What are the NBA’s smallest markets?

Small NBA Markets Milwaukee Bucks fans

We all know that the two teams on the coast, New York and Los Angeles, get the lion’s share of the media attention. These two cities are considered the biggest markets when factoring in the support, resources and national media that reflect the size, affluence and influence of that metropolis’ population. Not just that, there are reasons that the majority of NBA players are drawn to these cities. That’s because of New York and L.A.’s out-sized energy, excitement, lifestyle, culture, food, convenience and nightlife to name a handful of reasons.

What Makes a Small Market, Small?

However, what makes Memphis, San Antonio and Oklahoma City small markets? How exactly is market size defined? Measuring the size of the market is a rather complicated matter and that’s why we’ve decided to the total number of homes with television when stating the Top 5 smallest NBA markets today.

You’ll notice that most of these teams have some superstars or potential superstars on their roster and it is interesting to see what tactics will they use in order to keep them where they are.

5. Utah Jazz, Salt Lake City

Number of homes with television: 897,390

The Utah Jazz were one of the most recognizable franchises of the 90s. They were led by legends John Stockton and Karl Malone on the floor while having one of the best coaches in the history of the game in the likes of Jerry Sloan.

Today the team is rebuilding and they have tons of talent on their roster. It’s interesting to see will the Jazz become yet another small market team that dominates the league. Their play is slowly improving, but what is more important they have talents like Gobert and Exum on their list.


This ad featuring Utah SF Gordon Hayward only shows how close is the community back in Salt Lake City.

4. Milwaukee Bucks

Number of homes with television: 893,210

Another rebuilding franchise with an interesting group of young players. They’ve changed ownership in the past two seasons and it seems like the right choice. Coach Jason Kidd is doing wonders with this young Bucks team and we can’t wait to see how will this group of players develop in the next couple of seasons.

Will Giannis Antetokounmpo be bored to death until the end of his rookie season?

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Number of homes with television: 704,490

The size of the market in Oklahoma is one of the biggest reasons of concern when analyst talk about keeping Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook after their contracts expire. The chemistry of the whole team looks good, but will the two main players be tempted to move to a bigger stage? For now it seems like both of them feel like home in Oklahoma.

2. Memphis Grizzlies

Number of homes with television: 653,560

Another successful team that has a really small market, but a good franchise strategy. The Grizzlies are one of the youngest franchises in the NBA and it seems like they’ve finally found the right way of conducting affairs after an eternity of bad moves. They have one of the best big man tandems in the league with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, which can make them the next small market team to reach the NBA finals. This is a small market team that made all the right moves in the past decade.

1. New Orleans Pelicans

Number of homes with television: 641,150

Anthony Davis is one of the most exciting young players of modern basketball and it will be extremely hard for the Pelicans to keep him after his rookie contract runs out mostly because of the attractiveness of their market. We just need to wait and see if the new team name brings more success in the near future for the Pelicans.

Smallest NBA Markets by Population

There’s another way of looking at the size of markets, and that’s TV markets by population. Here’s a list of the NBA’s smallest markets according to Nielsen 2016-17 data:

Nielsen's Smallest NBA Markets
NBA Rank NBA Team TV Homes Nielsen Rank
30 Memphis Grizzlies 633,920 51
29 New Orleans Pelicans 641,620 50
28 Oklahoma City Thunder 722,140 41
27 Milwaukee Bucks 895,700 35
26 Utah Jazz 916,960 34
25 San Antonio Spurs 938,660 31
24 Indiana Pacers 1,086,310 27
23 Portland Trailblazers 1,143,670 25
22 Charlotte Hornets 1,189,950 22
21 Sacramento Kings 1,379,770 20

According to the above, the smallest market is Memphis then New Orleans, which is different than what we listed above. However, it’s the same five teams in our list and the one that Nielsen provides. So it’s safe to say Memphis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee and Utah are the five smallest markets when it comes to NBA franchises.

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