Imagine if, as in soccer leagues around the world, the very worst N.B.A. teams were relegated to a lower league the following season.
...The annual and unsavory spectacle in which losing teams dump good players late in the season would come to an end. Teams instead would constantly beat the bushes to improve themselves while keeping a wary eye on those behind them in the standings.
From a fan’s perspective, the conclusion of the regular season would improve immeasurably, as European soccer leagues demonstrate every year.
There is no reason that there could not be 100 thriving professional basketball teams in the country — if those teams had the carrot of a real chance of promotion to the N.B.A. someday.
Would not Seattle support such a team? Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Pittsburgh? Couldn’t Chicago have more than one team, and New York and Los Angeles more than two?
...And this system might curtail cities’ practice of handing out huge tax breaks and free arenas to teams for fear of their leaving town. If a team did try to leave, a local entrepreneur could simply start up a new one. If fans turned out, the money would be there to climb up the leagues and get the city its N.B.A. status back in a few years.