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You're move, Adam. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NBA expansion would need to be massive, involve relegation

New NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, has a lot on his to-do list that he apparently wants to get done. Between stepping out of the (still, somehow, condescending) shadow of David Stern, all the way to raising the NBA Draft age-limit, Silver wants to help propel the NBA to new heights. Whether you agree with some of the things he wants to do, he is going to attempt to do them, nevertheless.

Another implementation Silver will be looking at — something Stern was desperate to do — was expanding the NBA’s brand overseas. More so, Stern, now possibly Silver, would like to have franchises in major cities across the entire planet.

Complicated, making travelling a wreck, possibly diluting the product, and more, make an idea like international expansion seem more like a pipe dream than it does a reality. However, it can be done with some outside the box thinking, expanding on a massive level and implementing relegation into the fold.

Not to mention that it will also indirectly solve some of the issues Silver is looking to rectify. More on that in a minute, though.

The first step to solving the NBA’s want to expand is to acknowledge the issues. The travel, the product and talent being diluted and the fact that the sport is played a tad bit different in Europe than it is over here.

Silver’s first action is to get FIBA on board. Really, international expansion can’t happen without them. Especially not the sort of expansion I am suggesting. Getting the governing body of international hoops on board is like getting President Obama to personally “okay” your sick day from work.

Together, the NBA and FIBA could work on setting up some ground rules, in-game rules, and pay-scales and/or caps for players and teams.

The NBA can also bypass FIBA all-together, treat them like a ginger and ignore their existence, but that would likely cause all sorts of issues when the Olympics come up. Not to mention it would disregard or even disrespect foreign-born players who hold FIBA in high-regard.

Next step is to get already established European teams to join the league. There’s no need to build a franchise from scratch when there’s already established owners, fans, and a market base at the ready. Buy them out, include them, whatever. Just get them on board.

Still, that’s not enough. Even if you want to expand internationally, you would have to do so on such a massive level, that travel becomes a non-issue. Really, the NBA would have to establish roughly 15 franchises in every country that they plan on expanding in.

Example: If the NBA wants to expand within four major countries (or relatively near regions), that’s 60 more teams to add to the NBA fold.

Seems like a lot, right? Well, that’s because it is. Although, we aren’t done yet.

Since those teams will play each other, exclusively, until the NBA Playoffs (will touch on this later), it leaves North America with even fewer teams than the newly established ones.

This one is a pretty simple fix. Canada has plenty of marketable regions. They have wealthy folk too. Adding a few teams up there should not be an issue. Nor should making the D-League defunct, since more teams in the states are needed.

It will also put us in a position where players will have three choices while coming out of college. They could either stay in school if they have eligibility remaining, enter their name in the domestic NBA draft or enter it in the International NBA Draft. And if you’re pro players’ rights, well, hooray choices!

Silver can, while coming off as altruistic, throw some NBA franchises in some not-too marketable cities. As an example, and out of my own personal selfishness, Silver can dump a team in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Why would the NBA purposely put teams in iffy-at-best cities? Well, sir or madam, I am glad you asked, because this helps Silver rectify his NBA age requirement scenario, thing going on.

We currently have 60 teams in North America and another 60 abroad. That’s 120 total NBA franchises. Which is also far too many to realistically compete at the same level. We know that, well, because there’s not 120 college basketball teams that can compete at a solid, balanced level. Although, it’s not that far off. It’s also why we are adding relegation to the mix — which will prevent kids from leaving early and entering the NBA Draft.

Going back to our example city of Wilkes-Barre. Chances are that the owner (in this not properly run city) has less than a billion dollars. How shall the owner (let’s say Adam Silver gifts me the franchise), Joseph Nardone, compete?

The only way he can compete is through the draft. Even with that, though, no NBA free-agents are coming to a city that has more drug dealers than business owners.

Now, using Jabari Parker as an example, is coming out of college. With the new expansion put into place he has some pretty clear choices. He knows that if he enters the NBA Draft that he will have to go play the entirety of his rookie contract in Wilkes-Barre. If he thinks Wilkes-Barre is the pits, he could opt for the International Draft instead, but (sans a trade) have to do the same in Mother Russia or whatever overseas team picks him up. Or, you know, he could stay in school another year. Whatever option makes him happiest.

All of that will should make Adam Silver happy. Since, by the time Parker’s (or whomever’s) rookie contract is done, he should be “deemed” ready by the top-tier franchises for a contract and a larger spotlight. Which is why Silver wants to raise the age requirements to begin with. So the NBA has more NBA-ready players coming into the league.

I admit, I jumped all over the place here. Let me tidy this up so you better understand how this would function.

