The NBA could expand to Vegas next year

Jay Bloom, who has suddenly thrust himself into the spotlight as a possible owner for an NBA team in Vegas, thinks the NBA could look into expansion as early as 2022. 

“Everyone at the league is being very tight-lipped about this,” Bloom told the Review Journal. “It is an unknown, but we hope next year, maybe we will see the league come to a decision.”

The NBA’s desire to expand may have been sped up by the pandemic. With little to no crowds during last year’s playoffs and this regular season, NBA teams failed to bring their usual revenue. 

For comparison, The Athletic estimated that the NHL missed out on $3.6 billion in revenue due to the pandemic. The NBA could have conceivably missed out on even more. 

Expanding would be a quick way to make up for it. Brian Windhorst reported that the expansion fee could be $2.5 billion. (Adam Silver has called that estimate low.)

But with two expansion teams, an additional $5 billion (or more) would be split among the current 30 owners. The pandemic related downturn in revenue could be eliminated. 

All of that makes 2022 seems far away. 

Back in February, Silver mentioned that the NBA was more focused on finishing the current season than expanding.  

“It remains on the back burner and it would not be appropriate to expand right now, given where our focus is on trying to work through this season. All our attention is on getting the business back to being fully operable as quickly as possible,” Silver told the AP. 

But now that the playoffs are here and crowds are resuming (and likely on track for 100 percent capacity for every team next season). The NBA is very close to be fully operable.

Which would allow items on the back burner to be pulled forward once the season ends. 

Now the NBA’s expansion process might draw out into 2022 and beyond. They may simply announce (privately or publicly) that they are looking to expand and start exploring which cities and ownership groups they like the best. 

But if the NBA is expanding to cover pandemic related downturns in revenue, then it makes sense to add teams (and their expansion fees) as quickly as possible. 

Expansion is not the only avenue Bloom says he explored. He told the Review Journal he was interested in purchasing the Timberwolves and relocating them to Vegas. A group led by Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez purchased the Timberwolves last month. While they could relocate the team to Seattle or Vegas, expansion makes more sense for the NBA thanks to the expansion fees. 

Assuming the NBA does expand, Bloom thinks Vegas is in great shape, even if he isn’t the eventual owner. 

“I think it’s more likely than not that we’ll get a team in Las Vegas,” Bloom said, “and I hope my group gets it.”

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