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The Basketball Insiders All-Star Starter Picks

The Basketball Insiders team votes on their All-Star starters.

Oliver Maroney



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All-Star weekend is fast approaching, and as we get geared up for the festivities, we’ve decided to release our starters for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. We’ve aggregated the totals to create the most voted Western and Eastern Conference team, and then below we’ve listed individual picks from our Basketball Insiders experts.

Western Conference Starters:

Guard – Russell Westbrook

Westbrook could become the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to average a 30 point, 10 rebound and 10 assist triple-double. Westbrook (and Harden) are the leading candidates for the MVP award, that’s why I left neither out. – Michael Scotto

Westbrook has been superb this season. Obviously, he’s still averaging a triple-double and continuing to lead the Thunder to an impressive 24-17 record through 41 games. His team is currently in the playoffs and without him, they’d be looking at the lottery. Westbrook’s efficiency considering his usage isn’t great, but is better than many would’ve expected. There is no way Westbrook can’t be in this game and more importantly, in this starting lineup.

Guard – James Harden

The Mike D’Antoni, James Harden duo has the Rockets as a serious contender and Harden as a legitimate MVP candidate. – Jonathon Concool

Harden continues to top our MVP watch list, leading his team to the third-best record in the Western Conference and putting up historically great numbers. His ability to become a playmaker and scorer while playing improved defense has given his team an edge against nearly every opponent they’ve faced. Harden has become one of the best facilitators in the game, averaging over 11 assists per game. Along with the efficient passing and creation, he’s also scoring 28.4 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 35 percent from behind-the-arc. He could easily be this season’s MVP if the season were to end today.

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant

Durant wasn’t coming into the same situation as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh did in Miami. He came into a historically great team that had a pecking order with defined roles and three All-Stars. Did Durant fit seamlessly? No. But considering the chemistry change, role adjustments and loss of players and continuity, there hasn’t been much of a drop-off, if any with Golden State. Durant is the best player on the best team in the Western Conference. He deserves to be a starter for the West. – Oliver Maroney

Durant has been better than most had expected through the first half of the NBA season. Durant is averaging 26 points, 4.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game for the Warriors, but possibly the most surprising statistic is his 1.7 blocks per game. It justifies the way Durant has played on defense this season.

Durant has been superb in almost every aspect of the game, but his chemistry within the team is still questioned at times. He’s learning on the job, but he’s a supreme talent that’s picked up almost every nuance with Golden State instantly.

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard

Leonard is averaging a career-high 24.6 points per game and his defense remains on lockdown status on a nightly basis. – Michael Scotto

The Spurs lost their leader in Tim Duncan, yet they didn’t miss a beat. Leonard has taken over in San Antonio and led the Spurs to the second-best record in the Western Conference. He’s been remarkably efficient considering his uptick in offensive field goal attempts, and his team is continuing to coast to another 50-plus win season. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard is still continuing to be a great two-way player, and perhaps the best outside of LeBron James.

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis

As for Davis, while I wouldn’t normally take a player on a team playing less than .500 basketball, he’s second in the league in scoring, sixth in rebounds per game and second in blocks per game. I wouldn’t attribute the Pelicans’ poor season to his performance and also don’t think that either Draymond Green or DeMarcus Cousins are more deserving. – Moke Hamilton

Davis continues to wow despite his team’s unimpressive effort through the first 20 or so games. The team has started to find a rhythm with Jrue Holiday back in the lineup and Davis continues to thrive. He’s averaging about 36 minutes per game and is posting up career-highs in many statistical categories. After sustaining multiple injuries and not living up to the expectations last year, you can clearly tell he’s developed his game even further. By many accounts, he deserves to be at All-Star weekend, but this was a close voting tally for a starter.

Eastern Conference Starters:

Guard – Isaiah Thomas 

Thomas is arguably the best pound-for-pound player in the game. – Lang Greene

Thomas has hit game-winners, facilitated the offense and brought the Celtics back to life. After early struggles due to injuries, the Celtics are sitting at third in the Eastern Conference and Thomas is a big reason for that. The former 60th pick in the NBA Draft is currently averaging 28.2 points, 6.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds. Over the last ten games? Thomas is averaging over 31 points while the Celtics have won eight of the last ten games. Thomas is clearly the number one option on offense, even if his defense leaves something to be desired at times. He’s clearly the most valuable player on the Celtics right now.

