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What are the 6 NBA divisions?

Divisions are frequently neglected in the NBA. People always pay more attention to the Eastern and Western Conferences and have little idea that divisions play a major role in determining the schedule and matches of teams.

What are the 6 NBA divisions? There are 6 Divisions in the NBA. Currently the 30 NBA teams are split into 2 conferences, with 3 Divisions in each conference. The 15 Eastern Conference teams are split into the following 3 Divisions; Atlantic, Central, and Southeast. The 15 Western Conference Teams are split into the following 3 Divisions; Northwest, Pacific, and Southwest. There are 5 teams in each NBA Division.

For ease of reference we have put all the NBA Teams and their respective NBA Divisions and NBA Conferences in a table below:

NBA TeamNBA DivisionNBA Conference
Boston CelticsAtlantic DivisionEastern Conference
Brooklyn NetsAtlantic DivisionEastern Conference
New York KnicksAtlantic DivisionEastern Conference
Philidelphia 76rsAtlantic DivisionEastern Conference
Toronto RaptorsAtlantic DivisionEastern Conference
Chicago BullsCentral DivisionEastern Conference
Cleveland CavaliersCentral DivisionEastern Conference
Detriot PistonsCentral DivisionEastern Conference
Indiana PacersCentral DivisionEastern Conference
Milwaulke BucksCentral DivisionEastern Conference
Denver NuggetsNorthwest DivisionWestern Conference
Minnestoa TimberwolvesNorthwest DivisionWestern Conference
Oklahoma City ThunderNorthwest DivisionWestern Conference
Portland TrailblazersNorthwest DivisionWestern Conference
Utah JazzNorthwest DivisionWestern Conference
Golden State WarriorsPacific DivisionWestern Conference
LA ClippersPacific DivisionWestern Conference
Los Angeles LakersPacific DivisionWestern Conference
Phoenix SunsPacific DivisionWestern Conference
Sacramento KingsPacific DivisionWestern Conference
Atlanta HawksSoutheast DivisionEastern Conference
Charotte HornetsSoutheast DivisionEastern Conference
Miami HeatSoutheast DivisionEastern Conference
Orlando MagicSoutheast DivisionEastern Conference
Washington WizardsSoutheast DivisionEastern Conference
Dallas MavericksSouthwest DivisionWestern Conference
Houston RocketsSouthwest DivisionWestern Conference
Memphis GrizzliesSouthwest DivisionWestern Conference
New Orleans PelicansSouthwest DivisionWestern Conference
San Antonio SpursSouthwest DivisionWestern Conference

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Winning a particular division is not as massively celebrated as winning a specific conference, but it is always motivating to beat other, “local” teams and clinch the first available title of the season. In this article, we will talk more about each NBA Division and how they formed. 

Why are there NBA Divisions?

The purpose of NBA Divisions is to group teams geographically, due to the shear size of the territory the NBA covers. NBA teams will play teams from their own Division 4 times each, 2 road and 2 home. This totals just 16 of their total 82 game schedule. They will then play against the remaining 10 teams from their conference wither 3 or 4 times. Accounting for 36 games in total. The remaining 30 games are played against the teams from the opposing NBA Conference, Home & Road vs each of the 15 teams.

An NBA teams schedule is composed of the following games:

  • 16 NBA Division Games
  • 36 NBA Conference Games
  • 30 Games vs Opposing NBA Conference
  • 82 Regular Season Games Total

Eastern Conference

The Eastern Conference is divided into 3 divisions that are:

  • Atlantic
  • Central
  • Southeast

Let’s review each of them and the teams that are playing against each other.

Atlantic Division

There are 5 teams in the Atlantic Division. The Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks. They compete in the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

The Division system has been around since the inception of the NBA in the 1940’s. The Atlantic Division was formed in 1970, originally consisting of the Celtics, Knicks, 76ers and the now defunct Buffalo Braves.

Central Division 

In the Central Division, there are the following teams: the Detroit Pistons, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Indiana Pacers, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls. They compete in the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

The Division system has been around since the inception of the NBA in the 1940’s. The Central Division was re-formed in 1970 (having previously existed for the 1949-50 season) consisting of 4 teams; The Atlanta Hawks, Baltimore Bullets, Cincinnati Royals and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The majority of these teams moved over from the now defunct Midwest Division as the NBA expanded to 17 teams, from 14 and split into East and Western conferences.

