Monday was a really big day for the New Orleans Pelicans. Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, and a couple draft picks (2017 1st and Philly's 2017 2nd) were officially traded to the Sacramento Kings for DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi. Naturally we focused the entirety of our assets on covering this enormous story.
However, even more good news came out on Monday but flew well under the radar: Sports Business Journal published a story on local NBA ratings and the Pelicans, despite struggling to a 23-34 record through the first 57 games, are a league leader in adding viewers. Fox Sports New Orleans ratings are up 20% compared to last year while league-wide regional sports network ratings are down 15%. According to Sports Business Journal just ten teams are posting ratings gains so far this season with the Pelicans trailing just the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets in the entire NBA.
That is absolutely incredible. The Pelicans, despite a slight improvement in net rating, have the exact same record as they had through 57 games last year. They are still outside of the playoff picture looking in. Injuries have not ravaged the roster so possibly viewers are tuning in thanks to Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday being at least consistently available.
Now with Boogie Cousins on the roster we should expect an even greater rise in viewership. While the Pelicans have improved their ratings, they still languish toward the bottom of the league in overall market penetration. Don’t forget that New Orleans is the smallest market in the league. Their best bet to level the financial playing field is overwhelming local support, not unlike what the Saints have seen over the past decade. Winning is the most obvious route to developing such support, and the similarities to Memphis, in both market size and building a roster around two big men, are striking.
Can the Pelicans use a twin towers set up and mimic the success the Grizzlies have seen in their Grit and Grind era? Time will tell.