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How do expansion teams get players?

The NBA does not stand in one place. It develops and expands all the time in many aspects. While there were only 11 teams when the league was first created it got bigger, increasing the total amount to 30.

How do expansion teams get players? Expansion teams get new players from the expansion draft that takes specifically only in the case when a new team is added in the NBA. While the best players are “protected” by other teams, frequently new teams sign veteran or overpaid players.

Normally, expansion teams are not the main contenders for the title during their first years, as the development process takes some time. You need money, structure, formation mixed with each other. In this article, we will have a look at this topic thoroughly, as well as possible candidates for expansion in the future.

What was the last team to join the NBA ?

In 2004, the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) became the last team to join the NBA. In total there were 11 expansion drafts, and the most recent one happened when the Hornets started playing in the league. They got 19 players from 19 teams.

The expansion is usually driven by economics. More teams mean more viewership and it contributes a lot to the NBA’s income. Furthermore, having a new contender fighting for the title adds more interest and excitement to the league.


How many players do NBA teams protect in an expansion draft?

NBA teams can protect up to 8 players in an expansion draft. They should also choose one player who cannot become a free agent that summer. Of course, they protect the players who are considered to be leaders. They would not let prominent players go. At the same time, according to the NBA’s rules, no NBA team can lose more than one player in the expansion draft. Unrestricted free agents are also not eligible for taking part in the expansion draft.

What happens if 2 teams join at the same time?

If 2 teams become new members of the NBA simultaneously, then they flip a coin to decide which one of them would pick the players first. Otherwise, there are no real differences as they still have to follow the same requirements.

Do expansion teams get the first pick?

Most likely not. Other teams can compensate the protected players by giving expansion teams draft picks. There has been no case so far from the new team to have chosen the first pick in the NBA draft.

Who are the potential candidates for expansion?

The expansion has not taken place since 2014. The topic of NBA expansion comes up periodically every few months, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is adamant. He says that an increase in the number of teams can dilute the concentration of talented players. It has been mentioned that the expansion is unlikely to take place until 2025. However, we can mention several candidates if the league decides to expand. The first three cities are more realistic candidates.


Seattle-based NBA fans lost the team in 2008 and have been the first choice to expand or move the franchise ever since. The Kings practically moved here in 2013 and in 2015 the Bucks threatened to do the same.

However, location wars continue in Seattle. Billionaire Chris Nansen wants to build a basketball arena, and Tim Leiweke intends to rebuild the existing K-Arena for the NHL team. City Mayor Ed Murray supports the second option.

Mexico City

Mexico City is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. For this reason, Silver noted that in the future, this particular city could become part of the expansion of the NBA.

This is unlikely to happen soon. Economic issues aside, Mexico City has an astronomical crime rate. In the past, some NBA players have refused to play in Canada and how will they feel about the opportunity to play in Mexico?

Las Vegas

In 2016, a brand new T-Mobile Arena was opened in Paradise, which is adjacent to Las Vegas from the south. The exhibition games of the US national team and the NBA have already been held there. Las Vegas has long supported the basketball culture by hosting the Summer League and supporting the University of Nevada local team.

The NHL is challenging the NBA as it plans to move the team here in the next few years. With enough investors in the US, the Las Vegas market may already be occupied by the NHL team while the NBA starts planning expansion.

The next three cities can provide a platform for expansion in the longer term.

Kansas City

Kansas City opened a modern arena back in 2003. Since then, Sprint Center has been waiting for its professional team. But neither the NBA nor the NHL has yet taken steps to form a franchise in this city.


With the loss of franchises in Seattle and Vancouver, there is only one team left in the region – Portland. The third-largest city in Canada lost its team, the Grizzlies, in 2001 due to a lack of fan support. Since that time, Vancouver has grown significantly and now houses some of the most expensive real estate in the world.


A local adviser said back in 2017 that he was working to bring the NBA team to Kentucky’s largest city. Louisville has a rich history of college basketball (the Cardinals), but the city is probably too small for an NBA team.