There has been a lot of talk on expansion. You know many here at StR are in favor of it to Seattle. Many in Seattle are in favor of it as well, albeit some would prefer to have their Sonics next season and Sacramento should wait for the expanded team.
After reading Ham's piece on expansion over at Cowbell Kingdom I realized the talk of expansion has been discussed ad nauseam. Therefore, this post is not an argument for or against expansion but rather a catalyst to create a dialogue on the logics and timing of it once its hopefully approved. It is also to make the point that expansion is not that much more of an effort, by all involved, than relocation.
It has been said both here and else where that if the NBA were to expand it would not be until at least the 2014-2015 season and maybe even beyond. People talk about scheduling, expansion draft, NBA draft, marketing and branding as obstacles that require planning. I understand these arguments, but I have now come to the conclusion that I disagree with these obstacles.
A few of these can be take off the table immediately. If the Kings were to relocate, the newly established Sonics would have to go into overdrive to market the team locally. Sure they have already started to an extent, but would it be any different if it were an expansion team? When the Charlotte was given the Bobcats they had to rebrand a franchise from the ground up. Seattle has the system in place, the Sonics are not new to the city, the brand is there. In fact, they've already done a lot of the work an ownership group would be doing now if they knew expansion was already coming. Expansion or relocation...the issue of marketing and branding is moot
As for the scheduling I know it will be difficult to add a team to a division and plan the travel obstacles, but again, relocation offers similar obstacles. Teams have contacts and business relationships in every city they travel to. This means every team in the league will either need to rekindle relationships in Seattle or find new ones all together. Expansion or relocation...it is the same amount of leg work.
When it comes to league scheduling, it couldn't be too difficult for the NBA. They've had odd number teams before, they'e scheduled odd numbered divisions before. It is not like they don't have a roadmap on how to handle the situation. It is not a task than requires years to plan, one offseason should suffice.
When it comes to the expansion draft and NBA draft all we have to look to is the 2004 case with the Bobcats. The expansion draft was 2 days before the rookie draft (in which the Bobcats were arbitrarily given the 4th pick). Teams were allowed to lock up 8 players to keep, the rest were up for the taking. A lot us remember this in 2004 as our fine young prospect in Gerald Wallace was taken by the Bobcats. The only difference in this issue is that there would be no expansion draft if the team relocated. The Seattle group, however, would still need to put together a management team to prepare for the rookie draft. Would that same management team really need an additional year or more to scout players on other teams? I really don't buy that.
What about the motivation of other teams to want an expansion draft? With the new CBA in place and added penalties for being over the cap, expansion may even be a blessing. In 2004, NBA teams locked up their core players and salary was less an issue. Today you may very well see quality veteran players be left for expansion in order to cut costs, an amnesty of sorts. I feel the talent of an expansion this year won't be as weak as 2004.
My point in all of this, is that I don't fee expansion is something that needs to be years away. It can happen next season if the NBA wished it. Sure it would require effort and time on the leagues part. That being said, if the NBA were to grant relocation to Seattle and all the work it entails for next season, expansion is really not that much more of an effort. The NBA has done this 11 times. I really don't think the logistics of it are as difficult as some think. Expand to 31 in 2013.