Rumors have been circulating about a potential NBA expansion for years, but they have been just that—rumors. The NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, has shown interest in branching out outside of North America, with Europe potentially being the home of several teams.
However, an expansion seems unlikely at the moment but there is always the possibility of teams adopting a new home for their team. In more recent years, we have seen the Vancouver lose the Grizzlies to Memphis, while Seattle lost the Supersonics to Oklahoma City.
There are plenty of factors to consider when relocating a team, ranging from revenue to attendance to new ownerships. Of course, fans will never accept losing the team that they love, but it has been happening for decades. There are 30 teams in the NBA with plenty of outsiders wanting in.
This list is based on rumors, history and scenarios that would see 8 teams relocate to 8 new destinations!
16 Relocate: Brooklyn Nets
The Nets were the New Jersey Nets first—a longtime staple in the ABA and NBA, but moved to Brooklyn before the 2012-13 season. Under new ownership, a Russian Billionaire named Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets put together a team of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.
Sacrificing their future assets to Boston for the trade of Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry, the Nets have plummeted to the bottom of the NBA food chain. With calls for new ownership, new management, new players—really new everything—it wouldn’t be surprising to see Prokhorov sell the team to owners willing to relocate the already relocated Nets.
15 Potential Destination: Kansas City, Missouri
The mid-west has a huge college basketball following, but it is surprising to see so many cities without an NBA team. St. Louis, Louisville, Des Moines, Kanas City—all without an NBA team. Memphis didn’t get their team until the Grizzlies relocated from Vancouver. Kansas City the side of the city in Missouri that is, already had an NFL and MLB team.
With a love for basketball already instilled in the area—look how many college march madness games have taken place there—and a market that could hold onto a team, not to mention a government that is friendly towards offering tax dollars for stadiums, Kansas City is poised for an NBA team.
Rumors have always linked the city with a potential NBA team, whether it's a result of relocation or expansion. Kansas City was once home of the Kings from 1972 until 1985, when they relocated to Sacramento.
14 Relocate: Orlando Magic
Are the Orlando Magic a small market team? Absolutely. Are they a staple in NBA history like the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, or Spurs? Absolutely not. Do they have a rich NBA history? Sort of. Created as an expansion team before the 1989-90 season, the Magic were terrible until they drafted someone named Shaquille O’Neal in the 1992 draft. Two years later, they were in the finals, beating a Jordan Bulls team, the year Jordan returned from minor league baseball. But then Shaq was gone.
The early 2000s saw the Magic draft Dwight Howard, make the finals once, before they sent him packing to the Lakers. With Florida having a no state-income tax, free agents will heavily consider the Magic only if they’re an elite contender. But the Magic haven’t been an elite contender since Dwight, and their future is highly questionable.
Acquiring the likes of Serge Ibaka, and then selling him for less than you bought him for. Playing Aaron Gordon at the 3 instead of the 4, these are all decisions that destroy stability. The Magic could certainly be a heavy favorite for relocation if Richard Devos sells the team.
13 Potential Destination: Louisville, Kentucky
A college basketball mecca, Louisville doesn’t have any major sports franchises. With stars like Anthony Davis, John Wall, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Nerlens Noel, etc. in the NBA currently, and with rumors that John Calipari might leave for the NBA, Kentucky natives are drooling over the possibility of a team with Wall, Cousins, Davis and Calipari in Kentucky.
They’d have a shot at the title if all ex-players from all Kentucky college teams played for that team. And without any other teams competing for time and money, an NBA team would likely survive for a century—or until basketball goes the way of horse racing.
12 Relocate: Phoenix Suns
Another small market team, the Suns haven’t been a championship contender since the Mike D’Antoni/Steve Nash days. While it’s cheap to have a team in Phoenix, when compared with the New York or Los Angeles teams, if the Suns continue to have a lacklustre team—as they have since the 2010-11 season—the Suns could be in the position the Seattle SuperSonics were before they moved to Oklahoma.
