Today is part two of my NBA divisional realignment series. You can check out part 1 here, where I explain the rationale and method of redrawing the divisions.
I will round out the SouthWest conference with the final two divisions. First up:
This is a tough division to name, but “central” comes from the imaginary line that these teams draw right through states in the middle region of the country. These NBA franchises will cover a lot of miles throughout the NBA season - LA is a comfortable 1,400 miles away from Dallas.
An interesting part of this division is that it includes teams from all three current Western Conference divisions. Most importantly, it moves the Minnesota Timberwolves out, who is currently in the same division as the Portland Trailblazers. The Northwest division currently aligned in the NBA is a very expansive division, this new alignment cuts the distance between teams significantly.
As mentioned in part one, I chose to split up the Los Angeles teams, put the Clippers in the new Central division. Putting the Clips in this division creates more travel for these teams, but splitting up teams in the same city gives the opportunity for a city to better host two playoff teams at the same time. Aside from LA (there’s always exceptions when drawing conference/division lines), the teams in the Central division are similar cultures and markets.
Three of the five markets are in the bottom half of the league: Denver, Salt Lake City, and Oklahoma City. Considering the dominance of the LA market by the Lakers, the Clippers could also be considered a smaller market. Dallas is an established franchise in a large market, a history of star players, and an owner that is very much invested in the team. The markets mirror each other, the cultures and fan bases are dedicated to the teams because of their small(ish) markets, and the teams are more centrally located to one another.
As for the last division of the SouthWest conference:
Gulf Coast Division
If you take a look at the map of these teams, these teams follow the gulf coastline from Texas to Florida. Yes, I am aware that Miami is actually located on the opposite side of Florida, but its close enough. These teams will definitely have scenic travels to one other.
This is the first realignment to include teams from both current conferences. Miami and Orlando are bother in the Eastern Conference and now are being shifted into a division with three Western Conference teams. The newly created Gulf Coast division includes teams from three current divisions, create a whole new level of competition within this new division.
Aside from including teams from the two conferences, there is a nice balance of markets within these five teams. These teams hold markets that make up the middle part of the ranks within current NBA teams, New Orleans rounding out the bottom of the list just below our beloved Memphis Grizzlies.
An interesting part of this division is that there are contradicting basketball cultures; look at the Spurs, all business all the time, its almost as if the team doesn’t have fun playing basketball. Then there is the Rockets, who have been known to play up-tempo and more relaxed. There are also two teams that are still establishing a substantial culture: Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans. NBA basketball has a rocky history in both of those cities who are working hard to not only overcome the small market, but establish themselves in NBA relevancy.
These two divisions wrap up the SouthWest conference. The imaginary line from Jacksonville to Seattle will be crossed in the introduction of the NorthEast divisions. Continue to check back here at GBB for the final three divisions. As I have drawn them, below is the three divisions already discussed.
Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks
San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat