With all the attention paid to the big NBA markets (cough ESPN), it seems a fine time to look outside of the NBA Atlantic (where five of the top 10 big markets reside) and throw a bone to those mini-mites of the league.
There’s no clean spot to break big into middle, or middle into small markets. But there’s a bit of a gap between the Golden State Warriors (as the No. 15 population/TV market in the league) and the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 16, so it's easiest to split the league right in half for these rankings.
Categories considered in the rankings (lower scores, meaning a higher ranking, are better):
- Market Size
- Fan Support (percentage of arena filled per game)
- Future Market Growth
- Team Heritage (franchise history, including years spent in market and playoffs/titles)
- All-Time Winning Percentage
- Fan Cost Index
- Market Competition (considering other attractions and pro teams competing for dollars)
These rankings aren’t super-scientific and each category was weighed equally. In case of a tie, advantages on the court won out.
The winner is probably no surprise, as it ranks as one of the all-time best NBA franchises, period—small-market or not. Neither is the last-place club—the worst of the smallest—coming off of a record-breaking year of which no other team would ever be envious. But between bottom and top, there are bound to be a few shocks.