The 2016-2017 season was a disappointment for the Atlanta Hawks and, from a basketball perspective, that has been litigated ad nauseum both during and after the campaign. However, last season was also reportedly a drain from a financial statement, as Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported on Tuesday that the Hawks were one of 14 teams to lose money in the absence of revenue sharing and one of only nine teams to still operate at a loss even with that influx of funding from elsewhere.
The nine teams that lost money, by the league's accounting for net income (which includes revenue sharing and luxury tax payments), were the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards. League officials pointed out that by a different accounting measure the league tabulates -- operating income, which discards various debt obligations -- only 10 teams (rather than 14) lost money before accounting for revenue sharing.
It isn’t necessarily a shock to see the Hawks fall into this category, especially given the team’s $95 million payroll and the presence of only two three playoff games. Beyond that, Atlanta’s attendance dipped from 690,150 (16,832 per game) in 2015-2016 to just 654,306 (15,958 per game) for the 2016-2017 season (per ESPN), and that does not account for the loss of two playoff games (ATL played five in 2015-16) from the previous year.
In the end, we do not (yet) know what kind of operating losses the Hawks suffered and/or if Tony Ressler and the ownership group anticipated such an obstacle. Still, it isn’t ideal for one of the nation’s top ten markets to be losing money while putting a playoff product (albeit a borderline one) on the floor over the course of 82 games.
Looking forward, the team almost certainly will draw fewer fans through the turnstiles in 2017-2018 and it will be interesting to see what kind of damage that might do financially when accounting for the upcoming season. Stay tuned.