Forbes released the 2023 edition of their annual list of the most valuable NBA franchises, and let’s just say the New Orleans Pelicans didn’t fare too well. According to Forbes’ list, the Pelicans had the 28th-ranked franchise in terms of value. They appraised the franchise at 2.55 billion dollars. They were just behind the Indiana Pacers (who were valued at 2.9 billion dollars) and just ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves ( valued at 2.5 billion dollars).
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The team is notoriously one of the smallest operating markets in the league. It makes sense that they are worth roughly three times less than the first-place Golden State Warriors (valued at 7.7 billion dollars).
What does this have to do with Zion Williamson?
With that said, as many of you are probably wondering (from looking at the headline), what does this have to do with Zion Williamson?
Since Michael Jordan commoditized the athlete, stars have always driven the value of franchises. If you have a highly marketable star, chances are they are going to increase the value of your team exponentially.
Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and Trey Murphy III, are all really good players. But none of them have the global appeal of the former first-overall pick Zion Williamson. If the Pelicans ever hope to climb up Forbes’ list in the future, they can’t let go of Williamson (without replacing him with a player of similar status).
As we said, the Warriors were ranked number one on Forbes’ list – ahead of powerhouses like the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, and Boston Celtics. They were able to accomplish this feat in large part because of their superstar, Stephen Curry (who has spent his entire career with the Warriors).
The Warriors also have the advantage of playing basketball in California. The Pelicans will likely never reach the same heights as them, but they can be higher than 28th.
A perfect example of this is the Milwaukee Bucks. They are also a team located in a notoriously small market. But they have their own homegrown superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo. They ranked 20th on Forbes’ list (valued at 3.25 billion).
Getting into the top 20 is a very attainable goal for this Pelicans team, but they need to make sure they hold on to Williamson and let him become the superstar that everyone knows he can be.