Most Likely NBA Relocation Teams: 2023 Edition
As the NBA playoffs get deeper and deeper, it made me wonder which teams are most likely to face NBA relocation. The last NBA team to relocate was the Seattle Supersonics in 2008 and there are many cities ready to be one of the next NBA expansion teams.
The NBA currently has 30 teams and adding another two teams could balance the Eastern and Western conferences to 16 teams each. The league may choose to relocate existing teams and these are the most likely to relocate.
5. Sacramento Kings
This one's a stretch, agreed. The Sacramento Kings made some noise in 2023 making the playoffs for the first time since 2006. In the process they ended the longest playoff drought in NBA history, as well as the longest active streak in North American pro sports.
Sacramento makes the list as they've often been the topic of NBA relocation. In 2011 the Kings were so close to being relocated to Anaheim, the Anaheim Royals name was filed for trademark.
It was only through last ditch corporate funding and fan support that the team stayed in Sacramento. Not long after this Sacramento flirted with the idea of NBA relocation to Virginia Beach.
Then in 2013, a Seattle ownership group agreed to purchase the Kings. The idea was to relocate the team to Seattle and to rebrand them as the Seattle Supersonics. The NBA Board and owners all rejected the move and the sale to a local ownership group was completed instead.
The ownership group led by Vivek Ranadive has helped to strengthen Sacramento as an NBA city. The city owned state-of-the-art Golden 1 Center opened in 2016, and the Kings' 35-year lease effectively secured their long term future in Sacramento.
On Feb. 19, 2011, NBA commissioner David Stern reveals that the @SacramentoKings, Maloof family and officials in Anaheim, Calif. had conversations about relocation. By March 2011, the franchise filed for a trademark of the name Anaheim Royals.#InTheNameOfDefense#SacramentoProud pic.twitter.com/hHf7lqdQFL— Publicity Agents (@TonyRayHarvey) April 26, 2022
4. Orlando Magic
With the passing of owner Richard DeVos in 2018, the rumors of NBA relocation for Orlando ramped up. The DeVos family have remained committed to the city, and they seem themselves as a caretaker of a team that belongs to the Central Florida community.
That doesn't hide the fact that Orlando is a small market team and that attendances have been on a downward trend for the best part of the last decade.
Florida has no state-income taxes which is a great attraction for players. Miami's a historically better team and can fill that void if Orlando relocates.
The Magic have a lease at the Amway Center until 2035 which would have to be bought out. A disappearing act from Orlando would likely only eventuate if the DeVos family decided to sell the franchise.
If they did, the Magic would be in an extremely vulnerable position for NBA relocation.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies are another team often in discussions for NBA relocation with a big reason being they're the second least most valuable franchise in the league.
Although the outlook for the Grizzlies to stay in Memphis was bleak a few years back, the drafting of Ja Morant in 2019 has played them back into relevancy.
What's more likely is that the NBA chooses to expand the league with two Western conference teams in Seattle and Las Vegas, and the Grizzlies would be relocated from the Western to Eastern conference.
A move from Memphis to Nashville has always been more likely than a move to a different state.
NBA relocation won't happen until at least 2029, with the city of Memphis and Shelby County agreeing to pay tens of millions to cover the costs of operating FedExForum under a new lease agreement.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
Even with Minnesota's large market, they've been a team continuously underperforming and they have the worst win percentage of any active team in the league.
The Timberwolves are also the third-least valuable franchise in the NBA, above only Memphis and New Orleans. The combination of all these factors has meant the franchise has been underwhelming with its attendance and publicity expectations.
An NBA relocation attempt in 1993 almost eventuated to New Orleans after issues with the lease to their arena. Glen Taylor then purchased the Timberwolves to prevent the move from happening.
Although Taylor saved the franchise from relocating, he's considered to be one of the worst owners of any NBA team. He's also received bad press as a result of his other business ventures.
Taylor's ownership is coming to an end with former superstar baseball player Alex Rodriguez and businessman Marc Lore purchasing the team. They're set to become majority owners in 2024 in what will be a period of great uncertainty for the Timberwolves.
Alex Rodriguez wants to relocate the Minnesota Timberwolves to Seattle.Kevin Garnett, who could join as a major player in the organization, wants the team in Minnesota. Should the team stay in Minnesota or Seattle? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/Pt2dLU9DZM — NBA Buzz (@OfficialNBABuzz) June 3, 2021
1. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are the franchise most likely to face NBA relocation. New Orleans has always ranked low for attendances and they have a history of wasting opportunities with strong franchise players.
Anthony Davis and Chris Paul's talent was wasted during their times, and Zion Williamson may very likely end up in the same category.
The Pelicans are also the least valuable franchise in the NBA and they have a history of facing financial issues with the league taking over ownership at one stage.
Owned by Gayle Bensen, New Orleans continues to struggle for NBA relevancy. Fortunately for fans, Bensen is deeply connected to New Orleans and also owns the NFL's New Orleans Saints.
Bensen may look to cash in on the franchise because the biggest issue facing the Pelicans is securing an arena lease deal at the Smoothie King Center.
The Pelicans can extend their lease at Smoothie King Center - which ends in 2024 - for up to five years which would buy them time to work out a long term arena deal. With Bensen worrying about $450 million renovations at Caesar’s Superdome, it's not a top priority which is a worry for the Pelicans.
.@KendrickPerkins thinks the Pelicans need to move in order to keep the franchise relevant:“I think it’s time for the Pelicans to relocate. … A city like Seattle, a city like Las Vegas is more deserving of a basketball team.” pic.twitter.com/nh0agg4Avt — NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 24, 2022
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