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Silver: NBA expansion on the horizon

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Commissioner Adam Silver is finally openly discussing NBA expansion, complete with timelines and two potential markets: Seattle and Las Vegas.

Of course, NBA expansion has been a hot topic within the league for years. Once it was clear that every NBA franchise was on solid ground–basically, since the announced sale of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2021–and the emergence of new arenas in Seattle and Las Vegas, the next step for the league was an expansion from 30 to 32 teams.

Silver has been dancing around the issue for several years, but as of late he’s finally admitted that NBA expansion was an inevitability, and yes, he had a timeline in mind. Two things need to happen before NBA expansion is an active discussion: first, the league needs to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the players, and second, the league needs to finalize a new media-rights arrangement, as exclusive negotiations with current rights holders end in April and the current contract ends after the 2024-25 season.

That means 2024 would be the earliest the NBA would consider expansion. Presented as options to Silver were Seattle and Las Vegas during an interview during the NBA Finals, per Seattle’s King-5:

Shaquille O’Neal asked Silver, “with everything going so well, do you see in the near future more expansion teams? Like you hear Seattle, you hear Las Vegas. Is that a possibility?”

Silver replied, “It is a possibility.”…

One more observation, when Shaq mentioned Seattle and Las Vegas as possible cities for expansion, Silver did not flinch or correct him. The commissioner said there are a lot of great cities interested in the NBA.

Which is true. And there will be investment groups representing a number of other cities: while Stan Kroenke has downplayed any interest in the NBA for a new San Diego arena, his tune may change once expansion is imminent; we also expect the usual suspects (Louisville, Tampa, St. Louis, Kansas City) to emerge as potentials.

But Seattle and Las Vegas will have a headstart on other markets. There’s still a sour taste in league circles about the move of the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City; many feel the move should not have been allowed and the league did not do enough to keep a long-standing, sucessful franchise in Seattle. And Las Vegas is the hot market of the moment–a status confirmed by the NBA’s decision to hold a midseason tournament at T-Mobile Arena. Silver reiterated the schedule this week:

Silver has said before that expansion will be the next item on the NBA’s agenda, calling it the third act in a list that included the newly completed collective bargaining agreement and the upcoming media deal….

Silver spoke well of Las Vegas, which has become a hotbed for NBA activity. Summer League is currently going, but the league also holds its G League Showcase there each winter and recently announced its inaugural in-season tournament final will be held here next December. He called Summer League “our 31st franchise.”

“We will look at this market,” he said. “There’s no doubt there’s enormous interest in Seattle. That’s not a secret. There are other markets that have indicated interest. For the people who hear or read about this interview, we are not engaged in that process now. We’re not taking meetings right now with any potential groups. What we’re saying to everyone, privately is the same thing I’m saying publicly that there’ll be a very open process at the time already to consider expansion. But that’s not yet. That’s not yet now.”

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