The Spurs will open their title defense as the NBA's best bet for secondary ticket value. On the other side of the spectrum, LeBron James' return to the Cavaliers is the biggest market mover, according to numbers provided by ticket aggregator TiqIQ.
What makes for maximum value? Winning basketball at a low price. To explore that combination for the upcoming 2014-15 season, let's compare the average secondary market ticket price for all 30 teams alongside each team's estimated over-under win totals. The average ticket price covers tickets sold on all of the most common ticket-selling sites, including StubHub, and is current as of Oct. 23. The over/under win totals were set by Bovada.LV earlier this month. Each team is then assigned a cost per win. As an example, a team with an average ticket cost of $100 and an over-under of 50 wins would have a cost per estimated win of $2.
It's worth noting that the league's current 2014-15 average secondary ticket price across all 30 teams is $160.04, while last year's final average price was $103.80. Naturally, excitement and demand are higher during the preseason than after the wheat gets separated from the chaff.
With an average secondary ticket price of $116.78 and an over/under of 57 wins, the Spurs boast the league's lowest cost per estimated win, at $2.05. The rest of the top five is comprised entirely of 2014 playoff teams: the Blazers ($2.21), Wizards ($2.26), Grizzlies ($2.42) and Warriors ($2.52).
The worst values are made up mostly of projected lottery teams, with one major exception. LeBron James' return to Cleveland has fueled a massive uptick in the Cavaliers' secondary ticket price. Last season, Cleveland's average secondary ticket price was $68.17; that price has risen to a league-high $366.38 for 2014-15. With an over-under set at 58.5 wins, the Cavaliers' cost per estimated win checks in at $6.26, the fourth-highest mark in the league. Last year, the Cavaliers' cost per win of $2.07 was the league's ninth-lowest mark.
How is the LeBron Effect working in reverse? Last year, Miami won 54 games and had an average secondary ticket price of $234.36 for a cost per win of $4.34, third-highest in the league. This season, the Heat are projected to win 44 games with an average secondary ticket price of $193.34 for an estimated cost per win of $4.39, which ranks 12th. NerdWallet.com has further explored James' impact, concluding that a family of four purchasing tickets on the secondary market will pay a league-high $1,504.89 to attend a Cavaliers game assuming they also purchase two beers, two soda, four hot dogs and parking. That number is more than double the site's estimate for the NBA's average cost for a family of four, which checks in at $654.09.
Take A Look
The following chart plots all 30 teams based on their preseason over-under and average secondary ticket cost. Click here to enlarge the image.
As expected, big-market teams dominate the top of the list when it comes to highest-priced secondary tickets. After the Cavaliers, the rest of the top five includes the Knicks ($275), Bulls ($239.85), Lakers ($232.10) and Suns ($212.93). Of note, Chicago's price is up significantly from last season's average of $141.99, as the return of Derrick Rose and the offseason additions of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic combined to make the Bulls one of the favorites to win the East. And, despite a terrible 2013-14 season and a rough summer, the Lakers still command a higher price than the Clippers ($170.68).
The league's cheapest average secondary ticket prices are mostly found in smaller markets: the Pacers ($88.63), Bucks ($107.63), Kings ($108.27), Blazers ($108.39) and Wizards ($112.85) make up the league's five cheapest. Last season, the Pacers delivered the NBA's best cost per win ($0.84) thanks to an average secondary ticket price of $47 and a strong 56-win season that ended with a trip to the Eastern Conference finals. This season, coach Frank Vogel and company will be forced to make due without All-Star forward Paul George, who is injured, and do-everything guard Lance Stephenson, who signed with the Hornets.