Adam Silver Talks Expansion, Two-Day Draft, More

Appearing on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Tuesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed that the league intends to seriously weigh the possibility of expansion once it completes its next media rights deal.

“Our current national deals with ABC, ESPN, and TNT go through the end of next season. And the reason we wanted to get those deals done, no secret, is we want to have a better understanding of what the economics would be going forward,” Silver explained (Twitter link via Keith Smith of Spotrac). “If you’re dividing up your national or international television money by 30 teams, that’s one check that you’re writing the teams. If it’s by – let’s say we expand by two teams – 32 teams, that’s a different one. And so you want to understand what the economics are you’d be delivering to new teams that came into the league.

“We’ll see what the timing is on those national television agreements. We don’t have to wait until the end of (next) season to get those done, but once we do, we’ll turn back to expansion.”

Silver has put off the topic of expansion for years in the hopes of finalizing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement – which got done earlier this year – and a new media rights deal. He also admitted that he feels more comfortable about the level of talent around the league now — and more confident that adding new teams to the mix wouldn’t dilute the level of competition.

“I think that had we expanded back a number of years ago, I think we may have seen more dilution,” Silver said. “I think now when you think of the global pool of players – as we move towards 30% of NBA players who were born outside the United States, including obviously some of our very best players in the league – I think that the timing will work out when we’re done with our media deals and we start looking to expand. I think we could potentially add two more teams to this league that could be very competitive.”

As for which cities might be the frontrunners to get expansion teams? Silver didn’t explicitly identify Las Vegas and Seattle as the favorites, but he did confirm they’ll be among the markets that receive serious consideration from the NBA.

“I made no secret out of it, Las Vegas is one of those markets we’re going to look to. I know that the fans in Seattle have wanted us to get back there forever,” Silver said. “No commitments to anyone, but we’ll certainly be looking at those two markets.”

Here’s more from Silver’s SiriusXM appearance:

  • After a report last month stated that the NBA is mulling turning its annual draft into a two-day event, Silver confirmed on Tuesday that the idea is under serious consideration, adding that the league just needs to work through the specifics with its broadcast partners and the players’ union (Twitter video link). “The talent goes so deep now and the interest is so great (that), to me, both rounds deserve prime time,” Silver said. “… To me it essentially seems like a no-brainer. … I’m hoping to get there, actually, for this season, for this June, and move the second round to its own night.”
  • Assuming the NBA does add a second night to the draft, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link) believes the event would take place on a Wednesday and Thursday, rather than a Thursday and Friday.
  • Asked about the incident in which Gregg Popovich grabbed a microphone during a Spurs game to ask the home crowd to stop booing Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Silver called it a “unique” situation that didn’t require any action or response from the league, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).
  • Silver doesn’t want to draw any conclusions about the league’s first in-season tournament until after this week’s final four in Las Vegas, but has been encouraged by what he’s seen so far from the event. “So far, so good,” he said (Twitter video link).
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