Rovell: How Valuable Is Victor Wembanyama For Each NBA Lottery Team?
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It’s the NBA Lottery tonight, where the winner gets to pick Victor Wembanyama, the most hyped No. 1 pick since LeBron James.
One site speculated that getting the ping pong balls to fall in the right way would make the new team $500 million, a preposterous, unrealistic number that could only be rationalized if Wembanyama is the NBA’s best player and leads his team to multiple championships.
With the behind-the-scenes help of NBA executives, ticket brokers and other insiders, we bring you an estimate as to how much value Wembanyama will bring to a team. These estimates only consider what drafting Wembanyama is worth right now and doesn’t account for future team success.
(A reminder: NBA licensed products sold outside of arenas are split among all teams.)
1. Charlotte Hornets, $280 million, 12.5% chance
There’s one scenario here that makes the Hornets derive the most value from landing Victor Wembanyama. Michael Jordan has been considering selling a majority stake in the team to Gabe Plotkin and Dan Sundheim, who bought 20% from him previously.
If Wembanyama is the Hornets’ franchise guy, the value of the franchise could jump from $1.7B to $2.1B, sources said. Jordan, if he sold his 70% stake, would cash in to the tune of an additional $280 million.
2. Houston Rockets, $32 million, 14% chance
Houston is the fourth-biggest city in the country, but had a dismal year attendance wise, drawing only 90% capacity. That means from a ticket perspective there’s room for growth. Ticket prices dropped after James Harden and Russell Westbrook skipped town, but the outrageous prices charged back then proves that there’s elasticity. So there’s plenty of seats to sell and the limits of how much the ticket costs can be tested.
It’s a different group of execs from Yao in 2002, but international marketing is very familiar.
Landing Wembanyama could result in an immediate bump of $5 million in sales and perhaps as much as $12 million in added sponsorships, not to mention the fact that the Rockets’ patch deal with Credit Karma is done after this season. A new patch deal with Wembanyama on the team could add $5 million a year to a three-year deal, according to sources.
3. Indiana Pacers, $25 million, 6.8% chance
The Pacers have had a tough run. From a capacity standpoint, they’ve essentially been in the bottom third of league attendance for the last eight seasons, the same amount of time it has been since they won a first round playoff series.
But there’s so much upside here. Out of all the teams, Indiana is best positioned inventory wise.
Indiana loves its basketball and they have plenty of tickets to sell. And it’s not just from Indiana. A lot of the Midwest will be willing to come see the big phenom.
Not only that — the Pacers are finishing up on a $362 million renovation that allows the team to sell far, far more premium tickets. There’s fresh advertising inventory, including new patch availability ready to start immediately and anything they sell comes with the promise of hosting this year’s All-Star Game.
Another net positive is that a fan or sponsor isn’t just buying into Wembanyama. Out of all the lottery teams, this is the team that could really shine in 2023-24.
4. Chicago Bulls, $28 million, 1.8% chance
If Chicago gets Connor Bedard and Victor Wembanyama, the Windy City may once again be the center of the sports universe. The Bulls led the league in total attendance last year, but there’s enough money to go around, especially since this team hasn’t been must-see in 25 years.
5. Orlando Magic, $23 million, 9% chance
There is no better team at knowing who they are than the Orlando Magic. They play basketball but their real business is to make sure that those who are coming into town for the real attractions — Disney World and Universal — know that the Magic are also in town.
For this reason, they are best in class at business acumen — knowing who to target and how to target them. It’s why, out of all the NBA teams, they have the most international mix of visitors in their crowd.
If there’s any downside, the crowd is so transient that sponsorship doesn’t quite work the same way it does elsewhere. But it doesn’t hurt that Disney is their patch sponsor.
6. Toronto Raptors, $22 million, 1% chance
The Raptors’ chance of getting Wembanyama are slim, but if they get him, man, do they win.
Simply put, Toronto has the most international base of any NBA city.