Southeast Division

The Southeast Division has the following teams: the Atlanta Hawks, the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat, the Charlotte Hornets and the Washington Wizards. They compete in the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

The Division system has been around since the inception of the NBA in the 1940’s. The Southeast Division was formed in 2004, when the league expanded to its current 30 team size. The Southeast Division originally consisted of 5 teams; The Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and The Washington Wizards. The Bobcats were the new addition to the NBA, 3 teams came from the Atlantic Division, while the Hawks moved over from the Central Division.

Western Conference 

As we have talked about the Eastern Conference, now we should move to its counterpart out West where the 3 divisions are:

Northwest Division

In the Northwest Division, we can witness the following teams: the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. They compete in the Western Conference of the NBA.

The Division system has been around since the inception of the NBA in the 1940’s. The Northwest Division was formed in 2004 originally consisting of 5 teams; Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Seattle Supersonics, Portland Trail Blazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Pacific Division 

The Pacific Division contains the following 5 teams: the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Golden State Warriors, the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns. They compete in the Western Conference of the NBA.

The Division system has been around since the inception of the NBA in the 1940’s. The Pacific Division was formed in 1970 originally consisting of The LA Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, San Diego Rockets, San Francisco Warriors and The Seattle SuperSonics.

Southwest Division

In the Southwest Division, there are the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks, the Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Pelicans. The latter 2 were the latest to join the division after relocating from other cities. They compete in the Western Conference of the NBA.

The Division system has been around since the inception of the NBA in the 1940’s. The Southwest Division was formed in 2004 when the NBA expanded to its current 30 teams. The Southwest Division originally consisted of 5 teams; The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Hornets and the San Antonio Spurs.

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What does “Clinched Division” mean in the NBA?

When a team is listed as having clinched their Division, it means thet have won enough games vs their Division rivals that they will finish the season with the best record in the division, even if they lose all their remaining games.

Does winning a Division mean anything in the NBA?

When a team wins their Division they get a banner from the NBA and are recognised in the history books as the winners of the Division that season. Although most teams choose not to hang the banner, it’s still a good accolade to have as it usually means you have had a strong regular season and are in a good Playoff spot.

Prior to the 2015-16 NBA season the Division winner was guaranteed a top 4 seed in their Conference Playoffs, regardless of overall record and standing. This rule was abolished to start the 2015-16 season, although looking back it’s impact was fairly minimal.

Below is a list of teams that benefitted from being guaranteed a top 4 seed for winning their Division since 2000.

  • Utah Jazz in 2000
  • Sacramento Kings in 2003
  • New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Lakers in 2004
  • Seattle SuperSonics and Boston Celtics in 2005
  • Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and New Jersey Nets in 2006
  • Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat and Utah Jazz in 2007
  • Utah Jazz in 2008
  • Boston Celtics in 2012
  • Portland Trail Blazers 2015

All these teams listed would not have had home court advnatage in the Playoffs after the rule was abolished by the NBA.

No, winning a Division doesn’t mean anything in the modern NBA, since the start of the 2015-16 season.

When did the NBA get rid of Divisions?

This is a misunderstanding that has occured since the rule changes discussed above. To start the 2015-16 season the NBA changed a rule, so that Division winners were no longer guaranteed a top 4 seed and home court advantage. This was by far the biggest benefit of winning your Division, since the rule change, Divisions really only exist for the purposes of schedule making.

How would an expansion affect the divisions? 

There have been frequent discussions about expansion in the NBA, which basically means adding more teams in each Conference. If such a thing ever happens, we will likely get 4 divisions instead of 3. There is also an idea that the divisions could mix with each conference but so far no official statements have been made. In a nutshell, an expansion would significantly impact the current status and structure of divisions. Potentially even seeing them erased entirely.

NBA Divisions Map

Have you ever wondered how the NBA Divisions are split on a map across North America? We have looked into this and put together an NBA Divisions Map below. The map highlights how the divisions are split between the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference, as well as geographically. At a quick glance you can see that the North West Division, Pacific Division and South West Division belong to the Western Conference. The Atlantic Division, Central Division and South East Divisions belong to the Eastern Conference.

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