Magic's Paolo Banchero Says NBA Expansion to Seattle 'Should Be Mandatory'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 30, 2022

Orlando Magic's Paolo Banchero brings the ball up against the Houston Rockets during the first half an NBA summer league basketball game Thursday, July 7, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Paolo Banchero (AP Photo/John Locher)

Orlando Magic rookie Paolo Banchero said his hometown of Seattle should be a lock to receive an NBA expansion franchise in the future.

Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft, discussed the city's continued passion for basketball despite the Supersonics' departure for Oklahoma City in 2008 during an appearance Thursday on Showtime's All The Smoke (h/t Bill DiFilippo of Uproxx).

"I think it needs to happen, I think it should be mandatory," Banchero said. "Not just because I'm biased, but because it'd be a great look on the NBA. It's a great city, the fans there are crazy. If you get a team in Seattle, they'll automatically be a top … not the top, but a top fanbase. Those games would be sold out right away."

The 19-year-old forward, who played at the city's O'Dea High School, was just five when the team relocated in the summer of 2008.

Seattle hosted an NBA franchise for more than 40 years beginning in 1967. The team won three Western Conference titles and one NBA championship, which came in 1979.

Clay Bennett, who remains chairman of the organization in Oklahoma City, moved the team after an agreement couldn't be reached with Seattle on funding for a new arena.

In June, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said there are no active conversations about expansion, even though he's confident it'll happen in the future.

"As I said before, at some point, this league invariably will expand, but it's not at this moment that we are discussing it," he told reporters.

Silver, who's served as commissioner since 2014, also reiterated his praise for Seattle as a basketball market.

"Again, as I've said before, we were in Seattle. I'm sorry we are no longer there," he said. "We have a WNBA team in Seattle in an almost brand-new building that's doing spectacular."

Seattle and Las Vegas are the two cities most frequently mentioned when NBA expansion is rumored.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James furthered that line of speculation in June when he hinted on HBO's The Shop the next stop on his basketball journey whenever his on-court career ends could be ownership.

"I want a team in Vegas," James said.

A return to Seattle and an arrival to Vegas, which is quickly becoming a sports mecca with the NHL and NFL already bringing teams to the country's gambling capital in recent years, would likely be a boon for the NBA.

Silver isn't ready to tip the league's hand, but it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if those two cities have teams by 2030.