Guard – DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan’s game isn’t considered sexy by the analytical crowd but he has been in beast mode all season. – Lang Greene

After an impressive 30-plus point streak to begin the regular season, DeMar DeRozan is still continuing to score at a career-high rate. Currently, DeRozan is averaging career highs in points (28.2) and rebounds (5.4) per game. His Toronto Raptors are second in the East and not far off from the Cleveland Cavaliers, therefore he deserves the nod. His teammate Kyle Lowry may be more valuable, but the Insiders’ crew was split on the decision.

Frontcourt – LeBron James

The Cavaliers are the class of the East and LeBron James is a major reason for that. James continues to fill the stat sheet and win column for Cleveland as the game’s best all-around player. – Michael Scotto

LeBron James has continued to hover near that incredible triple-double statistic. Even without, he’s still the game’s best player and has continued to lead the Cavaliers to the best record in the Eastern Conference. After beating the Warriors on Christmas Day, James has still shown that he can combat any team at any time. Even with the absence of J.R. Smith, James has taken on more of an offensive load and continued to gain momentum for the Cavs. Currently, James averages 25.8 points, 8.3 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. He was a unanimous selection in our picks.

Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

What can’t Jimmy Butler do? He’s leading a Bulls team that we all thought would be a mess to a .500 record and a playoff berth. Along with that, he’s had four 40-plus point games, and rebounding at a career-best 6.8 rebounds per game. – Oliver Maroney

Even though the Bulls are the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, it’s fair to say they wouldn’t be anywhere near there without Jimmy Butler. The former Marquette star is shooting over 45 percent from the field and continuing to play tremendous defense on the game’s best players. His continued effort and relentless energy is something that many don’t have. Aside from Jabari Davis, everyone on the Basketball Insiders’ team picked Butler in their frontcourt.

Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

The Greek Freak has taken the league by storm with his play recently (buzzer beaters, triple-doubles) and has the young Milwaukee Bucks in the middle to upper echelon of Eastern Conference teams. He’s also leading his team in points, rebounds and assists per game. – Jonathan Concool

Antentokounmpo has finally been added to our MVP watch list because of his all-around game and value to his team. The Bucks are at .500 and the big reason for that is Antentokounmpo. His ability play one through five, guard all five positions and score virtually anytime, anywhere has carried the team at times. His athletic ability is probably the most dynamic we’ve seen since LeBron James, and he’s continuing to rack up the stat sheet with triple-doubles. This season, the Greek Freak is averaging 23.4 points, 5.7 assists, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.


Individual Picks from the Insiders’ Team

“The reason why selecting All-Stars is always such a difficult proposition because there’s no clear-cut consensus as to what the requirements are.” – Moke Hamilton

Steve Kyler

Western Conference                       Eastern Conference                                                       

Guard – Chris Paul                                  Guard – John Wall

Guard – Russell Westbrook                   Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                 Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                     Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                   Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo


Ben Dowsett

Western Conference                        Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                    Guard – Kyle Lowry

Guard – James Harden                            Guard – John Wall

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                     Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                   Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Marc Gasol                          Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo


Eric Pincus 

Western Conference                         Eastern Conference 

Guard – Russell Westbrook                     Guard – Kyrie Irving

Guard –  James Harden                            Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                    Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt –  Kevin Durant                      Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt –  Marc Gasol                          Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler


Oliver Maroney

Western Conference                           Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                       Guard – Kyle Lowry

Guard – James Harden                               Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                         Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                      Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Marc Gasol                             Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo


Michael Scotto

Western Conference                           Eastern Conference 

Guard – James Harden                               Guard – Kyrie Irving

Guard – Russell Westbrook                       Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                         Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                      Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                       Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo


Cody Taylor 

Western Conference                           Eastern Conference 

Guard – Russell Westbrook                       Guard – John Wall

Guard – James Harden                               Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                         Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                      Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                       Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler


Tommy Beer

Western Conference                            Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                        Guard – John Wall

