats, and hopefully, Zarren learns his lesson- or else, if their drafting continues like this, the ‘Rays are doomed to be nothing more than just another terribly-drafting expansion team.
#4 – Vancouver, Canada
Former NBA/ABA Teams – Grizzlies (1995-2001)
Best Franchise Name – Vancouver Ice
Yes, the Vancouver Grizzlies were poorly run. And yes, Memphis would have to change their name. But we did just see this situation in Charlotte/New Orleans. The Hornets moved to New Orleans, Charlotte got an expansion team, and got the Hornets moniker back. And Grizzlies don’t even live in Memphis, so a name change would make sense. So originally, the team was kind of killed by the front office (and luck). They drafted poorly and often had a lower draft slot than they deserved. Bryant “Big Country” Reeves at pick 6 in 1995 (and a 6yr/$61mil contract a few years later), Shareef Abdur-Rahim at pick 3 in 1996 ahead of Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Jermaine O’Neal. Mike Bibby at #2 in 1998 ahead of Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk and Paul Pierce. And so on, and so on.
But this time it will be different. Led by former Grizzly Shareef Abdur-Rahim as General Manager and former Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, the Griz aim to go for wing talent.It IS the sparsest position in the league, and depth there is very valuable.
Vancouver Ice Roster: James Ennis, Doug McDermott, Jodie Meeks, Thabo Sefolosha, Brandon Jennings, Langston Galloway, Nenê, Marreese Speights, David Lee, Patrick Patterson, James Johnson, Glenn Robinson, TJ McConnell
This team is actually competitive in a lot of games this year- a surprise, as many a pundit thought they would be blown out on a day-to-day basis- but ultimately doesn’t have that one guy with the “IT” factor, didn’t have a clutch performer to close out games- and they end up going 35-47- a big sign of things to come.
#3 – Austin, Texas
Former NBA/ABA Teams – Capitals (Planned, 2010)
Possible Names – Antelopes, Mustangs, Capitals
Best Franchise Name – Austin Mustangs
Austin is the 16th-biggest city in the US, and one of the fastest-growing. And now they finally get the team they so desperately want and need. The Mustangs are the reimbursing gift, from basketball to Austin, in return for the Capitals (For those who don’t know, they were planned to have a franchise in the ABA, but it never came to fruition.
Former Spurs assistant GM Brian Pauga has signed former Rockets coach Kevin McHale, giving Austin a double-dose of Texas connections. In the great state of Texas, losing isn’t tolerated. The Mustangs need to win NOW. Owner Red McCombs hired Pauga on the condition that he draft a lot of veterans, and try to win now. With McHale’s quick-paced, iso-heavy offense, he needs an isolation player. And we know who that is…
Austin Mustangs Roster: Joe Johnson, James Johnson, Leandro Barbosa, Cory Joseph, Nenê, Brandon Bass, Thabo Sefolosha, TJ McConnell, Tyler Zeller, Andrew Bogut, Darrell Arthur, Skal Labissiere, Davis Bertans
After a largely successful expansion draft, McHale is prepared to make a playoff push. With fan-favorite Cory Joseph of UT, as well as an impatient owner, can he? Well, at the midway point of the year, they are in the hunt for the eighth seed. Though they are just 27-31, a losing record, they trade their first-round pick to the Kings for a half-season of Rudy Gay. And although Gay puts up incredible scoring numbers, the trade rocked the team – chemistry was already shaky, as there was no clear leader- they were just… finished. Going 4-20 after the All-Star Break, the team fell short of the ridiculous expectations that owner Red McCombs set, he blamed McHale, who he claimed was “lazy, incompetent, and did not fit the standards of Mustang basketball.”
In later years Pauga would claim that McCombs was overbearing, very controlling- he would only let Pauga sign/scout players- but needed a scapegoat, and decided on McHale. The team, without its first-rounder despite going just 31-51, traded Tyler Zeller and- surprise!- another (protected) first for the 15th pick, where they selected Jarrett Allen, UT alum- who ended up basically being a shot-blocking Greg Monroe. Rudy Gay left and, ultimately, this was just a sign of things to come (probably). If McCombs can stop meddling, maybe Pauga can bring this team to respectability – if not, who knows. (Note: I’m sorry, Red McCombs.)
