NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been in talks with the City of Seattle, and that means a possible expansion Seattle franchise is on the way.
But what does that mean for you as a gambler?
Often, teams with such long futures odds are often popular bets to win their division, secure a high playoff seed, and perhaps even appear in the NBA Finals.
Has this ever happened during the modern era of professional basketball?
So, unless the Harlem Globetrotters announce that they’re finished barnstorming and joining the NBA, a bet on a possible new franchise in Seattle is more murky than anything else. Sure, it’s fun to dream and think about.
But is it worth the bet?
Maybe if you have a few extra bucks lying around.
Today’s post will show you what you need to know to bet on the NBA with this expansion franchise.
NBA Expansion Franchises Historically Struggle
Let’s go back to 1970, when the Cleveland Cavaliers joined the NBA, and it took them six years just to have a winning record and make the playoffs. The 1975-76 season was also the first year they won the Central division and the last time until the LeBron James era.
The Charlotte Hornets won 20 and 19 games, respectively, during their first two seasons combined in the league and didn’t earn a playoff berth until the 1992-93 season. This was five years after their founding in 1988.
When the Hornets re-emerged as the Bobcats (an expansion franchise at the time) in the 2004-05 NBA Season, they didn’t make the playoffs until their sixth season. They never won a playoff series as the Bobcats and never won over 44 games before rebranding back to the Hornets in 2014.
Founded in 1988, the Miami Heat also struggled on the court, having not placed better than eighth in the Eastern Conference. They never won a playoff series until the 1996-97 NBA season.
The Orlando Magic didn’t finish with a 500 record until their fourth season and was not a relevant franchise until their fifth season in 1992-93.
The Toronto Raptors were founded in 1995 along with the Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies. The Raptors didn’t make the playoffs until their fifth season. The Grizzlies flamed out in Vancouver given their poor play, having attracted little interest in the area, and they didn’t make the playoffs until after the move.
You can go throughout the Western Conference and find the same common denominator. No relevancy for any of the teams and the Dallas Mavericks became the first to win a playoff series in the 1983-84 season, their fourth in the league.
Note, that this list does NOT contain teams who migrated to or merged with the NBA years after their founding, such as the Indiana Pacers. Also, the New Orleans Pelicans are now considered having been founded in 2002. But they are the original incarnation of the Charlotte Hornets.
Learn From History, But…
The NBA, like the NHL, would like to strike a happy medium. Obviously, no NHL franchise succeeded in their expansion run quite like the Vegas Golden Knights, who went to the Stanley Cup Final after winning the Pacific Division.
But the NBA has yet to see an expansion franchise reach such expectations. Let’s assume a team returns to Seattle, who we’ll call the Sonics (what else would they call them?) in time for the 2023-24 NBA Season.
Will the NBA give them a wider pool of players to choose from in an expansion draft?
If they do, you may find the Sonics are more competitive. But if they don’t, expect the Sonics to repeat history and expect them to be bad anywhere between their first three to six years as a new franchise.
I’ll never tell you who to and who not to bet on. But if you’re more conservative, it’s smart to stay away from thinking a team like this will overachieve unless you’re betting the under. But ultimately, it’s your call to make.
Perhaps the NBA will adjust the expansion draft and even the NBA Draft?
Maybe the expansion franchise would get the first pick in the Draft as opposed to the best odds to win the lottery? Maybe the NBA will force existing franchises to protect fewer players from the new Sonics to select?
If so, the new team may have a chance.
Expect a Second Expansion Franchise
If the NBA expands, the number of teams will rest at 31 instead of an even 32, forcing at least one team to take a night off from play.
So, expect a potential second franchise to start play either the same year or a year after.
If a second franchise will start play the same season, expect the following to occur:
- One team will pick first in the NBA Expansion Draft and the other, the NBA Draft.
- Expect fewer protected players in the NBA to fill up the rosters, but expect the talent pool to be limited just like when the Grizzlies and Raptors joined the NBA, or the Heat and Hornets.
If the Destroyers enter the league during the 2024-25 season, expect the Sonics to be exempt from the NBA Expansion Draft, meaning the Destroyers cannot select any existing player from the Sonics. Much in the same way, the NHL’s Seattle Kraken cannot select anyone from the Vegas Golden Knights.
Either way, expect a second expansion franchise, either in Columbus, Ohio, or another big metropolitan area. And if a second franchise joins the same time as the potential new Sonics franchise, expect a lower talent pool in the expansion draft and remember, only one can pick first in the NBA Draft.
The Odds Will Stack Against Seattle
The four major North American sports leagues are copycat entities. The NFL, MLB, and NBA saw what the Golden Knights did to the NHL. And back in 1996, they saw what the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars did to them.
It made the product look inferior, and while the league will want the new Sonics franchise to become competitive sooner than later, you must also remember that they want their teams to remain competitive and not look inferior to a new franchise.
Not that the new franchise will finish with a record like 15-67, or that they will post those abysmal records we know the Philadelphia 76ers for. But you can expect the league to do what they can to force the new Seattle team into mediocrity for at least a few seasons.
So, the potential new Seattle team will likely be in the lottery for the first pick in the NBA Draft. They will probably be among the four or five teams tied with the best odds. Expect harsher expansion draft rules in which the NBA will limit the number of players allowed from each team and maximize protected players.
The above will probably limit the new Seattle team, rendering them nothing more than a cheap bet at insurmountable odds. For example, going into the 2017-18 NHL season, the Vegas Golden Knights started the season as 500-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup.
So, yeah, a $5 bet will go a long way if the Sonics are in the same odds category and they end up winning the NBA Finals during their expansion season. But don’t expect it, because it has never happened during the modern era of the major North American sports leagues.
Also, expect long odds for the division and conference.
Ditto for any expansion brethren the Sonics may have.
What to Watch For
Continue to follow the developing stories regarding the possibility of a new Seattle expansion NBA franchise. The team has a new arena, a fan base that will get behind the team immediately, and it’s also a city that won an NBA Championship with the first incarnation of the franchise.
But don’t expect this team to compete out of the gate—especially if the NBA is taking lessons from the NHL. You’ll witness some growing pains. And if you’re the conservative sports bettor, they’re not a smart team to bet futures on unless you’re throwing away a few bucks that surely won’t break the bank.
We should know sooner than later if and when a new Seattle franchise is coming to town. There have been balks, but it may finally happen.
History isn’t on the side of expansion NBA teams. Often, these teams face long odds, and they disappoint bettors given their ineptitude during their first few seasons in the league. And it has remained a common denominator.
So, unless the NBA changes the expansion rules like the expansion draft, how long the team gets to prepare, etc., expect a few rough outings and only a solid futures bet for the under. Learn from the history of expansion NBA franchises.
What are your thoughts on the potential return of the Sonics as an expansion franchise? Do you think the NBA will give them some leniency, or do you believe they will go the same way as previous franchises? Let us know in the comments. We’re looking forward to reading your view.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …