On paper and in the eyes of many, the Toronto Raptors’ stunning NBA title run last season was a one-time thing. A blip on the radar. A flash in the pan. Any of those sayings will do.
In a recent poll of NBA general managers, the Raptors were picked to finish no higher than third in the Eastern Conference. According to FiveThirtyEight’s 2019-20 NBA Predictions, Toronto has a 91 percent chance to make the playoffs – but only a seven percent chance to go all the way.
The reason for this is the Kawhi Leonard-sized hole on the Raptors’ roster. Losing an All-NBA talent has that sort of effect, tempering expectations for what’s to come.
It would be easy to expect the same drop-off in ticket sales. The NBA is a star-driven league and the Raptors lost their brightest star. Yet according to data from StubHub Canada, Raptors ticket sales are up five percent from last year, resulting in the fifth-highest average ticket price in the NBA ($182.13).
Before going any further into those numbers, here are a few qualifiers to note:
- All information relates to StubHub sales and data only, unless otherwise specified
- All monetary figures are in U.S. dollars
- All sales-related information refers to the upcoming season only
Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise that the Leonard-less Raptors are still one of the league’s hottest tickets. After all, we’re talking about the lone NBA team in Canada, which plays in city of 2.7 million people.
That helps explain why the Raptors have been in the top five in league attendance each of the past five years, including a three-season sellout streak from 2015-16 through 2017-18.
Last season, their average home attendance of 19,824 surpassed the listed capacity of their home court Scotiabank Arena (19,800). According to ESPN, Toronto was one of 11 teams last year to average full capacity or more (if you’re wondering how that is allowed, so am I! Standing room tickets, perhaps?).
As a result, Raptors tickets are the eighth highest “in demand” (i.e. eighth-most sold) on StubHub, which marks the fourth consecutive year they’ve cracked the top 10. Winning helps, too, and the Raptors have collected 50-plus wins in each of the past four seasons (those are also their only 50-win seasons in 24 years as a franchise).
It’s no surprise that the mega market teams in Los Angeles – the Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis; and the Clippers, led by newly-acquired Leonard and Paul George – have the highest ticket demand. The Lakers are still at the top, but Clippers aren’t far behind after an astounding 821 percent year-over-year ticket sales increase.
The same is true for the average ticket price rankings, as seen below (for context, the lowest average ticket price belongs to the Detroit Pistons, $97.63):
The story is similar for TickPick, another secondary ticket marketplace, which reported that the average price for Raptors tickets on its site is up 25 percent this season, to $135.87 (seventh highest in the NBA). TickPick also found that the Raptors draw well on the road, with the 10 th highest average ticket price ($121.23) in games away from Scotiabank Arena.
Toronto is very much a franchise on the rise, ranking 11 th in Forbes’ NBA Team Valuations List at $1.7 billion. Most of the growth has happened in the past five years, as the 2014 Raptors were valued at just $520 million.
Losing someone like Leonard, who is undoubtedly a top-five player in the league right now, presents a risk that the Raptors’ progress will halt. But seeing increased interest on the secondary ticket market – albeit marginal – offers some consolation.
On the court, however, the absence of Leonard is still a major loss. The Raptors have a tough road ahead to outshine their projections and appease the fans who are shelling out to see them.