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Empty your piggy banks - Expansion bidding in sight

Published by Axel on 16th October - 17:00 (CET)
The value of the NBA and its franchises are completely skyrocketing right now. The total value of all the franchises have tripled over the past four years and the average team is now worth a record high $1.25 billion according to Forbes. As a comparison, Jerry Reinsdorf bought the Chicago Bulls for $16 million in 1985. I'd say he made a pretty good deal.

Recent sponsorship contracts have been very lucrative and the latest TV deal made with TNT, ESPN and ABC is even rumored to have included expansion escalators, which in short would give both the NBA and the teams more money if there were more teams on the market.

Adam Silver shared his thoughts about expanding the league earlier this year as something that was being looked at but not a very high priority at the moment. Well, priorities might have changed a bit.
Recent reports suggest that an expansion bidding will be announced sometime between the signing of the new CBA and the All-Star break in February.

If two more teams were to join the league and make it 32 it would allow for "soccer type tourneys" which Silver apparently always has wanted.

Franchises that want to bid must be accepted by a majority of the other owners in the NBA before they're allowed to join the league. So why would the other teams vote to split their shares into more pieces while also spreading their talent in a expansion draft?

Well if it's a big market it would probably prove addative. And of course there's also that huge expansion fee which is split among the other teams in the league.

In 2004, when the Charlotte Bobcats paid the NBA expansion fee they had to pay $300 million, but that number has clearly changed. The Los Angeles Clippers were sold for $2 billion just a few seasons ago, so we should at least expect an expansion fee of $500 million. Probably much more. That is a lot of money to go around...

So which cities are the top contenders for a new franchise?

Ever since the Seattle Supersonics relocated to form the Thunder of Oklahoma City there has been an urge from heartbroken fans for another major league team in Seattle. They got Sounders FC of the MLS to join the city in 2007, but other than that it's still only the Seahawks and the Mariners, and the Mariners have as many rings as Karl Malone. Which is less than what you can say about the Supersonics who blasted the Washington Bullets in 5 games during the 1979 NBA Finals.

Seattle is currently one of the fastest-growing cities and the largest metropolitan area in the US to have less than three teams present in the traditional "Big Four" leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). The market is defintely there, but Seattle currently doesn't have a suitable arena and if they don't build one quickly they're out.

Another strong contender is Vancouver. The Vancouver Grizzlies were part of the 1995 NBA expansion with the Toronto Raptors. The Grizzlies had a lot of trouble getting good players as the NBA prohibited new teams from receiving a top five picks in their first draft, and the number one pick in the following three seasons. With a weak Canadian dollar and US players unwilling to play in Canada the Grizzlies were also unfortunate in the free agency, and after six terrible years with low attendance and a total record of 101-359, while finnishing last place in the conference for five season and never reaching the playoffs the owners had enough and moved the team to Memphis in 2001.

Basketball has gained huge popularity in Canada since and the only other Canadian team are the Raptors. The distance from Vancouver to Toronto is about the same as from New York to LA. Vancouver wants back. Finding a court isn't the problem here as they have the Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks. It was at this very arena the recent pre-season game between the Warriors and the Raptors was held.

Las Vegas have been in rumors for an NBA expansion - or as a posible relocation for the Bucks - for 10 years, and the market will be tested for another major league team next year when a team from Las Vegas will enter the Pacific division of the NHL. The yearly NBA events that are held in Vegas have proven to be very successful. Will it be the same on a daily basis? They do have have the T-Mobile Arena which holds a capacity of 18,000 basketball fans.

Just as Vegas, Louisville were also a candidate when the Grizzlies relocated, and while that didn't work out there might be another chance for Louisville this time as they have a suitable arena in the KFC Yum! Center. That would require the backing of AEG who owns the arena and the University of Louisville who play their college games at the site.

"If the Yum Center is off the table, any hopes of an NBA team here diminish considerably.
- Greg Fante, vice president of sports development with the Louisville Sports Commission.

Another much more unlikely scenario is that teams from Europe will be able to join the league.
While Adam Silver has shot down the oppurtunity of a team from Europe joining in the near future he has mentioned that it could happen within the next 20 years. You might consider it cocky by Silver to expect that he still will be running the NBA in 20 years, but it's not that much of a longshot if look at the history of previous NBA commisonares. Maurice Podoloff sat for 17 years, J. Walter Kennedy for 12, Larry O'Brien for 9 and the allmighty David Stern for 30 years.

Real Madrid is currently one of the strongest teams in Europe. They've won their domestic league a whopping 33 times and hold the record for most Euroleague championships with 9. Team President Florentino Pérez have made it very clear that Real Madrid hopes to join the NBA one day and even had Adam Silver fly over to Madrid to discuss the subject last year.

The Spaniards have proven able to go at head-to-head with NBA teams as they just a few weeks ago beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime. But don't fool yourselves, it's just one game. Over 8 total games played against NBA teams Real Madrid hold a 2-6 record. Overall the European teams hold a 17-123 record against NBA teams, with Alba Berlin as the only team without a losing record.

While that sounds 76ers-like, the European teams are actually gaining ground as time goes by. This is what Russell Westbrook had to say after facing Real Madrid and FC Barcelona a few weeks ago:

"I think one thing people don’t realize is guarding teams in Europe. Their offenses are 10 times better than NBA offense just because they move around a lot".

We're not likely to see any teams from Europe join in the near future but with every single team owning a G6 nowadays it might not be impossible in some time to have a European division.

Other cities that might show interest if there is to be a bidding are Omaha and Pittsburgh. The most likely cities remain Seattle, Vancouver or Vegas however. Teams from either of those three cities would be playing in the Western Conference, which means that the NBA finally could solve the retarded conference location of Minnesota and Memphis.

Sorry New Orleans, you'll just have to wait for your turn. Maybe when a team from Mexico joins?

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