Ranking All 30 Teams: Who Is the Most Important to the NBA?

Matthew RobinsonContributor IMay 31, 2011

Ranking All 30 Teams: Who Is the Most Important to the NBA?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Commissioner David Stern speaks to the crowd prior to presenting the 2009-2010 Championship Rings to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on October 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackno
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Throughout the history of the NBA, there have been eras where certain teams have been the spotlight for the NBA’s success and growth. Teams like the Boston Celtics in the '60s, the Pistons in the '80s and the Bulls in the '90s each played their roles in turning the NBA into a worldwide spectacle.

    While every team can be considered important, there are of course teams that have done more than others. The following ranks all 30 NBA teams based on their importance to the NBA both currently and historically. The rankings are based on three factors: their success throughout history (playoff appearances, championships, etc.), the team’s importance to their city/state and also the monetary value of each team.

    I have also included a player representative for each team.

30: Charlotte Bobcats

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    CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 15: Gerald Wallace #3 of the Charlotte Bobcats goes up for a shot past Kurt Thomas #40 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on February 15, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
    • Success Rank: 30
    • City/State Rank: 30
    • Money Rank: 25
    • Player Rep: Gerald Wallace

    It is hard to be considered important when you are a new expansion team that has not had enough time to make any real contributions on or off the court. Hopefully with Michael Jordan running the show, the Bobcats will someday become a significant team. 

29: Milwaukee Bucks

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Former NBA player Kareem Abdul Jabbar arrives to the T-Mobile Magenta Carpet at the 2011 NBA All-Star Game on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
    • Success Rank: 26
    • City/State Rank: 27
    • Money Rank: 29
    • Player Rep: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    The Bucks have been consistently in the basement, whether it be the low seed of the playoffs or the basement of the Eastern Conference. Also, with the Green Bay Packers being the pride of Wisconsin and the Brewers showing signs of life, the Bucks are even in the basement of their own state.

28: Portland Trail Blazers

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    • Success Rank: 25
    • City/State Rank: 23
    • Money Rank: 30
    • Player Rep: Clyde Drexler

    One plus that helped the Blazers not be No. 30 is the fact that they are the only pro team in Oregon. However, it seems the city of Portland does not know this since they made the least money in 2009/2010.

27: Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets

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    13 May, 1998:  Luc Longley #13 and Scottie Pippen #31 of the Chicago Bulls go up against Glen Rice #41 of the Charlotte Hornets for the ball during the NBA Eastern Conference Finals at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls defeated the Hornet
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
    • Success Rank: 22
    • City/State Rank: 28
    • Money Rank: 27
    • Player Rep: Glen Rice

    As much as I wanted to put “Grandmama” as the rep, Glen Rice was the team’s best scorer. The team moving to another state put a dent in their history, but the city of New Orleans has been slowly embracing the Hornets and should get better in the coming years—if they can keep Chris Paul, of course.

26: Golden State Warriors

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    • Success Rank: 29
    • City/State Rank: 26
    • Money Rank: 21
    • Player Rep: Wilt Chamberlain

    They may have had the best big man to play the game, but Golden State has always been looked at as a second-tier California basketball team and will more than likely never get out of the Lakers' shadow.

25: Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 15:  Forward Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts during a 90-105 loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2011 at Oklahoma City Aren
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    • Success Rank: 21
    • City/State Rank: 29 
    • Money Rank: 23
    • Player Rep: Zach Randolph

    The Grizzlies are very happy to be out of Canada it seems with the playoff push they made this season. Look for Tennessee to have another great basketball team in the next couple years.

24: Seattle SuperSonics/OKC Thunder

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    SEATTLE - FEBRUARY 11:  Gary Payton #20 of the Seattle Sonics puts up a shot during the game against the Boston Celtics at Key Arena on February 11, 2003 in Seattle, Washington.  The Celtics won 82-76.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
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    • Success Rank: 19
    • City/State Rank: 24
    • Money Rank: 28
    • Player Rep: Gary Payton

    The team’s success as the SuperSonics and most recently as the Thunder helped move them up a few spots. What kept them out of the top 20 is the lack of capital made by the team in 2009/2010. Next year’s profit should be much more promising.

