For almost 20 years, the NBA has had 30 teams. With the league’s popularity growing and a treasure trove of talented players, team expansion has become an enticing idea for fans and executives alike. While other major sports leagues like the NHL have expanded in recent years, the NBA’s board of directors has yet to move on the subject of expansion. It wasn’t until last summer that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver finally acknowledged the possibility of expansion after the league’s media rights deal expired in 2025. What Silver doesn’t realize, however, is that NBA expansion isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
Let’s go back to 10 years ago, to the 2011-2012 NBA season. The Charlotte Bobcats (now the Hornets) finished a shortened season with a disastrous record, 7-59. This record is the worst winning percentage in NBA history at 0.106. The Bobcats roster was not good, as no-name players such as Gerald Henderson, Byron Mullens, and Derrick Brown received serious minutes every night.
Besides the historically bad Bobcats of 2011-2012, this era of the NBA had other very bad teams. The 2013-2014 Philadelphia 76ers, 2014-2015 Minnesota Timberwolves, and 2013-2014 Milwaukee Bucks, to name a few, all finished with winning percentages below 24%. However, bad NBA players weren’t limited to bad teams. Even teams that reached the playoffs like the 2010-2011 New York Knicks gave significant minutes to their career journeymen and former veterans, including Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas.
The reality is that 10, or even five years ago, NBA teams were simply worse than current NBA teams. In recent years, the plethora of talent coming from college and abroad has made the NBA much richer in star power. As a result, there aren’t really any bad teams anymore.
Take the current bottom two teams in each NBA conference this season, the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies. Both teams have an abundance of young and electrifying players. The Pistons have former first overall pick Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson and Jalen Duren. The Grizzlies boast superstar Ja Morant (currently suspended), reigning Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. as well as Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart. Neither of these two teams, which once again, are currently in last place, are really “bad”. The amount of talent in the NBA has made the margins for error incredibly thin and has dramatically increased parity between the league’s top and bottom teams.
Obviously, the amount of talent currently in the NBA and the crazy talent to come warrants expansion. Talented players deserve to receive meaningful minutes, and there simply isn’t enough space for all of these players to thrive effectively in the current NBA landscape. While immediate innovations like the in-season tournament encouraging competition and providing new prospects for the league, enthusiasm for expansion is difficult to dissipate. While Silver and the NBA wait for their media deal to end, the ball is in their court: They can either wander around the idea or realize that expansion is an inevitable move that is much closer to happen than they think.