NBA Comissioner Adam Silver (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
A forgotten rival from the days of old threatens to re-emerge soon, as the Chicago Bulls and the rest of the league await news of a potential NBA expansion. Seattle and Las Vegas have long been considered the two most likely candidates to receive a new team and would help restore a healthy balance between conferences.
Although this comes in direct contrast to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s comments made in June, ahead of the NBA Final, recent reports seem adamant that two new franchises will soon join the ranks.
Multiple sources have told me the NBA want to finally announce expansion to Las Vegas and Seattle during the Clippers’ two preseason games at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, on Sept. 30 and Oct. 3.
The Lakers then play two preseason games in Vegas on Oct 5 and 6.
— WillieGRamirez (@WillieGRamirez) September 7, 2022
If Seattle and Las Vegas are to each receive a franchise in the Western Conference, that means a pre-existing team will have to head over to the East to keep the conferences balanced. Among the candidates to swap conferences, the Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, and New Orleans Pelicans have the most compelling cases.
Although NOLA is positioned much closer to the east coast than it is to the west coast, the Pelicans would actually be increasing their travel distance by abandoning their current division rivals in Texas. While Memphis would stand to benefit greatly from this change, Minnesota is actually located much closer to their new division rivals than the Grizzlies are.
Switching the Timberwolves over into the Central Division not only benefits Minnesota but also significantly cuts down on the ridiculous travel time that Portland, Oklahoma City, Utah, and Denver all have to spend flying all the way over to the Midwestern USA.
It’s also hard to ignore that the roots for rivalry are already dug in deep here, as the NFL has helped a healthy competition between Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Throw Cleveland and Indiana into the mix and the Central Division could easily become one of the NBA’s most interesting.
With the Bucks, Bulls, and Cavaliers all featuring very good teams already, adding this new-look Timberwolves squad to the picture could make the playoff race feel all the more personal. Considering Chicago hasn’t had a true rival since LeBron’s Heat and Cavaliers in the early 2010s, Bulls fans should welcome this change with open arms.
The earliest we could expect an expansion to take place is by the end of the 2023-24 season, which is honestly not that far away in the grand scheme of things. An operation this large requires a lot of time and a lot of money, so the NBA’s apparent willingness to expedite the process means we could see Minnesota play in the same division as the Chicago Bulls before Dalen Terry’s rookie contract even expires.
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