The NBA, like any other league, is a business. While the action on the court and the superstars who wear the jerseys have a special pull on fans’ hearts, some of the guys upstairs primarily think in dollar signs. One of the more infamous instances of management thinking of money over on-court product was in 2008, when former Starbucks CEO and then-Seattle SuperSonics owner Howard Schultz sold the franchise to Clay Bennett and an ownership group in Oklahoma City, who settled with the city of Seattle on July 2, 2008 to move the team to Oklahoma. This was six days after the Sonics drafted Russell Westbrook fourth overall. While the Sonics debacle was caused by poor ownership and a bit of immaturity, sometimes it makes sense to move a team. In the NBA, there are currently a few franchises who could potentially benefit from a move, although it may come at the expense of some fans’ hearts. Here are three teams that should seriously consider relocating:
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers, despite their recent run of Playoff appearances, will always and forever play second fiddle to the Los Angeles Lakers. They were a hilarious Halloween costume before Chris Paul arrived and Blake Griffin got off his hospital bed. In 2018, despite playing in one of the world’s largest media markets, they currently rank 22nd in average game attendance, and are about to dive into a rebuild. The length of that rebuild will depend on their aggressiveness and success in free agency, where they could use the technicality of being a team in Los Angeles to try to sway Paul George or others their way.
This simply doesn’t seem likely. Owner Steve Ballmer, who took over for racist trainwreck Donald Sterling, has previously claimed that he would not be moving the team from LA. Ballmer also once predicted that the iPhone would fail and donated $150 million to try to keep the Sonics in Seattle in 2008. He has to be accustomed to being wrong and adjusting when failure comes along. If the Clippers fail in free agency, relocation could be on Ballmer’s mind. With an NHL franchise and subsequent renovation of KeyArena heading to Seattle, the NBA could be looking at a relocation within the next decade or so.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are a good franchise. Not great yet, but they have easily the best frontcourt (when healthy) in the NBA. Anthony Davis will be the MVP before long, the team just clinched a Playoff spot, and they have a super fun arena name (Smoothie King Center). Despite all of this, instability in the owners’ box and lack of any real emotional ties to New Orleans make the Pelicans a ready candidate for relocation. Great efforts were taken by David Stern to prevent ownership from selling the franchise to those who would move it in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but with years removed from the tragedy and better options available elsewhere, the Pelicans could be on the move.
Solid candidates could be Louisville, perhaps the most basketball-crazed town without a professional team, and Kansas City, a sports town too large to be without an NBA team. There are simply better options than New Orleans for the Pelicans, towns with a population to support them as they engage in a legacy of basketball greatness.
The Magic are simply the Charlotte Hornets with less ties to their city (Michael Jordan will NEVER move that team out of Charlotte) and a few more Playoff appearances in recent history. The Magic are essentially the North Dakota of the NBA; forgotten about and undesirable as they currently stand. They’re tied for last place in the dismal Southeast division, where they essentially take turns giving each other wedgies with the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets while the Heat and Wizards drive the van.
Orlando would do just fine without them. In fact, a decent spot for relocation would be in Tampa, just 90 minutes away. The Magic could also stick with their gimmicky role in the NBA and head to Vegas, or be an experiment and play in Mexico City. Either way, the Magic are certainly a candidate to move around.