Guard – James Harden                                Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                          Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                       Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                        Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler


Moke Hamilton 

Western Conference                               Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                           Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Guard – James Harden                                   Guard – Kyrie Irving

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                             Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                          Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                           Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo


Jabari Davis

Western Conference                              Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                          Guard – Kyrie Irving

Guard – James Harden                                  Guard – Kyle Lowry

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                            Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                         Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – DeMarcus Cousins                   Frontcourt – Joel Embiid


Jesse Blancarte

Western Conference                               Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                           Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Guard – James Harden                                   Guard – Kyle Lowry

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                             Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                          Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                           Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo


Jonathan Concool 

Western Conference                              Eastern Conference 

Guard – Russell Westbrook                           Guard – Kyrie Irving

Guard – James Harden                                   Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                             Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                          Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                           Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler


Joel Brigham 

Western Conference                                Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                            Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Guard – James Harden                                    Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                              Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                           Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                            Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo


Lang Greene

Western Conference                                Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                            Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Guard – James Harden                                    Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                              Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                           Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – DeMarcus Cousins                     Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler


Oliver Maroney is an NBA writer for Basketball Insiders. He is based in Portland and covers the league as a whole.


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NBA Daily: Are The Knicks For Real?

Ariel Pacheco breaks down the New York Knicks and their start to the season. Might they be able to push for a spot in the postseason?

Ariel Pacheco



The New York Knicks are on a four-game losing streak after their hot 5-3 start to the season. Yes, their play has been inconsistent, but their effort has yet to wane. And, while they are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference, the team has some solid wins under their belt and has seen, arguably, their best start in years.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau’s fingerprints are all over this team. Combined with the positive start, it begs the question: do the Knicks have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot in the East? 

The Knicks have been competitive mainly due to Julius Randle; he’s played like an All-Star to start the season to the tune of 22.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. Randle’s drastic improvement from a season ago has been a major boon to New York, as he’s kept them in close games and, at times, been their lone source of offense. His stat line would put him in elite company, as one of only four to average at least 20, 10 and 5 this season.

The other three? Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis. 

Behind him, Mitchell Robinson has been the Knicks’ second-best player so far. He’s third in the NBA in offensive rebounds and 10th in blocks. Beyond that, it’s hard to overstate how impactful he’s been on the defensive end — when he’s off the court, the Knicks’ defense completely craters. And, while his offensive game is limited to mostly dunks and layups, Robinson provides the team a vertical threat in the paint with his elite lob-catching skills. 

Kevin Knox II has also shown signs of becoming a rotation-level NBA player. He’s shot 41.7% from three and, while he still needs work on defense, he hasn’t been nearly as detrimental the team’s efforts on that end as as he has in years past.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. First and foremost, they lack the shooting to consistently put teams away and win games. And, of course, teams have taken advantage of that, as the Knicks have faced a zone defense — an effective defense, but one that can easily be shut down by a consistent presence beyond the three-point line —  in every single game they’ve played this season. Of every Knick that has shot over 20 threes this season, Austin Rivers and Kevin Knox II are the only two that have shot above 35%, while no starter has shot above league average from deep on the season. During their latest four-game losing streak, they’ve shot just 31% from deep as a team.

RJ Barrett, who has really struggled to shoot the ball from all over the floor to start the year, is arguably New York’s biggest culprit here. Currently, Barrett has shot a bad 37.2% from the field, an even worse 18.5% from three and a better but still below average 70.2% from the free throw line. He’s also struggled to finish near the basket. Of course, more spacing in lineups that feature Barrett, as opposed to the clogged lanes he stares down alongside guys like Randle and Robinson, could go a long way in improving those numbers.

But, unfortunately, the Knicks just don’t have the personnel, or depth, for that matter, that they can afford to take those guys off the floor for extended minutes and expect to succeed. There’s hope that Alec Burks’ return could provide some much-needed range and scoring punch from the bench, but Burks alone might not be enough to turn things around here.

The Knicks have also been lucky when it comes to their opponent’s shooting. Opponents have shot just 32.8% from three against the Knicks, well below league average. On three-point attempts that are wide-open, which the NBA defines as a shot in which no defender is within six feet of the shooter, opponents have shot just 33.9%. If that number sees some positive regression — and it likely will as the season goes on — New York may struggle to stay in games. 