#2- Seattle, Washington
Former NBA/ABA Teams – SuperSonics (1967-2008)
Possible Names – SuperSonics, Sonics
Best Franchise Name – Seattle SuperSonics
Chris Hansen finally has his dreams made true, and on his 5th (6th? 8th? 16th?) attempt, finally succeeds. This market is huge and storied – 6 division titles, 3 conference title and even an NBA title in 1979. This is the big one, the one Adam Silver is biding his time for waiting for the time to strike. Well, now is the time.
Tommy Sheppard as GM (from the Wizards) and Sean Miller (University of Arizona) look to rebuild this team, and with familiar faces. They start the draft with two Washington alums, but other than that? Hansen is patient, and will allow a long rebuild. This is a prospect-heavy team.
Seattle Supersonics Roster: Spencer Hawes, Justin Holiday, Malik Beasley, Demetrius Jackson, Kay Felder, Doug McDermott, Tarik Black, TJ McConnell, Luc Mbah a Moute, Thabo Sefolosha, Trey Lyles, Jodie Meeks, Cheick Diallo
This team was BAD. Like, historically bad. So bad that they only won 6 games (6-76), a new record, and won the Markelle Fultz sweepstakes. This could be the start of a long-lasting, well-run dynasty – if Hansen stays patient. If he doesn’t, well… maybe Kevin Durant can play once again for the Seattle SuperSonics.
#1- Mexico City, Mexico
Former NBA/ABA Teams- N/A
Possible Names – Matadores, Luchadores, Diablos
Best Franchise Name – Mexico City Diablos
We all knew this was coming. This article was written because of a recent statement by Adam Silver which, if you don’t know, went a little like this: (actually a lot like this, because it’s a quote)
“In terms of a franchise in Mexico City, it’s something that we’re going to look at. This is a competitive market, well over 20 million people. While we have no immediate plans to expand the NBA, one of the things that we look at is whether expanding would be additive to the league as a whole. Clearly coming to Mexico City just because of the huge population here in Mexico but in essence as a gateway to the rest of Latin America could potentially be very important to the league. You clearly have a beautiful state-of-the-art arena here, and you can tell by ticket sales that we have the interest. So that’s something that we will continue to look at.”I think the next step before we start talking about a franchise in Mexico City is to bring more games here.
Of course, we’ve had these two regular-season games, and whether we bring additional regular-season games in the next season or do some sort of tournament where you bring over a group of teams and they all play each other in some format — that’s something that we’re looking at. One other factor is, in order to grow basketball in Mexico, we realize we need to ensure that NBA-caliber players are coming from this market. So just as we look at other markets throughout the world, we’re going to look to open an academy here in Mexico because there’s a lot of great basketball being played at a young level. You have some fantastic 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds. But what happens when the players get to be 15, 16 years old, unless they’ve played against other top players, unless they play top-notch competition, they never advance to NBA-caliber players.
So we’re looking at situations around the world and realize that in certain cases there’s more that we the NBA can do by coming into markets like Mexico and helping to bring together the very best players, and having them play against each other and then maybe travel when they’re not in school in the summers so they’ll have the opportunity to play against other great players around the world.”
Cliff Notes version: The NBA wants a franchise in Mexico City. So… they get one. The Diablos are ready, willing, and able to go for big men and attract international players, which they will.
Troy Weaver (Former Thunder assistant GM) and Kevin Ollie (University of Connecticut) lead this team back in time, attempting to thrive in an inside-centric offense.
Mexico City Diablos Roster: Jusuf Nurkic, Leandro Barbosa, Zaza Pachulia, Nenê, Luis Scola, Ish Smith, Joe Johnson, Thabo Sefolosha, Sergio Rodriguez, Kay Felder, Troy Williams, Paul Zipser, Amir Johnson
(Post-draft signing: Archie Goodwin)
This team is prepared for anything. A Grit-N-Grind, inside-based, internationally-focused team? This could get them a high playoff seed or the #1 pick. And unfortunately… they’re bad. As in, REALLY bad. 17-42 at the All-Star Break isn’t exactly ideal. But the lack of spacing has KILLED this team. Johnson averages 16, Nurkic 13- but overall, the lack of spacing suffocated the Diablos (see what I did there?). Team leaders in 3pt%: Barbosa (39%), Johnson (36%), also: 35%, 33%, 31%, 30%, 28%, etc. Basically: a black hole. A 20-62 record isn’t exactly what they were hoping for, but winning the rights to Markelle Fultz probably was. I mean, Fultz is a non-shooting PG, but…