Like the other three major sports leagues in North America, the National Basketball Association makes a substantial amount of money every year. The league estimated that it pulled in around $5 billion in revenue during the 2012 year, putting it in third place behind the NFL ($9 billion) and MLB ($7.5 million). Its high level of popularity in the States has even brought up questions about the potential for the NBA to possibly expand into Europe at some point in the next decade.
Big television deals have been a major player in the NBA's yearly earnings with an estimated $930 million in tv revenue per year as a result of deals with networks including ESPN and TNT among others.
The league is also doing very well on a team-by-team basis. For instance, the New York Knicks are not only the league's most valuable team at $1.1 billion but they alone made $243 million in revenue this past year. In addition, the Los Angeles Lakers have a value of $1 billion and the Chicago Bulls are not too far off at $800 million.
In fact, there are eleven teams in the NBA worth at least $500 million. Even the Sacramento Kings, a team that was practically on the verge of relocating to either Seattle or Kansas City this past offseason, is worth $525 million thanks to the team's plan to be sold off to a healthy hedge fund manager out of Seattle.
However, not every team is as successful as the half-billion dollar clubs that make up the league's top 11. This listing features the ten least-valuable NBA teams for the 2013-14 season and points out that the success of a thriving sports league doesn't necessarily translate into financial well-being for all of its teams.
Note: The standings for the teams are as of December 6, 2013.
10 Toronto Raptors - Team Value: $405 Million
The Toronto Raptors have the seventh-highest payroll in the NBA with a $73.6 million total that includes $17.9 million going to Rudy Gay and $9.5 million to DeMar DeRozan. Even with a highly-paid roster, the 6-11 Raptors have still struggled. The franchise's value went up by 6% thanks to Bell Canada and Rogers Communications' purchase of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, a conglomerate that also owns the Maple Leafs and the Air Canada Centre. Had it not been for that, the Raps would have surely found themselves lower down on this list. Toronto made $121 million in revenue over the last year.
9 Detroit Pistons - Team Value: $420 Million
While the Detroit Pistons are paying $62.4 million to their players this year, the team has had a rocky start at just 9-10 as of the beginning of December. The Pistons did make $125 million in revenue last year but the team drew an average of only 14,400 people per game, good for the third-lowest attendance in the league - so far this year, they have bumped up to fifth place. In addition, suites that could have gone for more than $250,000 a year at the team's arena in Auburn Hills are empty. Much of this is due to the extremely poor economy in Detroit, a city that recently filed for bankruptcy.
8 Washington Wizards - Team Value: $397 Million
Although the Wizards' value went up by $69 million this past year, the 9-10 Wizards have struggled to draw fans due to the team's poor performance. The team stumbled to a 29-53 record last year and a 20-46 record in 2011. The $102 million they earned in revenue last season isn't too strong either but the Wizards have cut down the team's payroll by dropping Andray Blatche and his $7.8 million salary. The Wizards still have a $70 million payroll for this season, $13 million of which goes to power forward/center Nene Hilario.
7 Indiana Pacers - Team Value: $383 Million
Although the Indiana Pacers are 17-2 and paying $70.2 million to their players, the team has still struggled to be profitable. The Pacers had operated at a loss for six straight years before last year when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Heat in seven games. The Pacers' value has gone up by $100 million in the last year thanks to the team's success and an agreement worth $10 million to allow them to operate in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse without interest.
6 Memphis Grizzlies - Team Value: $377 Million
The 9-9 Memphis Grizzlies had a $108 million value increase from the past year after Michael Heisley sold the team to a larger group of investors. Heisley originally paid $160 million for the teamin 2000. Still, the $69 million payroll with $17.8 million going to Zach Randolph and $14.8 million to Marc Gasol might be seen as overspending by some. Although the team made $96 million in revenue last season, the Grizzlies still lost $12.5 million, a trend that has been happening each year for the past decade.
5 Minnesota Timberwolves - Team Value: $364 Million
The 9-10 Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled to draw fans and even lost a home game to low turnout (one of their games will be hosted in Mexico City this season). The high $68.5 million payroll that features $14.6 million for Kevin Love has hurt the Wolves' bank account while the lack of popularity at the Target Center prompted the team to remove sixteen of their luxury boxes. The team's $96 million revenue is good, but not enough to curb their expensive operation costs. The team has lost money each year since 2008 with a loss of $4 million this year.
4 New Orleans Pelicans - Team Value: $340 Million
While the Pelicans are hoping that the team's name change could help their bottom line through new merchandise sales, the team's $100 million revenue for last year was weak. The Pelicans spend $66.7 million on players but only have a 9-10 record to show for it so far this season. Still, New Orleans' value increased by 19% this past year through Tom Benson's purchase of the team for $340 million. The Pelicans plan to stay in New Orleans Arena through 2024 with the state of Louisiana paying for $50 million worth of arena upgrades.
3 Atlanta Hawks - Team Value: $316 Million
The Atlanta Hawks would be worth more than $316 million but the team ended up losing a sale to Alex Meruelo in 2011 that could have seen them with much deeper pockets today. The cost of improvements to the team's arena set the Hawks back $18.7 million this past year. This is in spite of a low payroll with $58.6 million going for the 11-10 Hawks. The team currently has the third-lowest attendance in the league, putting a damper on their $99 million revenue from the past year.
2 Charlotte Bobcats - Team Value: $315 Million
The Charlotte Bobcats are worth only $315 million due to the team having the NBA's second-worst television ratings and low attendance totals struggling at the 15,000 mark for each game. The Bobcats' $60 million payroll isn't doing the team any favours either, as it only saw $93 million in revenue this past year. The fact that the 9-11 Bobcats will go back to their old Charlotte Hornets name in 2014 could influence revenue totals as old Hornets fans may be more apt to buy merchandise under that name.
1 Milwaukee Bucks - Team Value: $312 Million
The 4-15 Milwaukee Bucks are only bringing in 14,300 people per game and even with a tiny $55.8 million payroll cannot squeeze out much of a profit. The team's $87 million revenue was hurt by agreements which sees them getting less than a third of the money from merchandise and concession sales at their games. This could also be why they can't afford decent-looking jerseys. Still, the Bucks did strike an agreement with BMO Harris Bank for the team's arena naming rights in hopes of finding a way to get a little more revenue in the long run.