One cannot begin discussing the 2014-15 National Basketball Association season without immediately mentioning the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland became the center of the North American professional sports universe in 2014 when two superstar athletes made their journeys to northeast Ohio. The Cleveland Browns acquired Texas A&M phenom Johnny Manziel in the 2014 National Football League draft, and then LeBron James announced to the world that he was taking his talents back to Cleveland to return to the Cavaliers.
James won't be a one-man show this time around. Kyrie Irving is set to be a Cleveland mainstay, and Kevin Love made his expected move to the Cavs during the offseason to make for a new NBA “Big 3.” The Cavaliers should have the highest regular season ticket prices in all of the NBA for what they will be offering home fans over 40 times from the fall through the spring. They are, after all, uncrowned champs, right?
Not so fast. Several teams featured in this list believe that they have the goods to keep Cleveland from ending the city's long title drought. Included is an Eastern Conference rival that could, if a certain someone remains healthy, be better than the Cavaliers, and also a Western Conference side that has taken over as its city's best basketball team.
These are the 15 NBA teams with the most expensive regular season tickets based on median price.
Values courtesy of Forbes
15 Sacramento Kings: $95 Per Ticket
Local fans of the Kings had many nervous moments over the past decade, and it often had nothing to do with on-the-court action. Rumors of the Kings relocating to some city, perhaps Seattle, circulated each year from 2006 up through 2013. Those whispers came to an end in May of 2013 when the league rejected the Kings' relocation plans. It is believed that the franchise will remain in Sacramento for the foreseeable future.
The Kings did fans few favors last season in terms of what they achieved in games. Sacramento was the third-worst team in the NBA West in 2013-14, winning 17 home games and finishing the campaign with a total of 28 victories. Sacramento sits at 14th in the list of NBA team salaries.
14 Golden State Warriors: $100 Per Ticket
The Warriors are a fun watch live and in-person. Golden State went for a regular season record of 51-31 in 2013-14. 27 of those victories came at home. There are some out there who believe that the Warriors may be the best overall basketball team in the state of California, and Golden State could, if everything clicks over the next several months, emerge as a real sleeper to win an NBA title as soon as next spring.
Golden State has a ton of money tied up on four players. Point guard Stephan Curry has a cap figure of slightly under $10.7 million. Shooting guard Andre Iguodola is on a salary of around $12.29 million. Center Andrew Bogut is set to make $12.97 million. Power forward David Lee will be the club's top earner, cashing in on a contract worth $15.012 million this season.
13 Charlotte Hornets: $102 Per Ticket
The Hornets have been a busy team since May. Charlotte announced that, through a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, the team would change from being known as the Bobcats back to the Hornets. Part of that agreement was the franchise retaining the records and history of the Hornets of old. Charlotte then, in the first offseason of the club “reboot,” made several splashes in free agency.
The Hornets signed shooting guard Lance Stephenson to a deal that guaranteed the former Indiana player $18 million. Marvin Williams put pen to paper on a contract that will see him make $14 million over two years. Brian Roberts became the first NBA player since the renaming of the Charlotte franchise to be with both the Pelicans and Hornets when he signed with Charlotte.
12 Orlando Magic: $105 Per Tickets
Orlando really doesn't have any business being on this list. The Magic were one of the worst teams in all of the NBA in 2013-14. While Orlando did win 19 games when playing in front of home crowds, they went 4-37 on the road. That was good for the worst away record in all of the NBA. Orlando was 15 games out of the playoff race on the final day of the campaign.
Orlando fans who spend over $100 on Magic tickets probably wouldn't want to learn that only two NBA franchises have lower team salaries than Orlando at the start of the campaign. Nobody on the roster has a cap hit or base salary of $9 million or greater. Channing Frye has the team's biggest cap hit. His base salary will be $8,579,088.
11 Brooklyn Nets: $105 Per Ticket
When fans pay to watch the Nets live and in person, they're not just paying for the basketball. They are paying high prices because the contests are taking place in New York City. High prices are listed also because the Nets play in a relatively new arena. The Nets being in Brooklyn is still a new toy for basketball fans who, for whatever reason, don't claim the Knicks as their own, and thus the club can get away with such prices.
The Nets, to their credit, aren't shy about spending money. Brooklyn has the highest team salary in all of the NBA. Shooting guard Joe Johnson has a base salary of over $23 million. Point guard Deron Williams will make over $19 million. Center Brook Lopez carries a salary cap of over $15.7 million, and veteran Kevin Garnett will make $12 million.
10 Houston Rockets: $110 Per Ticket
Houston is one of those Western Conference teams in NBA purgatory in the fall of 2014. The Rockets finished fourth in the conference standings last year, going 54-28 in the process. Home fans who attended games watched the Rockets win 33 times. Only two teams in the NBA West had better home records than Houston last season.
That said, nobody is expecting the Rockets to win a championship in 2014-15.
Houston is in the bottom tier of the list of NBA team salaries. Center Dwight Howard, who will be looking to show that he is 100 percent healthy and still a force in the league, carries a cap hit of over $21 million. Shooting guard James Harden is set to earn over $14.72 million this season as per the terms of his contract.
9 Atlanta Hawks: $110 Per Ticket
The Hawks can boast that they qualified for the playoffs last spring. Atlanta finished the season in possession of the final NBA East postseason berth, a game ahead of the New York Knicks. That said, the Hawks ended the campaign six games under .500. The Phoenix Suns and the Minnesota Timberwolves, neither of which participated in the playoffs, finished above Atlanta in the overall NBA standings.
The biggest story regarding the Hawks at the start of the current season is the status of center Al Horford. Horford will have cap hits of $12 million in each of the next two seasons, and it has been suggested that Atlanta would, for the right price, trade the 28-year-old. The Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics are two teams that have been linked with Horford.
