For the first time in his career, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has mentioned the possibility of expansion. Since 2004, when the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) were created, the NBA's 30-team league has not acquired a new club. Prior to then, the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies joined the league in 1995. Before that, the NBA was only as strong as its weakest franchise.
The current collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players expires after the 2017-18 season. If no new deal is reached before then, there will be a moratorium on additions for a period of time. It is possible that one or more teams could relocate if adequate financial compensation cannot be agreed upon by the parties involved.
The Atlanta Hawks are the only team that does not play in a metropolitan area of 100,000 people or more. The New Orleans Pelicans are the only team that does not play in a state. The Milwaukee Bucks are the only team that does not play in Wisconsin. The Brooklyn Nets are the only team that does not play in New York City.
The Denver Nuggets are the only team that has never been to the NBA Finals. They have missed the playoffs only twice - 1996 and 1997 - since being founded in 1967. Both times they emerged from what was then known as the ABA as champions.
The San Antonio Spurs are the most successful team in NBA history.
The Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat were the most recent examples of NBA expansion, followed by the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic in 1989, the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies in 1995 (who relocated to Memphis in 2001), and the New Orleans Pelicans in 2002. The Washington Wizards are the only current NBA team that has not integrated.
In 1962, the Baltimore Bullets became the first National Basketball Association (NBA) team to integrate, when they drafted Jewish player Israel "Izzy" Steinberg in the first round (third overall). That same year, the Boston Celtics chose Irish Catholic player John Havlicek with their third-overall pick. Both players agreed to terms with their respective teams but never played for them due to racial divisions within the league at the time. In 1978, the San Antonio Spurs took a chance on a young Hispanic player from Puerto Rico named David Robinson, who had just finished his college career at California University.
Robinson went on to become one of the best centers in NBA history. Through 2010, he is ranked fourth all-time in blocks per game with 2.91 spg. The current leader is Shaquille O'Neal with 3.0 spg.
After the Bullets integrated, no other NBA team has done so. However, the WNBA began operations in 1996, an NBA franchise has integrated twice before.
It's commonly assumed that the NBA would grow for the first time since reaching 30 clubs in 2004, partially to make up for losses from the epidemic. The idea behind expansion is simple: current owners agree to split future earnings among new teams in exchange for an immediate financial influx. The NBA has announced its intention to add a 32nd team for 2017-18.
The NBA has expanded once before, in 2001 when the Charlotte Hornets joined the league. The original six teams were divided into two divisions of three teams each; the eighth and ninth seeds played a best-of-five series called the Conference Semifinals. In 2002, the format was changed to have four teams advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and five teams play in the Western Conference Finals.
The current playoff structure was adopted in 2007, just months after the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City. That means that every season except one since 2002 has had exactly 12 teams competing for the championship.
It's possible that with 12 teams, the playoffs wouldn't be enough for everyone involved. There would still be room for more than 14 games if both the East and West champions advanced to the Finals. But since the regular season would need to be lengthened, it's likely that 16 teams will make the postseason each year.
When all is said and done, will the NBA have expanded? It's unlikely.