The 2013 NBA offseason has been a busy one, with several current and former All-Stars changing uniforms. Through trades, free agent acquisitions, and draft picks, a handful of teams have positioned themselves for major improvement next season. With only days until the NBA schedule release and just over three months left until the regular season tip-off, we take a look at which teams made the biggest moves, and how those moves will affect 2013-14 ticket prices. The average price for tickets entering the 2012 season was $117. The Top 5 most expensive teams were the Lakers, Knicks, Heat, Nets, and Bulls. With the exception of the Nets, none of the top teams made any major moves this offseason to increase their value.
Lakers prices will likely drop at least a few spots this season following the loss of Dwight Howard, the team’s perceived lack of talent, and uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of an injured, aging Kobe Bryant. By the All-Star break last season, the Knicks had already taken over the top spot from the struggling Lakers. After acquiring former #1 pick Andrea Bargnani and Queens native Metta World Peace to join defending scoring champion Carmelo Anthony this season, the Knicks should still have the most expensive tickets in the NBA entering 2013-14. With the return of 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose, Bulls prices are also expected to remain strong. It will be interesting to see if fans of the Heat will continue to pay high regular season prices as Lebron and company chase a third straight title.
Here are the teams that made the biggest improvements this offseason towards moving up the rankings in ticket price.
1. Houston Rockets
2012-13 Ticket Rank: 22
2012-13 Average Price: $66
Dwight Howard’s acquisition by the Rockets was easily the biggest move of the offseason. Following years of indecisiveness, Howard finally chose Houston as his long-term home. Howard joins a young nucleus of James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons in hopes of becoming next in an impressive line of legendary Rockets big men. Howard was directly recruited to Houston by the likes of Hakeem Olajuwan, Yao Ming, and Ralph Sampson. Last year’s ticket prices ranked towards the bottom of the NBA, so expect Howard’s arrival to propel them closer to the Top 10. If coach Kevin McHale can push the right buttons and keep Howard healthy, happy, and effective, the Rockets could contend for the Western Conference crown. While Houston is not considered a major market, prices may be comparable to the small-town Thunder, whose tickets were 6th highest entering last season.
2. Brooklyn Nets
2012-13 Ticket Rank: 4
2012-13 Average Price: $164
The Nets started the 2012 season in the Top 5 of most expensive tickets behind the hype surrounding their move and new arena, but prices dropped 15% by the All-Star break. After the blockbuster trade of the offseason, they hope to contend for a title and cultivate more fan interest in 2013. Former Celtics Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry will all be saying hello to Brooklyn this season. Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov still writes the checks, but rapper Jay Z sold his small stake in the team in April to focus on his sports agency. While the Brooklyn native owned less than 1% of the team, he was largely responsible for creating and promoting the Nets’ new image. While the Nets are certainly trending up, they will need to win for any chance at unseating the Knicks as the kings of New York. Knicks tickets entering 2012 were 49% more expensive.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
2012-13 Ticket Rank: 7
2012-13 Average Price: $140
Despite the Cavaliers’ modest expectations entering 2012, their prices started the season near the top of the NBA. While the prices did drop 20% by the All-Star break, they only fell one spot in the rankings. With the maturation of their young core and promising new additions, Cavs’ prices will only go up. Fans will be eager to see surprise 2013 #1 draft pick Anthony Bennett and his heralded scoring ability. The Cavs also raised eyebrows with the signing of injury plagued center Andrew Bynum, who missed the entire 2012-13 season, but has enormous potential. The new additions join third-year point guard and undisputed team leader Kyrie Irving. In his first two seasons, the 21-year old won Rookie of the Year and made an All-Star game. Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Zeller all figure to make improvements, especially defensively, under returning coach Mike Brown. If Cleveland’s young players can mature and play together, they should end the season with a winning record and a playoff berth.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Ticket Rank: 9
2012-13 Average Price: $120
Much like the Nets, the Clippers are fighting for fan support against the more established franchise in their city. The Clippers also are clearly gaining ground. While they had relatively little room to maneuver after the resigning of All-Star point guard Chris Paul, the Clippers managed to add sharpshooter JJ Reddick, former UCLA guard Darren Collison, and long-time Sun Jared Dudley to the roster. The major offseason acquisition, however, was that of former Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Rivers will be charged with maximizing and developing the talent of show-stopping forward Blake Griffin. With a deep, talented roster and championship-caliber coach, it seems that the Clippers have surpassed the Lakers on the court. It remains to be seen if the Lakers can maintain their wide lead in ticket prices. Lakers tickets entering 2012 were twice as expensive as the Clippers, and still 76% higher at the All-Star break, despite the Lakers’ struggles.
5. New Orleans Pelicans
2012-13 Ticket Rank: 23
2012-13 Average Price: $66
When New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson purchased the Hornets in 2012, he injected life into and permanently altered the franchise. In order to better represent New Orleans, the team name was changed to the Louisiana state bird. This year, the New Orleans Pelicans will play their first season. Renewed interest should give ticket prices a bump initially, and if new acquisitions reach their potential, the prices will continue to rise. The Pelicans traded their 2013 #6 draft pick Nerlens Noel to the 76ers for 2013 All-Star and 23-year old point guard Jrue Holiday. They also acquired former #1 pick Tyreke Evans in a sign-and-trade deal with the Kings. 2013 Rookie of the Year runner-up Anthony Davis should show improvement this season and guard Eric Gordon could become the team’s breakout star if he manages to stay healthy. While the Pelicans are likely a few years away from contending in the Western Conference, they could challenge for their first playoff berth since the departure of Chris Paul.