There are a litany of other issues as well. The point guard position is certainly an area of concern; Elfrid Payton’s range barely extends beyond the free throw line, while Dennis Smith Jr. just hasn’t looked like the same, explosive player we saw with the Dallas Mavericks and Frank Ntilikina has struggled with injuries to start the year. Immanuel Quickley has looked solid with limited minutes, but Thibodeau has been reluctant to start him or even expand his role. And, as there is with every Thibodeau team, there could be legitimate concern over the workload of his top players: Barrett is first in the NBA in minutes played, Randle is third.

Right now, there would seem to be a lot more questions than answers for the Knicks. As currently constructed, they certainly can’t be penciled in as a playoff team. There’s too much evidence that suggests they won’t be able to consistently win games. 

That said, New York should be somewhat satisfied with their start to the season. And, if they continue to compete hard, tighten up the defense and if their younger players can take a step forward (especially from beyond the arc), they might just be able to squeeze into the play-in game in the softer Eastern Conference.

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NBA Daily: Raul Neto Seizing His Opportunity in Washington

Tristan Tucker examines Raul Neto who, in the midst of a career resurgence, has provided the Washington Wizards with some much-needed stability at the point guard position in the absence of Russell Westbrook.

Tristan Tucker



Washington Wizards guard Raul Neto is coming off one of the more disappointing seasons of his career. Waived by the Utah Jazz, Neto joined a Philadelphia 76ers’ roster in 2019 that had some serious championship aspirations. Unfortunately, like the 76ers, Neto’s season fell flat.

For many former second round picks, a rough season could signal the conclusion of a career. But not for Neto, who has persevered and turned his career around to start the 2020-21 season.

Neto exploded onto the scene for the Wizards and has really shown an ability to hold it down on the court, especially in the wake of Russell Westbrook’s injury. He’s averaged career-highs almost across the board so far, recording 8.9 points and 1 steal per contest on outstanding percentages; Neto’s shot 52.7 from the field and 42.4 percent from three, both by far the highest of his career and, among Wizards with at least 10 games played, rank fifth and sixth on the team, respectively.

“I think I have been around different teams and I try and do whatever the team needs on the court,” Neto said. “If it needs to play with more pace or if it needs more scoring, I will try and do whatever I can to help. I think that’s how I fit so quickly on the team.”

Neto began his professional career in Brazil when he was just 16 years old, playing for the World Team in 2010 at the Nike Hoop Summit and then heading to Spain for the 2011-12 season. After two impressive seasons, the 28-year-old point guard was selected with the 47th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta then traded Neto to the Jazz where he eventually signed on for the 2015-16 NBA season.

Immediately, Neto was cast into a big role with the Jazz, starting in the season opener and starting in 53 of his 81 appearances that season. His efforts earned him a spot as a member of the World Team in the 2016 Rising Stars Challenge.

Neto would go on to play a majority of his next three seasons in the G-League, finding a hard time sticking to a role that suited him in Utah. When Philadelphia tried to remake its roster in the 2019 offseason, Neto was called in to give the team an able-shooting ball-handler, one that they desperately needed. However, Neto was, again, miscast and, while he was getting good minutes, the team as a whole struggled to find their identity and, as a result, everyone’s play suffered.

In the 2020 offseason, Neto was able to find a roster spot on the Wizards, who saw him as a potential diamond-in-the-rough type and a player that they should take a chance on. And their gamble has paid huge dividends as, at the moment, Neto has given Washington a reliable piece to play next to All-Star Bradley Beal.

“[Neto] does a tremendous job of running the team, running the offense,” Beal said after a Wizards’ preseason game. “He gets after it, he’s a real pest. I always make fun of him because he has a strong build…he’s very strong.”

Traits that likely stood out to Washington were Neto’s calm demeanor and his ability to run the offense, something that a few of his younger teammates could learn from and, hopefully, pick up themselves. Players like Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura have shown much promise as scorers and playmakers and should continue to benefit from players like Neto that are able to get them the ball accurately and consistently.

