Another NBA Expansion? YES.


Charly Skelton

Rise in scoring. Rise in talent. How does the NBA adjust? 

The answer: Expand.

In today’s NBA, we are seeing points scored increase at a dramatic rate. Many factors contribute to this, whether it be lazy defense, star players playing fewer games, or teams shooting and making more 3s per game. However, there is one main factor that contributes to the increased scoring: international players. 

Over the last 20 years, we have seen great players from overseas come and dominate the NBA, such as Nikola Jokić, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and of course MVP front runner Luka Dončić. And it’s not just recently that international players have become top players in the NBA; players such as Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, Houston legend Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwan, and the dynamic duo of the Spurs dynasty, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, all came from overseas and dominated the NBA.

Teams are scoring more than ever before. There have been 15 times in this season alone that a team has scored over 130 points. The average points per game (PPG) for the 2022-2023 NBA season, according to the stat website Basketball Reference, is already at 114.2, which is a four-point increase from last year. 

We are seeing the game evolve as well. Instead of getting down and dirty below the basket, throwing elbows and scrapping for rebounds, teams are electing to shoot from the 3-point range earlier in the shot clock.

This is credited to Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Curry already holds the record for most 3-pointers made, and he is still adding to that total. The Warriors have won four out of the last seven NBA championships due to their coaching scheme, which revolves around quick, long range 3-point shots. We see this not only from Curry, but from longtime teammate Klay Thompson and young sharpshooter Jordan Poole. This has now become a recent switch in scheme for many NBA teams. They are now having their centers shoot from deep in order to keep up with the high pace of today’s game.

There were two periods in the past when the scoring was nearly as high as today. In the five years leading up to the 1988 expansion, the average PPG was around 109 points per game. Then the NBA expanded, which brought us the Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat.

However, the scoring problem didn’t stop. Although scoring went down slightly, it wasn’t enough, as again in 1995, the NBA expanded to Toronto and Vancouver (now Memphis). Scoring decreased immediately as the 1995-96 season was the first year of a 18-year stretch where the average points per game never went over 100, per Basketball Reference.

Around this time, players from outside of the U.S. were coming in and filling roster spots. Thus, teams were packed with talent and scoring more often. A great example of it is the 2002-2016 San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan from St. Croix, Manu Ginobili from Argentina, and Tony Parker from Belgium. During this stretch, scoring increased from 95.5 PPG to 102.7 PPG, a nearly ten-point increase. 

Now with the increase in talent and change in the way players play the game, how does the NBA fix its scoring problem? The simple answer: expand. Expanding has several benefits for fans, potential expansion cities, and players. It disperses talent more and brings the opportunity for international players to shine in the NBA. 

There are four criteria that a city must meet to host an NBA expansion team, according to the sports news site Yardbarker:

  1. The city must have a market suitable for a new/second team;
  2. The city’s residents must have interest in a team or have petitioned for a team to be there before;
  3. The city must have a high enough population and the funds to either build an arena or remodel/build a court in an existing building;
  4. The city’s location must be near other teams for divisions to work. (There must also be enough suitable cities in both the West and the East.)

Although it is not necessary, it is preferred that the city have another sports team, that the new team would be the first sports team in a major market, or that the city once had an NBA team. 

For the cities that meet the criteria, they are listed in three tiers of suitability. For every tier, there will be one team for both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference.

Tier 1 (Available now) 

  1. Las Vegas (West): Las Vegas has been the fastest growing market for sports in the last five years. There is already an arena for a basketball team, T-Mobile Arena, that houses the Las Vegas Golden Knights. They also have the Las Vegas Raiders, which would bring more fans into basketball if there is an expansion. Having another sports team could also bring more tourists to a city that thrives off of tourism. Basketball is already played in Vegas for the Mountain West Championship Tournament, which attracts people from all around the Mountain West, and it is in a location close to eight other Western Conference teams.
  2. Pittsburgh (East): Pittsburgh has been a sports city since 1887, when the MLB’s Pirates were founded. Since then the Steelers made the city their home when they were founded in 1933. Lastly, the Penguins made Pittsburgh their home in 1967, where they used PPG Paints Arena, which seats nearly 20,000 people. Pittsburgh had an ABA (American Basketball Association) team for four years before the ABA-NBA merger. It was also rumored that the Detroit Pistons were going to relocate to Pittsburgh. The city loves basketball, as Pittsburgh University’s home games are always packed regardless of who they play. There is already another team in Pennsylvania, and bringing a new team to the state would spark a rivalry and competitive play. They are also very close to eight other Eastern Conference teams.

Tier 2 (Certainly possible)

  1. Nashville (East): While Nashville hasn’t always been a big sports market, their city has been growing rapidly over the last five years, and an NBA team would have a positive impact on the city. First, the location is great. Bridgestone Arena, home of the Nashville Predators, is right off the downtown strip that brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists a year. The city’s location, near five NBA teams, won’t cause an issue with travel. With the growing economy in Nashville, they can certainly afford to have a team.
  2. Seattle (West): Seattle once had an NBA franchise. The Seattle Supersonics were established in 1967 and were located there until 2008. They were then sold and relocated and are now the Oklahoma City Thunder. Since 2008, fans have been desperately asking the NBA to put a team back in Seattle. However, there is one issue having a team up in Seattle: location. Seattle is only remotely close to two other NBA teams, the Portland Trailblazers and the Sacramento Kings. On the other hand, with the recent renovations made to Climate Pledge Arena, which currently houses the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, there would be no need to build another arena, as it isn’t uncommon for NHL and NBA teams to share an arena. Seattle is also the most populous metropolitan area and the largest American media market without an NBA franchise. Location, however, seems like too much of an issue to put a team there.

Tier 3 (Unlikely, but a good idea)

  1. Vancouver (West): Vancouver once had an NBA team as well. It was home to the Grizzlies from 1995 to 2001. After financial issues and poor play, the team relocated to Memphis and have been there ever since. It faces the same issue as Seattle, location. The closest team would be the Portland TrailBlazers, and that would be difficult as far as travel goes. Vancouver, however, has the third-highest population in Canada and recently renovated their arena. It would take a lot of convincing and a lot of money to bring a team back to Vancouver, but it is certainly possible.
  2. Louisville (East): Louisville, Ky., is a bit of a wild card as far as location and cost. It is close to four other NBA teams, and it has been talked about regarding relocation multiple times. There is no arena, however. The only other basketball team that has an arena capable of hosting an NBA team is the University of Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville. They had an ABA team in Louisville named the Kentucky Colonels for nine years and had the highest winning percentage in ABA history. However, they were left out of the ABA-NBA merger and soon crumbled. Since 1976, there hasn’t been a team in Louisville. It seems unlikely that an NBA team would expand or relocate to Louisville, but it could spark a market that could house more than just one NBA team.


With the rise in scoring attributed to the change in play and more talent, it would be a good move to expand the NBA. From a financial standpoint and from the fanbase, it would bring another team closer to the fans and bring in more money to the city and the NBA. It also gives a chance for more players to shine as stars instead of being on the bench.

What city do you want the NBA to come to next? Leave a comment.