Which is a bloated way of saying that there's not a lot going on.
Moondog needed to fill this chasm of dead space. To do so, we looked around the landscape of the Association, and saw the sneaky potential of Steve Ballmer (hopefully the new Clippers owner) moving his Los Angeles based squad back to Seattle. In a lengthy interview with Ballmer, the Seattle Times detailed his history of involvement with groups trying to bring a basketball team back to Seattle and his reluctance to leave such efforts. (Read the whole story by clicking here.)
Which got us thinking, which franchises are the most likely to move (or be moved)? Here's our rankings, feel free to scream at us in the comments:
Likeliness (1-10) (1 being not fucking happening; 10 being SEE YA!)
One of the oldest franchises in the NBA. It's also the winningest franchise in the Association. Never going to happen. Mark Wahlberg will become a Yankees fan first.
The Nets are solid where they are right now, but having your owner be a maniacal Russian billionaire could change things quickly if the team doesn't show continued success.
New York Knicks---1
The "basketball mecca". No reason to move, regardless of how lousy the talent has been there as of late. Will always be a prime location in the NBA
It would take something catastrophic to force a 76ers move. The team has history by proxy. They're not the Celtics or the Knicks but they are bitter rivals with both Boston and New York. Philly is an embattled sports town, bitter and prone to fits of childish rage. But they're unique, a niche market that is quite sizable. Legends like Barkley, Dr. J, Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone have played for that team. AI spent the best part of his career there. Despite ranking in the bottom-five in attendance (number two to be exact) this team ain't going anywhere. Unless the team's tanking strategy backfires and they're bad forever.
The Raptors have been marginally successful, and their attendance tends to mirror their success. They will most likely be around for quite some time barring a complete meltdown.
See "Celtics, Boston" and "Knicks, New York" Also reference, "Likely, Not Fucking."
For idiots, further reading includes "Jordan, Michael aka Airness, His."
Prior to this off-season the Cavaliers would have ranked a bit higher on this list of potentially light-footed teams. After re-signing LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and potentially trading for Kevin Love, it seems unlikely the team will move anytime in the near future. Despite a disastrous 2013-2014 campaign that saw the termination of the GM and the head coach, the team ranked 16th in attendance, just barely on the wrong side of the ledger. The Cavs have reportedly sold out of season tickets for 2014-2015. It seems that this experiment in Cleveland basketball is working out pretty good.
One of the NBA's somewhat storied franchises, still remembered by most for the Bad Boy Pistons era. They're struggling and attendance is down, but any marginal success and they should pop back up. However, they are located in one of the most economically depressed cities in the United States. Remember when they declared bankruptcy? The only reason the Pistons would move is continued decline in the city around them (we're talking horrible, warzone level stuff).
(Editor's note: could Seattle buy the Pistons in a bankruptcy sale? Is that possible? Someone investigate that. This is the Internet. You're all supposed to be smarter than us.)
The Pacers have historically been a great team in the NBA, and aside from this upcoming season, they should continue to be great for the foreseeable future if George can recover (which we all hope he can).
The Bucks have been terrible for years and aren't bringing in almost any fans on a regular basis. If they don't start seeing success soon, they could be a prime candidate to move, especially considering their market size. They had the worst attendance in the 2014 season. They have been in the bottom-five for attendance since 2011 when they ranked a blistering 23 (of 30 teams). The last time they ranked in the upper-half of the league in attendance was 2004 (a full decade ago now).
Ownership then took the time to embarrass themselves and the organization by backdooring head coach Larry Drew (replacing him with sophomore coach and human embodiment of the Game of Thrones ethos Jason Kidd). Not a great time to be a Bucks fan.
But hey, Jabari Parker looks good.
Look. Atlanta has a great history in the NBA. But it's not one littered with dazzling success. Dominique was always on the wrong side of the shoot out (ask the Celtics). The Hawks were always getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs. And the city has responded. They don't show up in droves for this team, even though they were technically a playoff team (earning a measly 8th seed in the super weak Eastern Conference and then nearly pulling the upset against the beleaguered Pacers). The Hawks rated third-worst in the league in attendance. From 2005-2014 the Hawks consistently ranked in the bottom-half of the league in attendance, and made semi-regular appearance in the bottom-third. That's an intriguing fact because Atlanta made the playoffs pretty much from 07-08 through 2014.
The newly branded Hornets may seem an unlikely flight-risk considering they re-located to the city just a few years ago. But the team has been mired in mediocrity since their not-so-triumphant return and their attendance numbers reflect that. Charlotte had the sixth worst attendance numbers in the league last season, despite a 7th place finish in the East, good for the franchise's first playoff berth since their return. That said, they had a good off-season. They drafted analytics darling Noah Vonleh and signed human gadfly (and immensely talented guard) Lance Stephenson away from the Pacers. This team could take another step forward next season.
The Heat aren't a candidate to move. Yet. In two years, when the Heat is essentially Bosh, and the LeBron-centric fanbase has all but disintegrated, the team could be in ruins. We doubt they up and move after four straight trips to the Finals and three titles for the franchise. But Miami didn't endear itself to the national landscape with its wishy-washy fanbase and obscenity laced tirades (mostly directed at Joakim Noah which, yeah, we get it, but is still mostly uncalled for).
