After Taylor's article earlier this week about Las Vegas jumping into the NBA expansion ring, it got me thinking a little bit about how that is going to change the NBA division alignment.
As you know, I'm all for getting rid of conferences and having the best 16 teams make the playoffs regardless of whether they win their division or not. If I had my way, a team's only guaranteed reward for winning their division would be a banner. If there are other teams with better records than said division winner and it pushes the division champion out of the playoffs, then so be it. Playoff spots are not participation trophies.
The best way to fix this is to go back to four divisions. With the expansion Seattle Supersonics and the Las Vegas Credits (seeing if I can get a little momentum on this haha) potentially in the mix, here is how Adam Silver should realign his divisions (some of this may look a little familiar):
New York Knicks
All cities in this division are basically connected by I-95 or an extremely short interstate drive from it. The Raptors have been removed from the division to cut down on some traveling for some of the more southern teams like Miami and Orlando. It's worth noting that Miami would currently have a nine game lead in the division under this format.
The Midwest Division picks up three stragglers: the Atlanta Hawks from the now dismantled Southeast division, the Minnesota Timberwolves from the defunct Northwest division and the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors were moved to this division because they would have an average shorter travel time to most cities. The longest flight time would be two hours and ten minutes to Atlanta, compared to three-hour flights to both Orlando and Miami.
The Timberwolves are also brought into this division because of travel time. Their quickest flight from home to away is just over two hours to Oklahoma City. All their flights now outside of Cleveland and Atlanta would be under an hour and forty-five minutes.
New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs
I wanted to move both the Grizzlies and Pelicans east, but geographically it just didn't work out in the end.
Geographically you can't argue with this alignment though. It gets three teams not even remotely close to being associated with a northwest state (Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma) out of a division called the Northwest Division, which is now dead and gone. We also get the Jazz back to the Southwest where they belong and their divisional wars with the Spurs and Rockets can begin again.
Golden State Warriors
Las Vegas Credits
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
This is another geographical alignment that makes way more sense. Most cities are connected by I-5 and are within a few hours drive of the Pacific Ocean.
Scheduling would be broken down like it used to be in the old days. Teams would play all seven of their divisional opponents four times a year for a total of 28 interdivisional games, add in the home and home series with the other conference for 32 more games and they have their 60 games with 22 left to be played.
For inter-conference games, each team would play the other three times, but that leaves one game left. Let's say San Antonio and Golden State were both division winners this year; they would next year play each other four times, giving them 82 games. The rest of the way would go second vs. second, third vs. third, fourth vs. fourth and so on for the fourth and 82nd game of the year.
I would prefer to cut the season down by 6-12 games, but that is a different column for a different day.
Four geographically logical divisions would be an awesome way to keep travel time down and keep rivalries strong.
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