8 Los Angeles Clippers: $115 Per Ticket
The Clippers are better than the Los Angeles Lakers in every way. Once the laughing stock of the city and of the NBA, in general, it is the Clippers and not the Lakers that are perceived to be contenders to defeat the Spurs, the Cavs and any other team en route to winning the NBA title. Regular season tickets for the Clippers continue to be less expensive than what people pay for great seats in order watch the Lakers lose home games.
The Clippers are also spending more money on team salary. Chris Paul, one of the best overall players in the NBA, is on a base salary of over $20 million for this season. Blake Griffin, who, like Paul, is featured in multiple national advertising campaigns, has a base salary and cap figure of over $17.6 million.
You could learn a thing or two from the Clippers, Lakers.
7 Miami Heat: $121 Per Ticket
The days of the Heat being the favorites to emerge as the champions of the NBA East ended in July when LeBron James told the world that he was taking his talents from South Beach this time around. Miami's former Big 3 won the NBA championship on two occasions, but that era of dominance came to what was, for the club, a lackluster conclusion when the Heat lost to the Spurs in the NBA Finals.
The Heat will once again be leaning on three players to carry the franchise to glory. Luol Deng was signed in free agency, and he will make over $9.71 million this season. Veteran and future Hall of Fame guard Dwyane Wade is taking up $15 million of cap space for 2014-15. Chris Bosh will be the team's top earner this season. Bosh has a base salary of $20.64 million.
6 Oklahoma City Thunder: $125 Per Ticket
OK City was one of the best home teams in all of the NBA last season. The Thunder were one of two teams in the West, the other being the Clippers, to go 34-7 in home regular season contests. Only the Indiana Pacers posted a better home record in 2013-14. All signs pointed to the Thunder being even better this season, but that now likely won't be the case.
Superstar and reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant suffered a broken foot leading up to the start of the current campaign. He could be sidelined for up to 19 games because of that injury. While the Thunder absolutely should be a top playoff team next spring, Durant missing up to a fifth of the season could cost Oklahoma City a seed or two.
5 Phoenix Suns: $147 Per Ticket
The Thunder and the Clippers are, when their rosters are intact and fully healthy, legitimate title contenders. They produce entertaining and exciting basketball that is fun for even casual fans to watch at arenas. Phoenix, on the other hand, failed to qualify for the playoffs last season. They finished the campaign at 48-34, one game behind the Dallas Mavericks in the race for the final postseason spot in the NBA West.
The Suns made a free agency splash when they awarded point guard Eric Bledsoe with a massive contract. Bledsoe and the Suns came to terms on a deal that will keep the 24-year-old with the club up through 2019. Phoenix guaranteed $70 million to Bledsoe, and the player's cap hit will rise every season up through the end of his contract. Bledsoe will have a $13 million base salary and cap hit for 2014-15.
4 Chicago Bulls: $155 Per Ticket
The song remains the same for the Bulls in the fall of 2014. Chicago has, on paper, a roster with the talent and depth required to win the NBA championship. The Bulls are a lock to make the playoffs, and some see them as being better than the Cavs. While Cleveland will need some time to build team chemistry with the new pieces that are part of that franchise, Chicago is, for the most part, already set in that department.
As usual, it could all come crumbling apart if a certain someone lands the wrong way.
Derrick Rose is one of the best players in the NBA, an impact performer who has MVP talent; when he is healthy, that is. Rose's injury history has been well documented. He cannot be counted on to be there for the Bulls when the playoffs begin. Chicago will need Rose to end that trend if the team is to contend for a championship.
3 New York Knicks: $157 Per Ticket
The Knicks are going to post high ticket prices regardless of the talent on the team's roster. They play in Madison Square Garden, the “world's most famous arena” that just so happens to be located in midtown Manhattan. A-list celebrities attend Knicks games 41 times a season. While New York doesn't make trips to NBA Finals, the Knicks are good to qualify for the postseason during the team's current run.
Just don't expect much more from the team.
The Knicks have the second-highest team salary in the NBA. Over $23 million is tied up on Amar'e Stoudemire, a 31-year-old veteran who has been betrayed by his body again and again over the years. It will be on Carmelo Anthony to take the Knicks on a run this season. Anthony had a chance to sign for a different team, perhaps the Bulls, last offseason, but he instead signed a deal that will keep him with the Knicks until at least 2018.
2 Los Angeles Lakers: $165 Per Ticket
There is no nice way to put it: The 2014-15 Lakers are likely going to be an awful basketball team. Steve Nash won't take the court this season because of a back injury. Rookie Julius Randle broke his leg in his official NBA debut. He has since had surgery to repair that injury, and expectations are that he will not play again this season.
The truth of the matter is that 36-year-old Kobe Bryant is doing the Lakers more harm than good these days. Bryant is guaranteed to make $48.5 million during what will likely be his final two seasons in the league. While he is an all-time great who is unquestionably headed to the Hall of Fame, Bryant's body has broken down. It is past time that these two entities parted ways.
1 Cleveland Cavaliers: $216 Per Ticket
The Cleveland Browns, who were one of the top franchises in all of pro football at the time, won the NFL Championship Game 50 years ago. That was the last time the city has been able to celebrate a professional sports championships. The Browns have yet to play in a Super Bowl, and both the Indians and Cavs have blown opportunities to win it all over the past couple of decades.
No pressure, LeBron.
Cleveland fans are desperate for a winner, and nobody in the city is complaining about ticket prices for Cavs games. The King has returned, and the Cavaliers have the best roster of any of the city's pro sports teams. It's all sunshine and rainbows in northeast Ohio right now, but the honeymoon period will quickly end if the Cavaliers don't win a title over the next couple of years.
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