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NBA Divisional Realignment - a modest proposal

Okay, there’s no news that is related to this at all so this is far from topical. Additionally, I’m certain that I’m not the first insane person to think about this before. Regardless, I’m going to talk about divisional realignment. The owners and players aren’t talking about this. David Stern doesn’t have this on his assistant’s agenda. This is just something that’s bugged me for a while now since teams have moved from one end of the nation to the other. The dust has settled, the league isn’t expanding or contracting right now. It’s time to start complaining about the lunacy of how this is set up.

First, let’s take a look at the map of the continent, and where the NBA teams currently are situated.

The teams are situated near the bigger markets naturally. This makes it difficult to balance 30 teams into two conferences and six divisions. This is even more difficult when some teams are in divisions that they have no business being in at all. Sure, this isn’t a problem unique to the NBA. After all, in the NHL the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks are in the Western Conference. Sticking with these two hockey teams, they aren’t located close to all the other teams they have to frequently play – which is a disadvantage due to long travel times. I would wish to eliminate some of this silliness in the NBA with my (to my knowledge, unique) proposal. Of course, this isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s a step in a more logical direction . . .

Boom. Realigned.

Yes, yes, some teams have switched not only divisions but conferences. Also, yeah, the new "Midwest" division gets the shaft – we always do. It’s the way of the world and we should just move on.

Pacific Division:

Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, and Portland Trail Blazers

The Western Conference was split between the Pacific Division and the Midwest Division. The Pacific Division had, naturally, more coastal teams; while the Midwest had guys like Utah, Denver, and the Texas Triangle. It used to work when there were fewer teams. The West became the Pacific, South West, and North West – but this garbage isn’t working anymore. There is no team in Seattle anymore. And the team that was in Vancouver moved – and somehow left the division it started in. I’m reuniting the Pacific division to including the majestic North West, and their only team, the Portland Trailblazers. I’m kicking the Phoenix Suns out. Expansion areas exist in Las Vegas (because you know they’d want to be in the same division as the Lakers), and the Seattle / Vancouver metro areas. These are the teams in states that border the Pacific Ocean. This should be the Pacific Division of the NBA. Does that mean in the future that this division may have more teams in it than others? Yes, but it’s happened before. And it’s penalty for the Lakers for having so many extra games down the years against the Clippers, Warriors, and Kings.

South West Division:

Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs

Yes, Phoenix has always been in the same division as the Lakers – but I wouldn’t exactly call them rivals (save just in the Kobe post-Shaq era). The Suns have, instead, been fighting against the Spurs for a very long time. Also, you don’t have to watch The Simpsons to know that a team in New Mexico has ‘south west flavor’; but it couldn’t hurt. Pacific means surfers, beach, and ocean. Not red earth, desert, and cacti. Sorry Phoenix. You’ve got the Texas Triangle now, and OKC. Don’t like it? Wait for plate tectonics to make you part of the Pacific region again. I don’t think you can argue much about the other four teams. OKC used to be in Seattle, but they are now much closer (spiritually) to cowboys and chili contests than they are to hipsters and upscale coffee blends.

South East Division:

Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, and New Orleans Hornets

I was an advocate for moving New Orleans to the east for a very long time. Not only would it mean the East All-Stars would have a pass-first guard starting, but it would also mean that New Orleans doesn’t have to re-create the Chicago/Detroit NHL experience. The other four teams are solidly in the Dirty South, so they should be fine with this. Swapping out Washington D.C. for a team that’s culturally closer to them should be something they welcome.

Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Washington Wizards

Much of the same rules apply here that I used for the Pacific Division; except, there are way more teams on the East coast than the west. You can’t break up any of these teams – they are all some of the oldest franchises in the league, and have all been rivals (save for new edition New Jersey). And for as long as Wes Unseld can still fit into his super tight nut huggers, I will fight for D.C. to be ‘promoted’ out of the Dirty South and be a part of these other, older, Eastern Seaboard teams. This means getting rid of the Raptors, which makes sense. That inland city is way closer to a number of teams in the Central than the Atlantic anyway.

Central Division:

Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Toronto Raptors

This one just makes damn sense. A few years ago Jerome Williams was traded midseason from the Pistons to the Raptors. He packed up some stuff in his car, and drove across the border to Toronto, checked into a hotel, and was there bright and early for practice the next morning. I’ve spent more time on the road trying to get home from LAX than he did on that trip to his new NBA city. Toronto as part of the Central is as a slam dunk as Phoenix to the South West is. Detroit, Cleveland and Indy all stay as well. The major problem ends up being what to do with Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minnesota. These three teams are close to each other. For the longest time I’ve felt like Minnesota did not deserve to be in the Western conference (not just because of the mercy rule either). Because there (in this plan) can only be a maximum of five teams in each division, Milwaukee and Minnesota get the boot from potential Central Division membership. This is sad for the T-Wolves who might have otherwise escaped the West. This is even worse for the Bucks, who have always been there, who have actually won an NBA Title, and is a short drive away from the face of the division, the Chicago Bulls. This is somewhat like moving Phoenix out of the Pacific, but is it no less crazy than when Oklahoma (nee Seattle) had always been in the Pacific, won titles, then moved to the North West, and now is in the South West? It is, but I’m sorry. I can’t keep the Bucks in the East.

Midwest Division:

Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, and Memphis Grizzlies

Sorry Northwest Division, this name makes no sense if a) there is only one team in the Northwest in the NBA, and b) I moved it to the Pacific Division. Looking at a map makes it easier to return to the original name of this division before the NBA ballooned to 30 teams. Secondly, sorry to all the teams in this Division. We always get the shaft (remember when we still had teams from Vancouver having to fly down to play the Rockets for division games?) – and even in something I make, I can’t logically not give us the shaft either. We pick up two teams that should be in the East – Milwaukee and Memphis (nee Vancouver – which used to be in our division anyway). I left the explanation for this one last because it only makes sense after we go through all the five other divisions first. Portland has to be in the Pacific. Phoenix has to be in the South West. New Orleans has to be in the South East. Washington has to be in the Atlantic. Toronto has to be in the Central. The runoff is a massive region of fly over states that have many miles and a mountain range between them. This is far from a perfect solution, and will only be fixed with more NBA expansion (or contraction). If we’re just looking at the map, only 12 teams have a legitimate reason to be in the Western Conference at all. Even if the NBA adds teams in Seattle, Vancouver, Las Vegas and Mexico City there will still an imbalance.

Parting Thoughts

This will never happen. Even if it’s too logical. But at least, I can dream . . .