What Are The 6 NBA Divisions?

The NBA, or the National Basketball Association, is a world-renowned professional basketball league that features 30 teams from across the United States and Canada.

Established in 1946, the NBA has grown to become a global sports phenomenon, captivating fans with its high-flying dunks, intense rivalries, and nail-biting finishes.

To maintain a balanced and organized structure, the league is divided into two conferences, the Eastern and Western, which are further split into three divisions each.

This blog post will delve into the history, composition, and significance of these divisions, providing a comprehensive overview of the NBA’s unique framework.

Here is a table listing all the NBA teams, their respective divisions, and conferences for your reference:

Atlanta HawksSoutheastEastern
Boston CelticsAtlanticEastern
Brooklyn NetsAtlanticEastern
Charlotte HornetsSoutheastEastern
Chicago BullsCentralEastern
Cleveland CavaliersCentralEastern
Dallas MavericksSouthwestWestern
Denver NuggetsNorthwestWestern
Detroit PistonsCentralEastern
Golden State WarriorsPacificWestern
Houston RocketsSouthwestWestern
Indiana PacersCentralEastern
Los Angeles ClippersPacificWestern
Los Angeles LakersPacificWestern
Memphis GrizzliesSouthwestWestern
Miami HeatSoutheastEastern
Milwaukee BucksCentralEastern
Minnesota TimberwolvesNorthwestWestern
New Orleans PelicansSouthwestWestern
New York KnicksAtlanticEastern
Oklahoma City ThunderNorthwestWestern
Orlando MagicSoutheastEastern
Philadelphia 76ersAtlanticEastern
Phoenix SunsPacificWestern
Portland Trail BlazersNorthwestWestern
Sacramento KingsPacificWestern
San Antonio SpursSouthwestWestern
Toronto RaptorsAtlanticEastern
Utah JazzNorthwestWestern
Washington WizardsSoutheastEastern

Why are there NBA Divisions?

The 6 NBA Divisions

NBA Divisions exist to maintain a balanced and organized structure within the league. Divisions help group teams geographically, reducing travel times and fostering regional rivalries.

They also provide a framework for scheduling regular-season games and determining playoff seedings.

Eastern Conference:

  1. Atlantic Division
  2. Central Division
  3. Southeast Division

Western Conference:

  1. Pacific Division
  2. Southwest Division
  3. Northwest Division

What does “Clinched Division” mean in the NBA?

“Clinched Division” refers to the situation when a team secures the highest winning percentage within their respective division before the regular season ends.

Clinching a division ensures a favorable seeding in the playoffs.

Does winning a Division mean anything in the NBA?

Winning a division has diminished in significance over the years but still provides some advantages.

It can lead to a higher playoff seeding, which can potentially result in home-court advantage during playoff series. It also serves as a benchmark for a team’s success in a given season.

When did the NBA get rid of Divisions?

As of my knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, the NBA has not gotten rid of divisions. They remain an integral part of the league’s structure.

How would an expansion affect the divisions?

An expansion would likely lead to a realignment of the divisions to accommodate the new teams while maintaining competitive balance and geographic proximity.

The league may consider adding new divisions or reorganizing the existing ones.

Why does the NBA still have divisions?

The NBA maintains divisions to preserve regional rivalries, create a balanced schedule, and provide a structured format for playoff seedings.

Although their significance has lessened over the years, divisions continue to play a role in the league’s organization and functioning.

What is the difference between a conference and a division in the NBA?

A conference is a larger grouping of teams within the NBA, with two conferences in total: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Each conference consists of 15 teams.

A division is a smaller grouping of teams within a conference, with each conference containing three divisions.

Divisions help create a balanced schedule and foster regional rivalries, while conferences are essential for playoff seedings and determining the two teams that will ultimately compete in the NBA Finals.

Here’s a brief overview of each NBA team within their respective divisions:

Eastern Conference

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Atlantic Division
  1. Boston Celtics: Boasting a rich history and 17 NBA championships, the Celtics are one of the most storied franchises in the league. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, they have a passionate fan base and a long-standing rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers.
  2. Brooklyn Nets: Previously known as the New Jersey Nets, the Brooklyn Nets are based in Brooklyn, New York. After their relocation in 2012, the team has experienced a resurgence, becoming a championship contender with a star-studded roster.
  3. New York Knicks: Playing in the iconic Madison Square Garden, the Knicks are a historic franchise with a dedicated fan base. Despite recent struggles, the team remains one of the most valuable in the NBA.
  4. Philadelphia 76ers: Also known as the Sixers, this Philadelphia-based team has a rich history and multiple championships. In recent years, the team has undergone a significant rebuild, positioning itself as a contender in the Eastern Conference.
  5. Toronto Raptors: As the only Canadian team in the NBA, the Raptors have a unique fan base and represent an entire nation. They won their first championship in 2019, solidifying their status as a strong franchise.

Central Division

Central Division
  1. Chicago Bulls: Known for the Michael Jordan era, which yielded six championships, the Bulls remain one of the most popular franchises in the league. Based in Chicago, Illinois, they continue to work towards reclaiming their past glory.
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, the Cavaliers experienced their peak with LeBron James, winning their first championship in 2016. The team is now focused on rebuilding and developing young talent.
  3. Detroit Pistons: A gritty, hard-nosed team based in Detroit, Michigan, the Pistons have three championships under their belt. The team is currently in a rebuilding phase, aiming to return to its former competitive status.
  4. Indiana Pacers: Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Pacers have a strong history in the NBA but have yet to win a championship. They remain a competitive team, striving to reach the upper echelon of the league.
  5. Milwaukee Bucks: Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Bucks won their second championship in 2021, led by superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. They continue to be a dominant force in the Eastern Conference.

