Allegiant Stadium is the talk of Las Vegas. The building is lit up and the Raiders have released multiple pictures showing the near-completed construction of the stadium. The $1.8 billion project looks nothing short of majestic, getting Las Vegas natives and Raiders fans excited about next season.
Las Vegas has long been seen as a city that would not bide will with professional sports teams or players. An NBA team would have trouble competing with entertainment attractions like UFC card fights and gambling. The possibility of a team or player getting wrapped up in a scandal is enough to repel owners away from Sin City. If a Dennis Rodman type player were to permanently live in Vegas, they would be hard to control.
However, all of that is changing. Las Vegas has seen recent success with the Golden Knights, a team that came into existence back in 2017 during the NHL’s expansion process. The Knights saw immediate success, making the Stanley Cup their first year in existence.
Two of North America’s major sports teams (NHL and NFL) have made their mark in Vegas. What NBA teams could make the move to Las Vegas?
No. 5 – LA Clippers
The Clippers are an odd choice for this list. The organization is thriving, but they do have one non-logistical reason to move.
Los Angeles is a Lakers town, so for the past 20+ years, the Clippers have been LA’s OTHER team. At times, it seems as if the Clippers stadium is filled with more Warriors or Lakers fans than their own. When asked about the possibility of a Clippers championship parade in a SLAM NBA interview, Lou Williams mentioned “we could really get booed at our own parade.”
The Clippers could finally develop a much bigger and loyal fan base, which could help increase fan attendance and support among a new hometown team.
The organization should keep Kawhi and Paul George in mind. A part of why both players moved to the Clippers is because of their connection to the area. If the Clippers plan on keeping this duo longer than the next three years, a move to a different city is not the way to do it.
Realistically, the Clippers won’t relocate anytime in the near future. Los Angeles is too great of a market to forfeit. However, it would be interesting to see if Las Vegas could provide the team with a new fan base and the resources to continue thriving on and off the court.
No. 4 – Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have had decent success in the past few years. With Lillard leading the team to a Western Conference Finals (WCF) last season, the city of Portland had hope for the future. However, with injuries and a serious dismantling of last year’s roster, Portland’s goal is not to make the WCF again, but to just make the playoffs.
The Blazers would need to consider Lillard and CJ McCollum’s expensive contracts. If they plan on keeping this near $300 million backcourt duo and surrounding them with a playoff level roster, a move to Vegas would be expensive.
A move to Vegas might just be what they need in a few years. When both the guards’ contracts are up, they will be out of their prime, leaving a gap in the team’s roster for a leader and scorers.
Portland has struggled to attract players during free agency and may not be able rely on their front office to make smart trades and find rotational players to improve a weaker roster.
No. 3 – Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are a relatively new organization, coming into existence only in 2008 after being the Seattle Supersonics for 50 years.
Oklahoma has had a lot of success: they have made the playoffs 9 of the past 11 years, had multiple WCF Finals Appearances, and a trip to the finals in 2012. The team has also hosted lots of talent, with an All-Star player on the roster every year except their first.
The Thunder’s future is fairly uncertain. In the past four years, they have lost three MVP caliber players in Durant, Westbrook and Paul George. While OKC is likely to continue their playoff streak, the team has no superstar duo or player to elevate their team to title-contending status.
The organization remains the league’s second-smallest market. They may need a bigger market to regain their place among the NBA’s elite.
No. 2 – Sacramento Kings
Sacramento fans have had nothing of substance to look forward in the last decade. Sacramento hosts the NBA’s longest playoff drought at 13 years. Aside from Demarcus Cousins, the last time a Sacramento player made the All-Star game was in 2004.
Sacramento has a population of a little over half a million, making it one of the NBA’s smallest market teams. While Las Vegas’ population is only slightly larger, it has a much larger market, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists daily.
Many of those tourists are from California, some from Sacramento. Moving to a larger market less than a day’s drive away would allow the Kings to make use of Las Vegas’ resources while allowing loyal Sacramento fans to watch the occasional game.
No. 1 – Memphis Grizzlies
No team benefits from moving to Las Vegas more than Memphis does.
First off, the Grizzlies are a Western Conference team that resides in the Southeast.
However, the team is in the NBA’s Northwest division, forcing the team to travel hundreds of extra miles to play their frequent opponents in their division and conference. Moving to the West would significantly cut travel time and better the players’ health and performance among other things.
Just like OKC, Grizzlies are going into a rebuilding phase of sorts. Memphis has had no real superstar or playoff success the past couple of years. With both Conley and Gasol leaving the Grizzlies the past season, Memphis looks towards the future.
The future contains likely Rookie of the Year Ja Morant and potential stars in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke. Moving to America’s Entertainment Capital in a few years could attract All-Star level talent to play alongside an experienced Morant.