The best solution to the ongoing concern of the Sacramento Kings and Seattle SuperSonics is for the Kings to be sold to a Sacramento-based ownership group who will (unlike the Maloofs) participate in a previously agreed upon arena deal originally brokered by the city, AEG and the NBA in 2011. But Seattle certainly deserves a team, too. So the NBA should consider expansion for the 2014-15 season in Seattle.
NBA fans all across the internet stampede to the comments of any piece that argues for expansion to rally against it. The reasons vary. The reasons are all bad.
Here are a few.
The league is already bloated!
Yes, because it's too hard to enjoy pro basketball when there are so many games on. Do we need fewer teams so y'all won't be inconvenienced by the mere existence of a 31st team?
The talent is diluted because of too many teams! We need fewer teams so talent is more concentrated.
These arguments come from some of the same people who scream bloody murder when the Lakers try to trade for Chris Paul or successfully land Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. These arguments come from some of the same people who bitched about LeBron James joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The internet cannot have it both ways. You cannot wish that every team had a star and that there were fewer teams. You're arguing against yourself.
There are those who argue the talent dilution case without railing against super teams. But consider the stakes here. NBA teams have 12-15 players on their rosters, but 8-10 who actually play and -- this is critical -- up to three "big-time" players. Adding one team means we need three more "guys who play" to be "big-time" players. A 10 percent increase in high-quality players. That's not difficult to imagine. The league is lousy with exceptional young players. Adding a team sees a small percentage of them freed in a macro sense. Look at it this way: there are currently 450 roster spots in the NBA. By expanding by one team, there would be 465 roster spots. The talent will eventually be redistributed -- the 31st team would have players No. 451-465, of course -- but are we really arguing that there's a massive drop-off from No. 450 to No. 451? That's insanity.
In a micro sense ... we'll get to that.
But you'd have to add two teams, meaning more dilution and potentially a weak East Coast market to keep things even.
A. Dilution is not a serious concern. See above.
B. The league absolutely does not have to expand by two teams. The NBA has regularly had spans with an odd number of teams, including from 1970-74 (17 teams) and from 1980 (when expansion to Dallas brought the league to 23 teams) through 2004 (when the Bobcats made it 30). During that span, the league added teams in twos and fours when adding them as single teams or in threes would have given the NBA conference balance. Guess what: the NBA traditionally hasn't cared too deeply about conference balance!
So it's totally reasonable to believe that the NBA could expand only to Seattle, giving the West 16 teams, and likely giving the Northwest Division a sixth team.
Teams will oppose Seattle expansion because it will cut into their share of the TV revenue pot.
Here is a comprehensive list of times in the modern era (which has seen expansion from 22 in 1976 with the ABA merger to 30) that the NBA Board of Governors has voted down a proposal to expand:
NBA team owners are not generally opposed to growing the NBA business. Further, (re-)adding a top-15 market while keeping a nation's largest monogamous NBA market (Sacramento, which has no other major league sports teams or major college programs yet is the No. 20 media market in the country) -- that's good business.
But the TV revenue pot! Instead of 30 teams divvying up $900 million, it'd be 31 teams.
Yes, yes it would. Which is the difference between $30 million from national TV and $29 million from national TV. Which is a big ol' plate of beans.
Further, the NBA will soon be opening up its TV deal for bid. Having a team back in Seattle helps boost that bottom line, especially if Sonics fans are as rabid as they seem like they certainly will be.
But the expansion team will steal young players from bad teams who need them.
This is the micro point about talent dilution. The Sonics would definitely get at least two high draft picks, but in every draft they are quality players who aren't picked in the top three. If those bad teams can't find one, that's on them. And come on, ping pong balls help decide who gets Blake Griffin and who gets Hasheem Thabeet. Let's not Butterfly Effect this, okay?
Further, look at the 2004 expansion draft. Gerald Wallace was the only player who ever made an All-Star team ... and he was taken from one of the two best teams in the NBA (the Kings). And if the Kings didn't have a deep roster, he would have been protected from the draft and the Bobcats would have instead ended up with Doug Christie or someone. Teams can protect their top seven players, so the Bobcats aren't going to lose Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Thunder could lose Jeremy Lamb, though. Talent dilution!
But the Maloofs are going to get $500 million from Seattle. How do you make them whole?
There are some creative solutions here. Sacramento bidders are planning to offer $450 million and inherit local debt, which will even out the bids from that city and Seattle in terms of take-home for the Maloofs. There's no need to "screw" the Maloofs by expanding to Seattle -- this can be a negotiated matter at the Board of Governors level. And the expansion fee for Seattle can be upwards of $400 million, helping lubricate the deal. (The Seattle folks are still catching a break.) Some portion of the expansion fee could potentially offset any lower take-home for the Maloofs. The Bobcats' expansion fee was $300 million, and the Seattle people are ready to spend $500 million. There's room to figure something out there.
The NBA would never expand so close to a lockout in which contraction was threatened.
Yes, because NBA owners would never ever ever produce remarkable hypocrisy. Uh huh.
The Hook is an NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives .