Jeremy Lin's Rockets aren't worth the premium price tag, but a Raptors/Pacers opener offers great value

As the discussion intensifies and the anticipation builds with the season inching closer (24 days until training camp), it’s usually around this time that fans begin to peruse the schedule in search of games they’ll try to land tickets for. It’s also around this time that fellow season seat holders begin trying to narrow down their list of games they want additional tickets for.

On Thursday, Raptors season seat holders received an email that included the details of the 2012-13 tiered pricing at the Air Canada Centre.

There will be five tiers this season: Best Value, Value, Premium, Premium+ and Super Premium. Here’s which visiting teams fit into each category.

As an example, I’ve included what the face value (printed price) of each tier is based on the pricing area where my season seats are located (Balcony Prime 1). There are obviously much more expensive sections and a couple of even cheaper sections than the one I included prices for.

Best Value: $36 – Pre-season games, Timberwolves, Jazz, Magic(x2), Trail Blazers, 76ers, Bucks, Warriors, Hornets, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Wizards(x2), Cavaliers, Hawks, Pistons – 16 games plus pre-season games

Value: $47 – Pacers(x2), 76ers, Spurs, Suns, Nets, Mavericks, Pistons, Kings, Bobcats(x2), Bulls(x2), Cavaliers – 14 games

Premium: $60 – Rockets, Celtics(x2), Knicks(x2), Nets – Six games

Premium+: $80 – Thunder, Clippers – Two games

Super Premium: $127 – Heat(x2), Lakers – Three games

You’ll notice that some teams appear multiple times in different tiers. It’s because the day of the week a game falls on helps dictate which tier the game is placed in, or so I assume. For example, the Sixers coming into town on a Saturday night gets placed in the “value” tier, but the same team coming in for a Wednesday night game at the ACC means Philadelphia’s second game in Toronto is in the cheaper “best value” tier.

The one thing that really strikes me about the pricing is the extremely wide range from cheapest to most expensive. In my section for example, a game against the Heat or Lakers is three-and-a-half times the price of a game against a team like the Magic. I don’t blame the organization for doing this, because as I can attest to, the demand for games against the Heat and Lakers is probably even more than three-and-a-half times the demand of other games. But seeing the broad range of pricing in writing really struck me.

If you’re a Raptors fan that just wants to see some entertaining ball and you don’t necessarily care about star power, then there are some great deals to be had in that best value tier. The up and coming Timberwolves, the new look Warriors, Anthony Davis and the Hornets, a Nuggets team that now features Andre Iguodala and the playoff caliber Grizzlies, who always seem to find themselves in thrillers at the ACC, all offer cheap and intriguing options for basketball fans at the minimum price.

An April date with the Bulls, who should have Derrick Rose back by then, is listed at “value” price right now, which looks like a solid deal, but the dynamic pricing likely means that if demand for a game grows, so will the price.

In addition to the potential value in games against the Pacers and Bulls, the fact that the Thunder and Clippers will be back in town this season after not being part of Toronto’s lockout home schedule should make the “premium+” price a bit easier to swallow for fans. My bet for best value on the home schedule, though, is the home opener landing in the “value” tier.

I’m not sure if it’s because the sales department figures it will be hard to sell tickets to parents and youngsters on Halloween night, or maybe because the Pacers, even as the third seed in the Eastern Conference, aren’t exactly a big draw, but if you’ve been to enough Raptors games over the years, you know that besides Vince Carter’s first few returns or the Heat’s first post-Decision visit, the home opener is by far the most enjoyable environment to watch regular season Raptors basketball in.

If you’re an enthusiastic Raptors fan looking for one game to attend and you want a great atmosphere to watch basketball in, getting the home opener at a “value” price is the game for you.

Now on the other end of the spectrum, there are also games that I wouldn’t touch if I wasn’t a season seat holder.

I like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s potential and wouldn’t mind seeing him play live, but realistically, there should be a tier titled “Super Value” saved exclusively for the Bobcats. Instead, simply because their two visits land on Friday nights, seeing the Bobcats will actually cost you more than the minimum. It’s a smart move from the Raptors, since the demand for weekend games is definitely greater no matter the opponent, especially if the Raps are in a playoff race at that point, but if I were you, I’d watch Raptors vs. Bobcats on TV and save my money for much better values. Same goes for the Pistons, Kings, Cavaliers and Suns.

Another game I’d skip spending on if I were you is the Rockets’ visit. Again, the demand for Jeremy Lin’s only visit – on a Sunday afternoon no less – will be there to justify the “premium” price tag, but without the fresh hype of Linsanity, Lin will simply be a good point guard on a bad team, so the quality of the basketball may not be.

What do you think? Which games stick out to you as steals or bad deals as we creep closer to October?