Here’s the rub: The Raptors don’t have much to sell as they sold out 99% of their seats last season.
But there is so much wealth in Toronto that ticket prices could go sky high and people will still pay. There’s money saved up after the Leafs once again fell on their face.
When the Raptors won it all in 2019, we all saw what it was like when this team is at its height. Wembanyama brings that type of buzz back in an instant.
7. Washington Wizards, $22 million, 6.7% chance
The Washington Wizards have been irrelevant for five years now with season win totals of 32, 25, 34, 35 and 35, which turns out to be glorious if they get Victor Wembanyama. Not only on the court, but off of it.
Thanks to having the fourth-largest NBA arena with 20,356 seats, Washington, on average, had more empty seats than anyone last year — 3,330 per game.
Sure, it’s a 25-year-old facility, but in terms of being able to capitalize on all fronts, no owner is better at mobilizing than Ted Leonsis.
And yes, like Indiana, there’s a patch deal opening right now.
8. Dallas Mavericks, $17 million, 3% chance
The Dallas Mavericks have been very disappointing in the postseason, but they have indisputably grown internationally thanks to Luka Doncic.
Having Doncic and Wembanyama will be an incredible boost.
Dallas, with another disappointing ending, pretty much sold out last year, so any upside would have to be on pricing and, like Toronto, the money is there and Mark Cuban is one hell of a marketer.
9. San Antonio Spurs, $16 million, 14% chance
The San Antonio Spurs fans, with Robinson and Duncan, were used to winning. And I don’t think anyone needs a reminder that, over the last quarter century, the Spurs went to six Finals and won five of them.
Like Chicago, Houston and Dallas, they have plenty of people and plenty of seats to sell, seeing as 8% of them were empty this past season.
When the game is good, or if there’s something cool to watch (68,323 packed the Alamodome this year for a game against the Warriors), they will show up in San Antonio. But the Spurs will have to rely on the local crowd because the destination and tourist crowd aren’t reliable.
10. New Orleans Pelicans, $14 million, 0.5% chance
New Orleans is an obvious destination and if Wemby is everything that Zion has not been, the out of town play here is huge.
For all the years the Pelicans have been in the market, they’ve never really been a must-see. This could significantly change things. And the tourist would be willing to spend some big bucks to do something other than eat great food and drink on Bourbon Street.
11. Detroit Pistons, $14 million, 14% chance
The most impressive team attendance-wise this past season has to be the Detroit Pistons.
They drew 18,529 fans per game while being the worst team in the league.
While this isn’t your mother’s Detroit — it’s revitalized and there’s no heading into the scary abyss of the Palace at Auburn Hills — the team still plays in one of the poorest cities in America.
Yes, there is of course the rest of Michigan, but the ability to increase the price tag significantly is limited and the out-of-town appeal to see Wembanyama in Detroit is next to zero.
Their patch deal is a funny one. Their current deal runs out next year with Mat Ishbia’s United Wholesale Mortgage. I don’t expect the new Suns owner to let go of that one easily.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder, $10 million, 1.8% chance
The Oklahoma City Thunder would have been last on this list, but since they were last this past season in attendance, they have 14% of the arena to sell.
Inventory available is very much a factor in all of this and OKC has it.
T13. Utah Jazz, $9 million, 4.5% chance
The Utah Jazz were an under .500 team and sold out their season at very respectable prices. They do really well for their market. There’s just not a lot of revenue to be strained out here.
T13. Portland Trail Blazers, $9 million, 10.5% chance
Much like Salt Lake, Portland is Portland. It has a very solid fan base and it’s pretty much the only game in town, besides the Timbers.
There’s not a whole lot of upside from the quantity of tickets they can sell, which is a compliment to the fan base and what they have.
The arena was only 3% empty last year with a 33-49 record and they have been the ultimate team burned by the promise of great No. 1 picks (See Bowie, Sam and Oden, Greg).
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