But league officials think an Oklahoma City team can work in the Northwest Division. Although Seattle is much closer to Portland and Salt Lake City than Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City is much closer to Denver and Minnesota than Seattle. So, in effect, keeping the team in its current division would offset distance issues.
From a competitive standpoint, division placement only marginally matters. NBA teams play divisional opponents four times apiece (two home games/two away games) and other in-conference opponents three or four times each. Teams play non-conference opponents twice each season (one home game/one road game).
The NBA does, however, place importance on division winners, rewarding those teams with an automatic top four seed.
Utah, for example, finished as this season's fourth seed despite Houston and Phoenix finishing with a better record. The No. 5-seeded Rockets, however, hold home-court advantage over the Jazz in the playoffs.
That said, a Northwest Division placement could bode well for Oklahoma City's prospective team considering the heavyweights in the Southwest Division.
But, there's no telling if the NBA will tweak the current playoff system as some enthusiasts prefer — or when the balance of power will transfer from the Spurs, Rockets, Hornets and Mavericks to the up-and-coming Blazers, Wolves and already formidable Jazz and Nuggets.