“Deni [Avdija]’s very talented, he’s very very talented,” Neto said. “He’s young so he’s got a lot to learn and get better. He’s a very good player, he’s been playing professionally overseas for a while…Rui [Hachimura] is also a very good player. Strong, plays hard and very good defense. Probably going to be our guy, like today he was guarding [Kevin Durant], he can go against guys in this league that are tall and can score.”

While the Wizards are in the midst of a disappointing season, something that may prove worthwhile in the long run may be to give Neto, who’s averaged just under 17 minutes per game, a larger role, perhaps as the team’s sixth man. When Neto is on the floor, Washington’s already potent offense gets even better — multiple lineups that feature Neto have posted an offensive rating of at least 130 points per 100 possessions — and, while it isn’t that cut-and-dry, it would behoove the Wizards to experiment and see what he can do in a larger role.

“I just try to play my game,” Neto said. “With my new team, I’m trying to understand my teammates and play the game the way Scott [Brooks] wants us to play and just move the ball and be a player out there that tries to help the team and do whatever I have to do. If I have to shoot, if I have to score depending on who I am on the court…”

“I think, number-wise, I did great,” Neto said after the Wizards’ preseason opener. “I think there’s always room for improvement and I think I’m going to work on that and take advantage of my opportunities.”

“[Neto] has heart, he has grit, he has everything we need,” Beal said. “He can shoot the leather off the ball which is what I love about him too.”

Neto isn’t the solution to all of Washington’s problems — of which, there are many — but there’s no denying the impact he’s had, even in his short time with the team. With the turnaround he’s seen, Neto has not only proven that he belongs in the NBA, but that he can serve as a solid veteran spot-starter or bench piece. Not just for a Washington team that can use just about anyone right now, either, but for any team looking for a consistent shooter and leader on the court.

“It’s easy when you have teammates like we do,” Neto said following a preseason game. “I’m just trying to work hard and play the right way. I think we have improved…we’re still going to get better.”

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Point-Counter Point: Where Should The NBA Expand?

For the first time since 2004 when the NBA allowed Charlotte to have a second go at a franchise, the NBA is seriously entertaining the idea of expansion. The NBA, like many businesses, has seen its revenue ravaged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and could look to monetize new markets as a means to recover some of those losses, the burning question remains, where to expand?

Basketball Insiders



From time to time there are things that surface in the NBA landscape that requires a little debate, we call that Point – Counter Point. We have asked two our of writers to dive into the topic of NBA expansion, which for the first time since 2004 when the NBA allowed Charlotte to have a second go at a franchise, the NBA is seriously entertaining the idea of expansion,

The NBA, like many businesses, has seen its revenue ravaged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and could look to monetize new markets as a means to recover some of those losses, the burning question remains, where to expand?

The most popular candidate among cities that haven’t been home to an NBA franchise previously is Las Vegas, whihc makes a ton of sense and has to be a heavy favorite if the NBA does expand.

The market and potential for revenue have long made sense from a financial perspective, but the stigma around ‘Sin City’ was an issue. Things have changed quickly, though, and professional sports and the public, in general, are much more accepting of sports gambling than in previous years.

The NHL was the first professional league to enter the market with the Las Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. The team won the Stanley Cup in their first year as an expansion team and have quickly become a popular team in the league.

The WNBA and NFL have since joined the NHL in Las Vegas with the Aces (WNBA) and LAs Vegas Raiders (NFL). The NBA could soon be joining them. Vegas is the 28th most populous city in the U.S. and generates a ton of traffic from all over the world. It just makes too much sense.

Another reason it’s only a matter of time is the NBA’s already established in the city as a league. For years the NBA Summer League has been held in the area and it has become quite a popular event. Many from the industry attend, from media to players.

Finally, Vegas has a home stadium ready to go in T-Mobile Arena.

London could be a huge move for the league and sports in general, but the timing isn’t right. Given the current circumstances in the world, London doesn’t seem as likely as other cities. That’s unfortunate, as it makes a ton of sense from the league’s perspective. Not only would it be the first NBA franchise to be based in Europe, but it would also beat the other major U.S. sports leagues in getting there.