The Magic have struggled for quite some time and don't seem to be improving drastically in the near future. With waning attendance, the Magic may have to bring in some major talent in order to restore some life to their small-market. Their current claim to fame is serving as a big man farm for other, larger market clubs (See: O'Neal, Shaquille and Howard, Dwight).
The Wizards haven't been incredibly successful, but have managed to put together solid rosters for the majority of the past decade. They struggle to bring in huge crowds, but similar to the Pistons, a couple of good seasons could change that quickly. Not to mention their rapidly ascending core of young talent: John Wall, the overrated Bradly Beal, and Otto Porter?
The Western Conference
Cuban has a cult of personality thing going on in Dallas. They won a title in 2011 and were second in the league in attendance this year, despite a 7th place finish in the competitive West. They aren't going anywhere. They're like Spurs-lite. Or Diet Spurs. (Come up with your own Mavericks-Spurs analogy!)
The Rockets will be staying for the foreseeable future, being in a mid-major market with two stars currently. They have a fairly successful history (Olajuwon anyone?) and one of the most well-respected front offices in the Association. Chances are good they're in Houston for a good, long while.
A small market team with a ton of playoff experience and gobs of interior talent should not be near the bottom third of the league's attendance. But there's the Grizzlies, those perennial Western Conference challengers and defensive grinders, clocking in at the paltry number 20 mark on the attendance list (for reminder: there are 30 teams in the NBA. That means the Grizz are 20 out of 30 in attendance.) And if you think that's an aberration, here's a reminder. Last year, the Grizz made a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals. What was their attendance like? They ranked 19 of 30 teams. So they can't generate momentum during the season, can't build buzz during the off-season, and have few other options. This city needs to start supporting this team.
New Orleans Pelicans---4
With Anthony Davis gradually emerging from the NBA equivalent of a bildungrsoman, New Orleans is unlikely to bolt the city. But attendance is low, they're still rounding out the bottom-ten of the league in that category and they're paying quite a bit in salary. If the team starts to compete for a playoff spot this year (which I think is likely) and they're still in the bottom half of the league in attendance, the Pellies might become a real flight-risk.
San Antonio Spurs----1
The Spurs are a total NBA oddity. They're definitely not a major market, but they have some of the best fans in the NBA and have been winning for the better part of two decades now. With Pop and Duncan at the helm of this ship, they have transformed the Spurs into one of the NBA's storied teams. They're a treat to watch, in part because they are breathing history. Old Man River Walk keeps tearing it up and developing All-Star teammates. They're not going anywhere.
Number 19 of 30 teams in attendance. No clear superstar. No clear direction. Playing in the tougher conference. But the weed is cheap and the market isn't terrible. They're probably not going anywhere.
They're losing Kevin Love. They're fourth worst in attendance. They appear to be going through ANOTHER rebuilding phase (this time with less KAAAAAAAAAAAAAHN!). They're a small-market team so they're already more likely to jump than a Philly, New York or Boston. Minny is a flight risk, particularly if this next rebuild is the quagmire it's shaping up to be.
Oklahoma City Thunder---2
The new team was just moved from Seattle, much to the chagrin of many fans, but the team has played phenomenally well in their short tenure. They made a trip to the Finals in 2011 and have knocked on the gate a few more times. Don't expect them to move any time soon.
Portland Trail Blazers---3
The Trail Blazers were top-5 in attendance last year averaging 19,746 fans per game. They played a thrilling playoff series against Houston before getting bounced by San Antonio. They have some buzz moving forward and they are backed by a great sports town. They aren't going anywhere.
The Jazz are somewhat in flux. They've seen marginal success and could break out at any time, but for now they still struggle to bring in big numbers in attendance. In time, they may be a move candidate but we doubt it. Utah has a history of success and playoff berths and there's not much else in the way of Utah sports.
Golden State Warriors---3
They're very successful and now have a young duo in Curry and Thompson that looks like they could carry the team for years. Not to mention they've averaged a sellout for a full season now. They're not moving.
Los Angeles Clippers---4.5
Two teams already in LA. The Clips were just purchased by a Seattle native and Sonics fan. The team is tainted by years of blanketed racism and embarrassing front office moves. But LA is still a major market, even when you're competing with the Lakers.
Los Angeles Lakers---1
Probably the best market in basketball with the most famed franchise in NBA history. Not moving, ever. Forever ever? Forever ever.
The team has been moderately successful lately and looks to continue that trend, but they still are in the bottom half of the league in attendance. They're in a growing part of the country and play an exciting brand of basketball. They were barely kept out of the playoffs and despite an injury to stud guard Eric Bledsoe (who is now sort of holding out for max money, amazingly enough), still almost eked out the 8th spot in the hyper-competitive West.
(Have we said the West is competitive yet? Seriously, Phoenix would have been the third best team in the East last season. They might have been the second best. THEY DID NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS IN THE WEST.)
The Kings are now under a new owner that seems to like the team where it is, but it's under performing and struggling in the California market that's already over-saturated with basketball. They have a promising cornerstone player in DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins. But they have little else to show for years of impotence. They reached a bit for Nik Stauskus (who Moondog loves, but still) and have collected a roster of semi-selfish gunners. If the team improves, Sacramento may embrace the team. Until then, everyone in the city and on the roster should be on eggshells. This team has been drowning in relocation rumors since the Maloofs were owners and not much has changed since then.