What you see in that image is an outdated map of the NBA. Not just outdated because it still has the Sonics in Seattle (rather than the Thunder/Wind/Energy/otherlamename in Oklahoma City), but outdated because it fails to recognize the new world order.
In this new NBA world, established lottery picks like Josh Childress can sign with a team in Greece, rather than re-sign with the Hawks. A Spaniard like Juan Carlos Navarro, coming off a successful rookie season, can choose to return home, rather than stay in Memphis. And playoff spark-plug Sasha Vujacic can use an entire continent as leverage to squeeze another few million out of the Lakers.
So is this a problem for the NBA? Outwardly, they might admit some things need fixing, but secretly, this is exactly what David Stern wants. Why? So he can unveil “The New NBA”.
Radical realignment and rescheduling, including an entire 4-team division based in, you guessed it, Europe.
What this plan would entail is moving two teams -- the Grizzlies and Raptors -- to Europe, probably Spain and Italy respectively. Then the league would add two expansion teams, choosing between London, Paris, Berlin, Prague, or any other major European city.
The new league alignment would look like this:
EASTERN CONFERENCE WESTERN CONFERENCE
Northeast Division Midwest Division
Boston Celtics Milwaukee Bucks
Philadelphia 76ers Chicago Bulls
New Jersey Nets Indiana Pacers
New York Knicks Minnesota Timberwolves
Central Division California Division
Detroit Pistons LA Lakers
Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors
Washington Wizards Sacramento Kings
Charlotte Bobcats LA Clippers
Southeast Division Southwest Division
Orlando Magic Oklahoma City Thunder
New Orleans Hornets San Antonio Spurs
Atlanta Hawks Houston Rockets
Miami Heat Dallas Mavericks
Europe Division Mountain Division
Barcelona Grizzlies Utah Jazz
Rome Raptors Denver Nuggets
London Bridges Portland Trail Blazers
Paris Towers Phoenix Suns
Ignore the crappy nicknames I’ve chosen for the two European expansion teams for now. Focus on this. You get two 16-team conferences, with four 4-team divisions. The 4 division winners would make the playoffs, as would the next 4 best teams from each conference, regardless of division.
With this new alignment, and the increased travel demands caused by a Europe division, you’d need to tweak the schedule format as well. So here’s that setup: each team would still play 82 games. 6 games against each division opponent (18 total), 4 games against intraconference opponents (48 total) and 1 game against opponents from the opposite conference (16 total).
The interconference games would be split 8 and 8 (home and road) alternate between home and road on an annual basis. One year, the Midwest and Southwest divisions would travel to the Northeast and Europe, the next year the Southwest and Mountain divisions would make that trip.
For the playoffs, every round would switch to a 2-3-2 format, to limit travel in the event a team from Europe made it that far (and in this format, at least 1 European team would be guaranteed a playoff spot).
Does this work in the real world? I have no idea. The way I see it, is this has to be done in conjunction with the next CBA. In addition, the NBA would probably have to work out some kind of deal with FIBA, regarding player movement. Those are issues for David Stern and his cadre of lawyers to figure out. I’m just an ideas guy, and I think this is an idea that might have some legs.