Southeast Division:

Southeast Division
  1. Atlanta Hawks: Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, the Hawks have a long history in the NBA but have yet to win a championship. With a young, talented roster, they aim to make a deep playoff run in the coming years.
  2. Charlotte Hornets: Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Hornets have experienced moderate success but have not yet secured a championship. Owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan, the team is focused on building a competitive roster.
  3. Miami Heat: With three championships and a reputation for attracting star players, the Miami Heat remains a strong franchise in the league. Based in Miami, Florida, they continue to contend for titles under the guidance of team president Pat Riley.
  4. Orlando Magic: Hailing from Orlando, Florida, the Magic have experienced periods of success, including NBA Finals appearances but have yet to win a championship. The team is focused on developing its young talent for future success.
  5. Washington Wizards: Located in Washington, D.C., the Wizards have a storied history but have not won a championship since 1978. The team continues to build and develop its roster in pursuit of returning to the top of the league.

Western Conference

Western Conference

Pacific Division:

Pacific Division
  1. Golden State Warriors: A powerhouse in the NBA, the Warriors have won six championships, with three coming in the recent era led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Based in San Francisco, California, the team is known for its dynamic offense and sharpshooting.
  1. Los Angeles Clippers: Historically overshadowed by their city rivals, the Lakers, the Clippers have experienced a resurgence in recent years, becoming a strong contender in the Western Conference. Based in Los Angeles, California, they continue to work towards their first championship.
  2. Los Angeles Lakers: One of the most iconic franchises in the NBA, the Lakers boast 17 championships and a plethora of legendary players. Based in Los Angeles, California, they maintain a fierce rivalry with the Boston Celtics and continue to be a force in the league.
  3. Phoenix Suns: Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, the Suns have a rich history but have yet to win a championship. They experienced a resurgence in 2021, reaching the NBA Finals, and continue to be a competitive team in the Western Conference.
  4. Sacramento Kings: Based in Sacramento, California, the Kings have struggled in recent years and are currently focused on rebuilding their roster. With a passionate fan base, they aim to return to their past success and compete at a high level.

Southwest Division:

Southwest Division
  1. Dallas Mavericks: Led by young superstar Luka Doncic, the Mavericks are a competitive team in the Western Conference. Based in Dallas, Texas, they won their first championship in 2011 and continue to build around their star player.
  2. Houston Rockets: Hailing from Houston, Texas, the Rockets have experienced periods of success, including back-to-back championships in the mid-90s. They are currently in a rebuilding phase, focusing on developing young talent for future success.
  3. Memphis Grizzlies: Originally from Vancouver, the Grizzlies are now based in Memphis, Tennessee. With a young, talented roster, they continue to improve and aim to become a strong contender in the Western Conference.
  4. New Orleans Pelicans: Located in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Pelicans are a relatively young franchise with a promising future. They are focused on building around young star Zion Williamson and aiming for long-term success.
  5. San Antonio Spurs: Known for their consistency and strong team culture, the Spurs have won five championships under the guidance of legendary coach Gregg Popovich. Based in San Antonio, Texas, they continue to be a competitive team in the Western Conference.

Northwest Division:

Northwest Division
  1. Denver Nuggets: Hailing from Denver, Colorado, the Nuggets have a strong roster, led by MVP Nikola Jokic. They continue to be a competitive team in the Western Conference, seeking their first championship.
  2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Timberwolves have experienced limited success in their history. With a focus on developing their young talent, they aim to become a strong contender in the coming years.
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Formerly the Seattle SuperSonics, the Thunder are based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They have experienced success in recent years, led by stars like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, and continue to focus on rebuilding and developing young talent.
  4. Portland Trail Blazers: Located in Portland, Oregon, the Trail Blazers have a passionate fan base and a storied history, with one championship to their name. They continue to be a competitive team in the Western Conference, led by star Damian Lillard.
  5. Utah Jazz: Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Jazz are known for their strong team culture and defensive prowess. They have yet to win a championship but remain a consistent and competitive team in the Western Conference.

How have NBA divisions evolved over time?

NBA divisions have evolved significantly since the league’s inception in 1946. Initially, the league had only two divisions, the Eastern and Western, which were later transformed into conferences.

Over time, as the league expanded and added more teams, divisions were established within each conference to maintain a balanced structure.

The current six-division format was introduced in the 2004-2005 season, with teams reorganized based on geographical location and competitive balance.

Which NBA division is considered the most competitive?

The competitiveness of NBA divisions can vary from season to season, as team rosters and performances fluctuate.

Historically, the Western Conference has been considered more competitive than the Eastern Conference, with dominant teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and Golden State Warriors.

However, within each conference, the level of competition across divisions is often closely matched, making it difficult to pinpoint a single “most competitive” division consistently.

How do NBA divisions impact playoff seedings?

NBA divisions play a role in determining playoff seedings, although their influence has diminished in recent years.

Previously, division winners were guaranteed a top-four seed in their conference, but this was changed in 2015.

Now, the top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs, with seeds determined by overall win-loss records, regardless of division standings.

However, division standings can still be used as tiebreakers in cases where teams have identical records.


In conclusion, NBA divisions serve as an essential organizational structure within the league, grouping teams geographically and fostering regional rivalries.

While their significance in playoff seedings has lessened over the years, divisions remain crucial in creating balanced schedules and maintaining the league’s competitive landscape.

As the NBA continues to grow and evolve, divisions will likely adapt to accommodate new teams and maintain the balance and excitement that fans have come to expect from professional basketball.

About Daniel Azor