AUSTIN, TX -- With the Golden State Warriors knocking on the door of the '95-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72 wins, the San Antonio Spurs just a few games back in the wins column, the Toronto Raptors rising in the East and teams like the Cavs, Thunder and Clippers viewed as championship contenders, the NBA is in very good shape right now. And those are just the top teams.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers are near the bottom of the standings but they each have a plethora of young talent that will develop into the future stars of the league. The same could be said of the Portland Trail Blazers, who are a playoff team but are a young and developing team that could rise into elite status in a few years. Then, there are teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, who are at the very bottom and are works in progress yet still have their own interesting future.
With every single team in the NBA having an intriguing storyline and motivated fan base, the league is more popular than it has ever been, especially since people all over the globe in countries like India and China are tuning in. But with the league so strong right now, will the NBA think of expanding the brand and adding another team to the league?
This question was posed to NBA commissioner Adam Silver at the South by Southwest conference on Friday. Silver delivered the keynote speech for SXSW Sports and touched on a number of different topics such as the growth of social media, the league's cable deals, VR technology in the NBA and even expansion.
The topic of expansion was brought up by a questioner, who was wondering about the viability of a team ever returning to Seattle, which was the home of the Supersonics from 1967 until 2008 before moving to Oklahoma City and changing the name to the Thunder. Silver was quite candid in his response, quickly shutting down the thought of expansion due to financial reasons for the league's owners as well as from a business standpoint concerning the NBA as a whole.
"The issue with the NBA right now, is every team in essence, can have a global following," Silver said. "The need to expand the footprint by physically putting another team in a market becomes less important from a league standpoint. And therefore, the way the owners see expansion at the moment is really the equivalent of selling equity in the (league).
"We are 30 partners right now. Thirty teams. Each of those teams own 1/30th of all the global opportunities of the NBA. So the issue becomes, if you expand, do you want to sell one of those interests off to a new group of partners? One reason to do it of course, is that if its additive. And no doubt, Seattle is a great market. At the moment, like for me as successful as the league is right now, we (are) not in the position, putting even aside profitability, where all 30 teams are must-see experiences. That's not a secret."
Silver also touched on how expansion could dilute the talent of the NBA.
"There are so many great players in the league," Silver said. "And that's one of the issues with expansion. Even putting aside the financial notion of selling equity and whether if it's additive to the league as a whole to add more teams, the question becomes is it dilutive in terms of talent. And that's something that I'm focused on as well."
And while Silver didn't offer up any real praise for expansion, he was not totally shutting down the idea of adding another team to the pool of 30. It's just not a priority, that he often considers.
"Organizations all grow over time, and on an optimistic note," Silver said. "I don't think the there is any doubt that at some point we will turn back to looking at whether we're should grow the league, the league has of course grown over time so I just think that for the moment, my focus is ensuring that we have a high operation."