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How many teams are in the NBA?

The first season of the National Basketball Association (NBA), which was founded in 1946, was contested by 11 teams. Since then, the number of participants in the league has constantly expanded. Many teams were added and many have moved locations, changed names or become defunct. 

How many teams are in the NBA? The NBA consists of 30 teams. 29 NBA teams are based in the USA and 1, the Raptors, are based in Toronto, Canada. The NBA is split into the Western and the Eastern Conferences and these 30 teams are evenly divided between them. These Conferences are split into 3 Divisions each. The last team to be added by expansion happened in 2004, when the now renamed and relocated Charlotte Bobcats entered the league. We can take them to be the modern day New Orleans Pelicans for the purposes of the NBA moving from 29 to 30 teams. There are no current plans to add new teams.

Now as you know how many teams are in the best basketball league in the world, let’s have a look at how they are divided into divisions and other details.

How are the Teams Sorted?

The NBA is an elite league with a lot of big stars. Compared to any other championship, basketball players in the NBA earn millions of dollars a year, because this sport, along with baseball and American football, is the most popular in the United States of America.

According to their geographical location, NBA clubs are divided into conferences – Western and Eastern. Each of them includes 3 divisions: Pacific, North-West and South-West (belong to Western), Central, South-East and Atlantic (belong to East). This classification was introduced in the 2004-2005 NBA season and is still in use today.

NBA Eastern Conference Teams

Here is the structure of the Eastern Conference:

Atlantic Division: Toronto Raptors (the only team from Canada), Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics.

Central Division: Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers.

Southeast Division: Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards.

Western Conference NBA Teams

Below you will find the structure for the Western Conference:

Northwest Division: Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves.

Pacific Division: Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors.

Southwest Division: Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies.

Most Titled Teams & Defunct Franchises

The most titled teams in the NBA regular season are the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. They also have the most championships compared to other franchises and in 2020, the Lakers won their 17th championship, led by Lebron James and Anthony Davis.

Throughout the years, numerous teams have appeared and disappeared in the NBA. Some of them changed their names or relocated to other cities. This is a complex event that usually does not take place too frequently and was more common during the initial period, when franchises were less established. This is how we have the Jazz based in Utah (formerly New Orleans) and the Lakers based in Los Angeles – known for its desserts (formerly Minneapolis – known for its Lakes)

Structure of the Season

As we are talking about the teams in the NBA, it is vital to explore the structure of the season, which is not difficult to understand. The NBA is conservative and tries not to change the rules unnecessarily. First of all, this concerns the system of the season. This regulation has not changed for a long time – since 1968. And this is despite the fact that the number of teams in the NBA periodically increases.

The season starts with the regular season. All teams play the same number of games. Each team plays 4 matches with the clubs of its conference (two home matches and two away). The remaining games are played with clubs representing another conference. Here the number of matches with each of the teams can be different. With some clubs, 2 matches are played, with others – 3. It all depends on how the calendar is compiled, which is generated automatically using a special program.

At the end of the regular season, the clubs that have scored more points in their division receive the title of regular-season champions and automatically advance to the playoffs. The rest of the conference teams distribute places among themselves depending on the difference in the number of wins and losses in the season. The top five clubs also advance to the second stage. As a result, 8 teams from each conference advance to the playoffs.

At this stage, the clubs are divided into pairs and play according to the Olympic system of a series of games up to 4 victories. Pairs are formed depending on the number of wins and losses in the season (the difference between them). At the same time, the team that took the first place in its conference in this parameter meets with the last, the 2nd – with the 7th, the 3rd plays with the 6th, and the 4th – with the 5th. In the next round, the winners of the pairs meet in the same way, and only the final takes place between clubs from different conferences.

As a rule, the regular season starts at the very end of October and ends in the second decade of April. But the playoffs can go until mid-June. However, the season of 2019/2020 was exceptional in many regards because of the coronavirus pandemic. First of all the season was curtailed and ended in October. 

Plans of Adding New Teams – Will It Become Reality?

We have mentioned several times in our article the possibility of adding new teams. The latest expansion happened in 2004 when the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) joined the NBA and since then the NBA has not added/removed any team. Numerous articles have been published about Seattle, San Diego and Las Vegas forming their own teams but at the present moment the plans remain strictly in the development process.