NBA: Could 2016 TV Deal Fuel Expansion, Realignment And Stronger Rivalries?

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October 13, 2012; Louisville, KY, USA; A general view of the KFC YUM! Center before the Louisville Cardinals red-white basketball scrimmage. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

October 13, 2012; Louisville, KY, USA; A general view of the KFC YUM! Center before the Louisville Cardinals red-white basketball scrimmage. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

While an expected new national television contract for the NBA is still two years away, team owners, players, the media and fans are already discussing how an anticipated revenue windfall from such a deal might reshape the league.

Some are expecting team salary caps — which rose 7.5 percent since last year, to an all-time high of $63.065 million for the upcoming 2014-15 season, to jump to about $80 million per team before the 2016-17 campaign, as new TV money rolls in.

Others have reported that the NBA wants to avoid such a sharp spike in favor a more gradual projected salary cap increase over several years (however, doing so might cause owners to defer potential additional money rather than accept it sooner).

In any case, the league, its owners and players are all likely to become richer. It’s why the NBA’s best player (and one of its shrewdest businessmen), LeBron James, only signed a two-year deal with his original club after deciding to leave the Miami Heat and return home to the Cleveland Cavaliers last month.

But new TV income could have a great impact beyond its possible effect on player salaries and movement between teams, or on clubs’ abilities to retain their star players.

It could also lead to growing and restructuring the league.

Expansion – specifically in cities like Seattle and Louisville – has been hinted at for a while, and even more so since the talk of an impending 2016 TV deal.

Understandably, there would be no better time for the league to add a couple of new teams as when it takes a significant leap financially. And if the NBA does grow from its present 30 teams to 32, it could also use that opportunity to realign, which in turn, could foster some stronger existing rivalries while creating new ones.

So as long as we’re hypothesizing about things that may not take place for another two years, let’s have some fun and look at why Seattle and Louisville might be great destinations in which the NBA could expand its reach, and what the league might look like in both an existing NFL-style divisional format, and in another one that might work even better.

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