23: Los Angeles Clippers

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    • Success Rank: 28
    • City/State Rank: 18
    • Money Rank: 24
    • Player Rep: Bob McAdoo

    Always known as the other team in Los Angeles, the Clippers have had a tough time finding relevance in California and the league. For example, the Lakers have A-list actors like Jack Nicholson as fans; the Clippers have maybe C-list actor Billy Crystal cheering them on. The Clippers could really use a P/R guy.

22: Denver Nuggets

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    • Success Rank: 20
    • City/State Rank: 22
    • Money Rank: 20
    • Player Rep: Alex English

    Something tells me that while this ranking is not necessarily high, losing Carmelo Anthony will make them sink even further. It is worth noting that the Nuggets have made it to the playoffs every year since 2003. However, except for one year, the Nuggets never made it out of the first round.

21: Sacramento Kings

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    • Success Rank: 24
    • City/State Rank: 25 
    • Money Rank: 12
    • Player Rep: Oscar Robertson

    The money rank was a shock to me. Must be because it costs too much to be a Lakers fan in Northern California. It is a long drive.

    Kudos for almost making the top 20. Now they just need to make a team worthy of this ranking.

20: Minnesota Timberwolves

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    MIAMI - MARCH 9:  Forward Kevin Garnett #21 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts to a foul against the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena March 9, 2007 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
    • Success Rank: 16
    • City/State Rank: 20
    • Money Rank: 22
    • Player Rep: Kevin Garnett

    The Timberwolves are still a relatively new team in the league, and it looks like they need a couple more growth spurts before they are ready to contend. They had one chance with Kevin Garnett, but they never managed to build the right team around him and now it is back to the drawing board.

19: Washington Bullets/Wizards

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    • Success Rank: 27
    • City/State Rank: 16
    • Money Rank: 15
    • Player Rep: Elvin Hayes

    This ranking comes from a historical standpoint. The Bullets had some great playoff runs in the '60s, '70s and '80s. But ever since the change in name, the Wizards have only had a small moment of glory during the Gilbert Arenas Era.

    It may have a violent sound to it, but the Wiz need to go back to Bullets and start over again.

18: Atlanta Hawks

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    • Success Rank: 15
    • City/State Rank: 17
    • Money Rank: 26
    • Player Rep: Bob Pettit

    This middle-of-the-pack ranking is suitable for the Hawks. They have close to a .500 record in both the regular season and postseason history and have had some consistent growth in the past few years. What is hurting them is their lack of revenue.

17: Toronto Raptors

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    NEW YORK - JANUARY 28:  Chris Bosh #4 of the Toronto Raptors lays the ball up against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2010 in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or
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    • Success Rank: 23
    • "Country" Rank: 19
    • Money Rank: 14
    • Player Rep: Chris Bosh

    Even though they have an entire country to root for them, the Raptors have not been able to generate any true power amongst the NBA elite. They couldn’t hold on to their two true stars, Vince Carter and Chris Bosh.

    The one thing looking up for Toronto is their consistent fanbase. Even with all of the ups and downs, the Raptors have still managed to rank high in stadium sellouts.

16: Utah Jazz

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    SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 19:  Karl Malone #32 of the Utah Jazz shoots over Mike Bibby #10 of the Sacramento Kings in Game one of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2003 NBA Playoffs on April 19, 2003 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. (Ph
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    • Success Rank: 11
    • City/State Rank: 21
    • Money Rank: 16
    • Player Rep: Karl Malone

    The elite team that never was. Having two Hall of Fame players on the same team at the same time is usually a recipe for a championship or two. But the combination of Karl Malone and John Stockton came at the wrong time.

    Jordan and Pippen will always be the Achilles heel of the Jazz, and it will more than likely be a good while before the Jazz can try for the top prize again. 

15: New Jersey Nets

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 10:  Jason Kidd #5 of the New Jersey Nets leans into Jose Barea #11 of the Dallas Mavericks during their game at the Izod Center February 10, 2008 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
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    • Success Rank: 17
    • City/State Rank: 12
    • Money Rank: 17
    • Player Rep: Jason Kidd

    I really want to replace New Jersey with New York No. 2, but that would not be nice to all my Jersey Shore Nets fans.

    I have always seen the Nets as good but never great. If they had won any of the major superstar signings this year, we could be seeing them fighting for the title, but I guess it was not meant to be. The No. 15 spot is perfect for them, since they are consistently a middle-of-the-pack franchise.

14: Indiana Pacers

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    INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 19:  Reggie Miller #31 of the Indiana Pacers takes one of his shots as Chauncey Billups #1 of the Detroit Pistons defends in Game six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2005 NBA Playoffs on May 19, 2005 at Conseco Fieldhous
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    • Success Rank: 12
    • City/State Rank: 15
    • Money Rank: 18
    • Player Rep: Reggie Miller

    I was born and raised in Chicago, so it was implanted into my soul to despise the Pacers. But come on, how could you not like Reggie Miller? He was funny, a real competitor and on top of that, unstoppable behind the three-point line.

    Their tough series against the Bulls this year is a sign that the Pacers are going in the right direction, making them deserving of this pretty high ranking.

13: Cleveland Cavaliers

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    CLEVELAND - MAY 11:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers leaves the floor in the fourth quarter while playing the Boston Celtics in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 11, 2010
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    • Success Rank: 18
    • City/State Rank: 14
    • Money Rank: 7
    • Player Rep: LeBron James

    Something tells me that this ranking is an inflated one—especially since the money rankings are from last year. However, if you believe in conspiracy theories, it seems as though the NBA is investing a lot in Cleveland’s future since they have two very high draft picks this coming year.

    It takes a while for a kingdom to rebuild their glory when the king leaves for a new land. So expect this ranking to fall quickly.

12: Orlando Magic

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    ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 24:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic attacks the basket against Jason Collins #34 of the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 24, 2011 in Atlan
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    • Success Rank: 10
    • City/State Rank: 10
    • Money Rank: 19
    • Player Rep: Dwight Howard

    I thought the Magic would be higher since they have had some great players and teams in their relatively short history. What seems to be hurting the team is the fact that Floridians are spending more money at theme parks than they are for basketball tickets and jerseys. Maybe Van Gundy should wear some Mickey Ears on the bench.

    If they are going to stay an important franchise, they need to use some Magic to keep Howard on the team.

11: Houston Rockets

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    • Success Rank: 13
    • City/State Rank: 11
    • Money Rank: 5
    • Player Rep: Hakeem Olajuwon

    The Rockets were very opportunistic, taking a couple of championships while Jordan was on hiatus. Of course, when Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon is on the team it doesn't feel like they stole anything.

    Would they have if Mike decided not to try baseball? We will never know, but their importance skyrocketed during those two years. 

10: Dallas Mavericks

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 25:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks goes up for a shot between Nick Collison #4 and Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second half in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at
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    • Success Rank: 14
    • City/State Rank: 8
    • Money Rank: 6
    • Player Rep: Dirk Nowitzki

    Dallas has a chance this year to place a permanent foothold in the top 10 if they can slay the three-headed dragon in Miami. The city of Dallas loves their team, and it shows in the arena and in the financial books. Mark Cuban is one happy owner.