The Suns have been stuck in the mediocre world of the NBA—not bad enough to get a top-3 pick—and using any high picks they’ve had to get big men, when the all the NBA is moving towards smaller skilled players.
Who knows, the Suns ownership may decide they’d enjoy the sunny beaches of California over the hot desert of Arizona—especially when Orange County and San Diego are primed for an NBA team.
11 Potential Destination: San Diego, California
San Diego already has a history of being an NBA team. Once upon a time the San Diego Clippers were an actuality, before Donald Sterling broke the hearts of fans and moved them to Los Angeles. While San Diego just lost their NFL team to the same fate, the city has the market and fans to hold onto an NBA team.
With passionate locals, and transplants around to fill those stadiums when their team comes to town, San Diego can support a new NBA Team. However, they have two NBA franchises in the past, the San Diego Rockets and the Buffalo Braves, which were relocated to Houston and Los Angeles. There are some doubts as to whether the NBA would be willing to give the city another chance.
10 Relocate: Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets moving away—sounds familiar, doesn’t it? When the New Orleans Jazz relocated to Utah (yes currently the Utah Jazz), soon after the Charlotte Hornets relocated too, and became the New Orleans Hornets—remember all those highlights of Chris Paul playing for the NOLA Hornets? When Charlotte’s Bobcats owner Robert L. Johnson decided to sell the team, there was a possibility of new ownership buying and relocating the team again.
Enter savior Michael Jordan, a native of North Carolina and already part owner, who led the acquisition team to buy the Bobcats, and return the name “Hornets” to Charlotte after NOLA changed to the current ‘Pelicans’ moniker. However, the Hornets have not been a true contender under Jordan’s ownership.
Jordan may sell the team, leading to a relocation—or move it himself. When the controversial HB2 law was enacted in NC, Jordan threatened to move the team if the law wasn’t revoked, meaning the possibility of him moving the Hornets isn’t out of the possibility.
9 Potential Destination: Mexico City, Mexico
In recent years, the NBA has held several pre-season games in Mexico City. They have even hosted two regular season games in 2016-17, as the Phoenix Suns took on the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs.
Mexico City is the largest market in North America, it's no surprise that Adam Silver is highly interested in bringing a team there. In January, he noted the possibility of not only holding more regular season games there, but the All-Star weekend as well. That would certainly be a huge step to acquire an NBA team.
Silver said that they have been looking at the possibility of expanding to Mexico City, as well as other cities. An expansion is unlikely at the moment, but he would certainly welcome a relocation in the near future.
8 Relocate: Milwaukee Bucks
When owner Herb Kohl sold the franchise several years ago, one of the deals of the sale was that the Bucks not be relocated. That “deal” didn’t last very long. When the new ownership group decided to build a new stadium, they demanded over $250 million in taxpayer money and threatened to relocate to either Seattle or Las Vegas, if they didn’t get it.
This is part of the problem with having NBA ready cities—like when the Thunder ownership group moved the then SuperSonics to the new stadium in OKC. Owners can threaten relocation as an incentive for public money. The Bucks ownership go the public money, but if they’ve already been willing to relocate the team, they may do so again.
7 Potential Destination: Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is doing everything it can to get major sports teams to move there. While the NHL has already awarded Las Vegas a franchise, the NFL is having hiccups while trying to move the Oakland Raiders to the City of Sin. As mentioned earlier, the Bucks threatened to move to either Seattle or Las Vegas in order to get taxpayer money.
Though Las Vegas could potentially be a dangerous place for any sports franchise to land due to legal gambling and other legal activities that are otherwise illegal in many places in the U.S. Still, Las Vegas is an untapped NBA market, and the monetary reward might outweigh the chance of serious scandals.
Whether it's a relocation or expansion, an NBA team will likely be headed to Vegas. You better bet the the NBA and Adam Silver will be closely watching the Vegas Golden Knights.
