I’ve given you my new iteration of the divisional drawings for the NBA, and redrawn and renamed SouthWest conference, so now its time for the breakdown of the NorthEast conference.
Let’s start with the farthest North group.
This may seem like a cop out division, comparing this with the divisions in place now, there is only one difference: Cleveland. It tough to redraw a division when the teams are so close to one another.
As I’ve mentioned previously in this series, I wanted to split up teams in the same city. I like the Major League Baseball model, putting teams in the same city in different leagues or divisions. This gives the city a chance to have both teams in championships, while also creating a split fan base and rivalries.
In this case, Brooklyn got the boot. Brooklyn is the new kid on the block after their move from New Jersey without a real legacy yet. There were some fun moments when the team was in New Jersey, but there has never really been anything to tie the team to the Knicks or Celtics.
The new division has a nice taste of old and new as well. The Celtics and Knicks have a long history of dominating a large market with a storied past of success. Philadelphia has been in the NBA spotlight with legends on their roster in years past. The contrast is the Toronto Raptors. It feels funny to call the Raptors and international expansion when the team is so close in proximity but also a city that is similar to that of a U.S. city.
But Toronto is a nice story to continue the boom of the NBA in recent years. Starting in 1995 with the sister team in Vancouver, they have been able to establish a strong basketball culture, something the Vancouver team wasn’t able to accomplish. Ironically, Toronto, with its famed “We the North” campaign, has successfully competed with the large markets so close to them like Boston and New York.
Cleveland has a tall task in this new division, competing with four teams in the top 13 of NBA markets and three in the top seven. Cleveland falls into this mix simply because of the way the other two divisions are drawn in the new scheme, but find itself separated from the other Mid-Western opponents. Which leads to me to my next division…
Great Lakes Division
This division is one of three that includes a team from the other conference as they are drawn now. Out goes Cleveland and the new Great Lakes division welcomes the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Full of teams that are often overshadowed by their cities’ NFL franchises, this division boasts a healthy balance of large, mid-sized, and small markets. Anchored by Chicago, a team with basketball history that doesn’t even have to be discussed, and the Pacers who are located in the middle of the mecca of U.S. fundamental basketball, the division could be the most competitive over the long term.
Detroit has a 30 for 30 about their recent history, while Minnesota seems to be haunted by the lack of an identity for basically the entirety of its existence, the teams in this division have all had ups and downs. Each team continues to have a nice balance of travel, by boat is they choose, and all are located in the region of the country where no one can predict the weather.
And finally, the moment we have all been waiting for: the last division that contains our beloved, and newly rebranded, Grizzlies.
I know, I know, there is nothing South(ern) about Brooklyn, and you’re right. But if you look on the map, these teams all fall at the southern end of the NorthEast conference, plus Memphis, Atlanta, and Charlotte, are very much southern in every way.
Memphis finally gets to enjoy the comfort of competing against teams in the same half of the country, while also expanding the horizons to the north a bit. This division is perhaps the most diverse division created, including a current Western conference team, an Atlantic division team, and three teams that fall into an East Coast no-man’s land.
Again, there is a balance of small-market, arguably the smallest in Memphis, and very large in New York City. Basketball cultures are different, but competitive in their own way, and each team is still looking to establish their own identity.
The South division is the group full of change, from relocations like Vancouver to Memphis and Newark to Brooklyn, to rebrands like the Atlanta Hawk abysmal addition of lime green in the color scheme and the Charlotte name-steal from NOLA, each team has to re-establish a brand identity in recent years.
The cultures are very different, the markets sizes vary heavily, and the teams are somewhat unfamiliar to one another. This new division looks to be a nice reset button for the Grizzlies.
With the NBA consistently hinting at expansion, perhaps its time that the commissioners considers what redrawing the NBA looks like. Adding teams is always a fun project, but when it comes to balance in the NBA, redrawing conference and divisional lines could be an easy solution.