Pelicans Named Least Valuable
Even with a 121 percent growth since 2012, the franchise still hit bottom in Forbes’ ranking.
Forbes magazine has once again ranked the New Orleans Pelicans as the least valuable NBA franchise with an estimated value of $750 million. However, the financial media organization’s annual “Business of Basketball” rankings weren’t all bad news for team owners Gayle and Tom Benson.
In its 20th annual valuations of the NBA’s 30 teams, Forbes estimates the Pelicans to be worth $750 million, a $100 million or 15 percent increase compared to their $650 million valuation in 2016, 44 percent more than the team’s $420 million valuation in 2015, and 121 percent more than the $340 million paid for the club in 2012.
The team had an estimated $156 million in revenue with $16.7 million in operating income in the previous year. That’s an increase of $40 million in revenue, but a $3 million decrease in operating income compared to 2016.
It must be noted, however, that the list was compiled before the Pelicans’ blockbuster trade for All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, which should increase the franchise’s number of wins and overall value.
Forbes estimates the average NBA team is worth $1.36 billion, 13 percent more than a year ago, with $195 million in revenue and $31 million in operating income.
According to the latest rankings, the New York Knicks, worth $3.3 billion — a 10 percent increase compared to 2016, are the NBA’s most valuable franchise, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers ($3 billion), Golden State Warriors ($2.6 billion), Chicago Bulls ($2.5 billion), and Boston Celtics ($2.2 billion).
The Warriors had the largest increase in value, up 37 percent to $2.6 billion. The franchise ranked sixth last year.
The Knicks led the league in operating income with $141.2 million, while three teams, the Cavaliers (-$40.2 million), Clippers (-$11.8 million), and Thunder (-$8.4 million), were estimated to have lost money.
Forbes has previously cited Tom Benson’s long-running legal proceedings over succession of the Pelicans and the New Orleans Saints in its explanation for the team’s last-place ranking. For several years, Benson planned on turning over ownership to his daughter, Renee LeBlanc, and her children, Ryan and Rita.
Rita LeBlanc was being groomed to take over operations of both teams until Benson announced not only announced that he would give the teams to his wife, but that he also would have no further contact with his daughter and grandchildren.
The custody battle over both teams now appears to be settled. That’s great news for the Pelicans, which will be seen as a much more stable franchise for commercial partners and advertisers.
In what Forbes is calling a potential golden era for NBA finances, the league is in the first of a nine-year, $24 billion TV deal with ESPN and TNT that’s worth triple the previous annual amount. It also has a new collective bargaining agreement ensuring seven years of labor peace, new international programming opportunities above the 215 countries the league already reaches, and the addition of advertising on team jerseys beginning next year.
The Pelicans have one of the sport’s hottest commodities in forward Anthony Davis. The first overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Davis is the Pels’ franchise player. With Cousins, arguably an equally talented player added to the front court, the team has already seen an increase in ticket sales and should be a playoff contender come season’s end. If they can climb into postseason contention, the money will follow and the team will climb Forbes’ rankings.
The Top 10 Most Valuable NBA Teams
According to Forbes, the average NBA franchise is now worth $1.36 billion — a 13 percent increase compared to last year, which was the second straight year of 13 percent growth. NBA teams combined to generate a record-high $5.9 billion in revenue last season — a 12 percent increase from the previous year.
Team Value % Change Revenue
New York Knicks $3.3 B 10% $376 M
Los Angeles Lakers $3 B 11% $333 M
Golden State Warriors $2.6 B 37% $305 M
Chicago Bulls $2.5 B 9% $232 M
Boston Celtics $2.2 B 5% $200 M
Los Angeles Clippers $2 B 0% $185 M
Brooklyn Nets $1.8 B 6% $223 M
Houston Rockets $1.65 B 10% $244 M
Dallas Mavericks $1.45 B 4% $194 M
Miami Heat $1.35 B 4% $210 M
NBA Team Average $1.36 B 13% $195 M
New Orleans Pelicans $750 M 15% $156 M
Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.