6 Relocate: New Orleans Pelicans
The NOLA Pelicans had a travesty of a time getting sold. At one point the League owned the team—and at the time nixed the deal which sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. The then Hornets were finally purchased by Tom Benson, who also owns the NFL New Orleans Saints.
Yet, the Pelicans remain the most dubious financial situation in all of the NBA—even over Sacramento. New Orleans already has a history of relocating (as mentioned before, the NOLA Jazz moved to Utah) and with the financial issues, the lack of fan support at games and a questionable future, it’d be hard to see NBA fans surprised that the Pelicans were shipping out.
With a duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, several cities would love to have the Pelicans, but perhaps not as many as the next destination.
5 Potential Destination: Seattle, Washington
SuperSonics country. Seattle is one of those areas of the country—like Indiana or Louisville—is a giant basketball country. Players like Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Zach LaVine and Jamal Crawford all come from the playgrounds of the Emerald City.
While the city of Seattle still owns the history and name of the SuperSonics, should a team choose to move their (or an expansion is voted on) Seattle is perhaps the most deserving and ready for an NBA team.
The SupersSonics were taken away from Seattle in 2008, and relocated to Oklahoma City. The team would go on to have some great years with players like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden. Many cities deserve an NBA team but Seattle tops the list.
4 Relocate: Sacramento Kings
This is one of those, do we need to say more moments. The Kings have been a laughing stock since owner Vivek Ranadive took over. With the much maligned treatment and management of DeMarcus Cousins—ending in a trade that most sports pundits say was 40 cents on the dollar—to the idea of playing 4-on-5 defense so that a player could cherry pick and score with a court-long pass; the Kings have become the most irrelevant major sports franchises outside the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Sacramento fans long for the days of Chris Webber and Co. when the Kings went toe-to-toe with the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. Yet, Ranadive was heralded because he swooped in and bought the Kings when it looked like a new ownership group was going to move them to Seattle.
Though a new stadium has just been built in Sac-Town, the idea of Ranadive selling the team is a dream for local Sacramento fans, though it may result in moving the team.
3 Potential Destination: Orange County, California
The Kings wouldn't be moving too far away from home. They have already relocated a few times and this may be their next destination. Orange County already boasts a baseball and hockey team. The strip of California between LA and Mexico is one of the wealthiest areas in the country, with beautiful sandy beaches and a local market that can sustain the prices of stadiums and ticket prices.
Plus, just imagine if Disney managed to own an NBA team. ESPN would have them on national TV at least once a year, even when they're terrible. And we could get names like the Disney Deathstars, or the Anaheim Sith (or Jedi).
2 Relocate: Atlanta Hawks
Already rumored to have considered moving to Seattle, the Hawks are valued 23rd out of 30 NBA teams. This isn't good for the Hawks, or the Atlanta fan base. Throw in an unwillingness from NBA top-tier free agents to play there, mixed with homegrown talent often leaving (i.e. Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford) whether by trade or free agency, and you have the beginning stages of what happened to Seattle--an ownership change and a move.
Atlanta's fan base has been criticized for not attending games despite having a good team throughout the past few years. Some may call them a 'treadmill team', but regardless, most fans would be happy to have a consistent playoff team.
1 Potential Destination: Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver already has a history of owning an NBA team. With the Canadian twin of Seattle receiving an expansion team before the 1995-96 season, the romance between Vancouver and the NBA lasted only six seasons before the team relocated to Memphis.
While it's unlikely that Vancouver would ever get a team while there is one in Seattle—that’s just it—there isn’t one in Seattle. And a team could move to Vancouver instead of Seattle if they wanted to tap into the fan base, but had disagreements with the city or state government.
The Toronto Raptors have had great success in recent years with a growing fan base all over Canada. Vancouver never got a proper chance to witness the rise of the popularity of basketball.