The timing would be great too, as the league has a number of up-and-coming players from Europe. That’s caused an increase in popularity worldwide, so surely fans would be excited to get a team of their own.

Given the things that would have to be worked out to have a team playing so far from most of the league, it’s hard to imagine the NBA going through those obstacles on top of the global situation as of today. Patience will be key for London, but it’s one of the best options if things were different right now.

The last two cities that come to mind in terms of contending cities are Mexico City and Louisville. While the NBA would be wise to wait to expand overseas, Mexico City could be a great option. There’s an untapped market south of the U.S. border and it would be much easier to add to the league in short order than somewhere in Europe.

Louisville makes sense as well as a city that offers a market not being maximized by the league. It’s a great basketball city for college hoops, as is the state of Kentucky in general. Residents would buy in right away and it may offer the most loyal fanbase the NBA can establish in little time.

– Garrett Brook

The city that immediately comes to mind when thinking of expansion in the NBA Is Seattle. Home to the SuperSonics from 1967-2008, the team was a staple of the city before being bought in 2006 and subsequently moved to Oklahoma City two years later.

The SuperSonics had a lot of success in Seattle during their 41-year stint, making the playoffs 22 times, the NBA Finals three times and taking home one NBA Championship in 1979. The SuperSonics have maintained national relevance since their departure.

In a poll done by the Herald Net at the beginning of the year, 48 percent of responders said it was “very important” to bring the SuperSonics back to Seattle. In a Twitter poll done by a journalist at the same newspaper, 77 percent of respondents said that it was “very important” to bring the SuperSonics back. And, because the NHL is expanding to Seattle, the city is currently building a brand new $930 million stadium.

One of the primary reasons the team pulled out of Seattle in the first place was because the team wanted a new stadium, and the city refused to invest the money necessary to build one. All of this packaged together with Seattle’s rapid growth as a city, over 400,000 people have moved to the Seattle metro area since the SuperSonics left, which means if the NBA decides to expand, don’t be surprised if Seattle is the immediate favorite.

Another city that comes to mind when speaking of expansion is Vancouver, the former home of the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Vancouver Grizzlies didn’t have much success in their six seasons, thanks mainly to poor management in the front office. If given a more successful team, Vancouver could play host to an NBA team yet again.

Attendance started in the middle part of the league in the Grizzlies opening couple of seasons in the NBA, showing that there is interest in basketball in the area, but as the team continued to struggle year after year, they slipped to the back half of the league.

Another reason cited for the Grizzlies’ departure from Vancouver was the value of the Canadian dollar at the time compared to American dollars; that is less of an issue now as the Canadian dollar has become much closer in value to the American dollar over the last 20 years. It stands to reason that a good team would draw more interest than it did in their first run in the city, especially with the sport of basketball growing in Canada as a whole.

If the NBA wants a team further east, Pittsburgh is a city with a passionate group of sports fans that would almost certainly rally around a team were they to have success early on. Pittsburgh features successful franchises in the NHL, NFL and MLB, so it stands to reason an NBA franchise would succeed in the city as well. There would also be no worries over having to build a stadium in Pittsburgh since the Penguins stadium, PPG Paints Arena, has a capacity of 19,758, which is more than the average capacity for an NBA arena.

Kansas City is another place that has a lot of basketball history, even if it was over 35 years ago. The Sacramento Kings were initially located in Kansas City from 1972-1985 and even made the Western Conference Finals in the 1980-81 season with a team that featured former Wizards’ general manager Ernie Grunfeld. Kansas City did struggle with attendance during that period, but since 1985 the city of Kansas City has grown quite a lot, with the city’s population going from 1.15 million in 1985 to nearly 1.7 million at the start of 2021. Plus, the success of the Chiefs and Royals have both had in the city in recent years – both have won championships in the last 10 years – indicates that an NBA franchise would have the ability to succeed there as well.

– Zach Dupont

EDITORIAL NOTE: While the NBA is exploring the viability of expansion, there is no timeline currently being discussed. Obviously, with the current state of the pandemic, NBA expansion is not going to happen soon, but as the world normalizes in a post-vaccine world, expansion seems more likely in the NBA than it has in almost two decades, so expect to hear more about this topic.

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