9: Philadelphia 76ers

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    LOS ANGELES - 1987:  Julius Erving #6 of the Philadelphia 76ers rests during the 1987 game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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    • Success Rank: 9
    • City/State Rank: 6
    • Money Rank: 13
    • Player Rep: Julius Erving

    This position is mostly for historical reasons. Their successful dethroning of the unstoppable Celtics in the 1967 gave them some much-needed prestige in the NBA. Although that glory has faded recently, the devotion of the city of Philly makes them a very important team. 

8: Phoenix Suns

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    • Success Rank: 6
    • City/State Rank: 13
    • Money Rank: 8
    • Player Rep: Charles Barkley

    I won’t lie, I feel bad for the city of Phoenix. They have come so close to winning it all in the past two decades; they just could never make it to the top. However, their consistency earned them a top-10 spot on this list.

7: San Antonio Spurs

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    MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 25:  Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball while defended by Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 25, 2011 in
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    • Success Rank: 5
    • City/State Rank: 9
    • Money Rank: 10
    • Player Rep: Tim Duncan

    San Antonio has been one of the most consistent teams of the new millennium. You can always count on the Spurs being a playoff threat year in and year out. Age is becoming a factor, however, so this ranking may slide in the next couple years.

6: Miami Heat

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat reacts against the Chicago Bulls in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2011 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. Recording artist Drake NOTE TO
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    • Success Rank: 7
    • City/State Rank: 5
    • Money Rank: 9
    • Player Rep: Dwyane Wade

    I’m sure when the money rankings come in next year, Miami will be close to the top. The Big Three have made a huge difference to the Heat’s popularity and marketability. Only time will tell if this trio will last and make the Heat a premier franchise.

5: Detroit Pistons

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    • Success Rank: 4
    • City/State Rank: 7
    • Money Rank: 4
    • Player Rep: Isaiah Thomas

    You can credit this high ranking to the 1980s. One word that can describe that team is “intimidating." You can also give credit to the perennially losing Detroit Lions for keeping Detroit from becoming a football city.

4: Boston Celtics

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    • Success Rank: 1
    • City/State Rank: 3
    • Money Rank: 11
    • Player Rep: Bill Russel

    Their record 17 championships, including their dominating run in the '60s, made them a top 5 franchise. What kept them from climbing further is the fact that they rank quite low in the Dollar Department. Odd, since the Celtics historically have been a popular franchise and have a recent championship.

3: New York Knicks

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    • Success Rank: 8
    • City/State Rank: 1
    • Money Rank: 1
    • Player Rep: Willis Reed

    Despite being the most profitable and one of the most recognizable teams in the NBA, the Knicks cannot match the number of titles won by other important franchises. Had the Knicks managed to beat their archrival Bulls in one of their playoff clashes in the '90s, they may have been No. 2 or even No. 1.

    So don’t freak out, Spike Lee—No. 3 isn’t so bad.

2: Chicago Bulls

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    2 May 1992:   Michael Jordan #45 of the Chicago Bulls looks to pass the ball during the NBA 1st Round Playoffs Game against the Charlotte Hornets at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Hornets 103-80.    NOTE TO USER: It is expr
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
    • Success Rank: 3
    • City/State Rank: 4
    • Money Rank: 3
    • Player Rep: Michael Jordan

    The Bulls' six championships in the '90s helped them edge past the Knicks for No. 2. Of course, it does help that they had the best player in NBA history.

    Being from Chicago myself, I was glad to see the Bulls make it so high from my calculations. I personally saw the football/baseball city of Chi-Town transform into a basketball powerhouse in the '90s.

1: Los Angeles Lakers

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    • Success Rank: 2
    • City/State Rank: 2
    • Money Rank: 2
    • Player Rep: Kobe Bryant/Magic Johnson

    It's safe to say that if the Lakers did not exist, the NBA would be a much weaker organization. Having won 16 championships, produced some of the biggest names in basketball history (so much so that there was a tie for player rep) and becoming a worldwide-known team like the Yankees and Cowboys makes them the most important team to the NBA.

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