The NBA Expansion Foundation

120 NBA teams (60 in North America, 60 International)

Two types of drafts players can declare for: Domestic or International

No age-limit (playing in Wilkes-Barre is enough of a deterrent)

How/Why Relegation is Needed and Implemented

So the league is now, clearly, diluted. That is the price you pay for expansion. Heck, it could be said that the league has too many teams in it now. That’s why the NBA will need relegation to keep competition at a fair and entertaining level.

As a base, we will use the current NBA franchises as the top-tier league. Before the first year of expansion, however, the bottom 10 teams in the NBA will be hurled into the second-tier. That’s while tournaments or seasons will be played overseas to see which 20 international teams will also join the top-tier NBA league.

Indirectly, this will prevent teams from tanking. Because, seriously, tanking isn’t worth getting relegated to the second or third-tier NBA division.

Yup. You heard me right. There will have to be (at least) three NBA tiers.

After the first and second-tiers are established via the seasons, tournaments or other ways to rank currently established franchises, every new organization (Wilkes-Barre!) starts at the third-tier division.

A move like this, even while going international, will make the NBA a much more local sport. If you happen to live in Wilkes-Barre, or whatever city or region that has a team, rooting for them to get bumped up a tier will be as important to you as them winning an NBA Title. Really, while Wilkes-Barre’s chances at ever winning an NBA Title is about the same as you getting a date with Kate Upton, you will continue to go to games, watch them on TV, and root for them just because you hope that one day they will make it to the top NBA division and then face the historical NBA teams of the world (Lakers, Celtics, etc.).

It would do a lot, domestically, for areas (again, like Wilkes-Barre) who could use an extra financial bump. Add jobs, events and things of that nature to their otherwise stagnant calendar.

Travel will be a mess, right?

Right, and wrong. It could be a mess, but it doesn’t have to be.

Domestic games should be played in-country for the entire regular season. No exceptions. The NBA will need to, however, set a singular destination for each year’s NBA Playoffs. Sadly, that means no more home and away games in the NBA Playoffs. However — now, think World Cup-ish here — it could set the stage for the playoffs to be a huge international spectacle.

One year the NBA Playoffs, and eventually the NBA Finals, will be played in New York, the next England, after that wherever it is deemed worthy. If Adam Silver really wants to make everything matter, the NBA Playoffs could be played in the city that the previous year’s NBA Champions call home. Meaning, Miami would be host to this year’s fictional International NBA Playoffs, had this been implemented last year.

It wouldn’t have to be as definite, though. Each round could be held in a different host city, in a way to spread the wealth around more and keep from neglecting your now 120 NBA markets.

Hey, Joe, you’re also creating jobs here

I know. But let’s keep pushing on.

Tier, payoff scale

This is the biggest issue the NBA would face and the one I am least qualified to talk about. To put it more simply, the top-tier teams would get the highest distributed amount of money, then the second-tier, finally followed by the third-tier teams.

An example being: Top-tier teams are the ones who are contracted to play on TNT, ESPN, etc. They split that money. Second and third-tier teams don’t split there money (or do), and keep whatever local contracts they have.

Again, I admit that this is a problem for people smarter than a person who constantly talks about lobsters fighting unicorns in an MMA fight.

All of that would also help prevent tanking.

Summarizing Again

120 NBA teams (60 in North America, 60 International)

Two types of drafts players can declare for: Domestic or International

No age-limit (playing in Wilkes-Barre is enough of a deterrence)

Three NBA divisions

Host city or cities for the playoffs

No International play until the playoffs

Money is distributed based on tier played in

Is any of this realistic or possible?

No, not really. Certainly not my brainchild version. I went full-on expansion to the point of nausea. That doesn’t mean a version of this should be hurled to the wayside.

If the NBA really wants to expand, then they should. However, the only way to keep the league entertaining and/or functioning in a way that keeps people tuning  would be to do it in a massive way and using relegation as a way to clear the books of having me play point guard for some top-tier team or forcing folks to watch Wilkes-Barre play Scranton on TNT.

What does expansion/relegation provide

It prevents teams from tanking

Gives college and pro players a ton of options

Prevents super-young, no yet established talent from playing in the top-tier

International expansion makes a bigger market, while making the local ones as important

Could potentially add tens-of-thousands of jobs

With relegation being a factor, makes the entire regular season important

None of this would work! What about the semantics?

Semantics? Whatever, man. That’s out of my pay scale and up to Adam Silver. At least I tried.

And if GI Joe taught me anything, it’s that trying is half the battle or something.

Oh, it is knowing? Well, I tried to know. So, screw-you, GI whatever your name is because I forget since my childhood was interesting.



Tags: Adam Silver Expansion NBA

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