As a fix, I propose the following 10 name changes, as well as four proposed expansion teams names:
1. Phoenix AshesAs it is, they might as well be called the "Phoenix Happy Friends". Who's afraid of the sun, let alone "suns" in general? As the "Ashes", their name fits much better, and they have a clear direction for uniform design--all grayscale. The jerseys would sell like hotcakes. And they'd better snatch up the name before booming Asheville, North Carolina gets an expansion team.
2. Hollywood AgentsLet's face it, "Clippers" is stupid. I know they don't play in Hollywood, but the Giants and Jets don't play in New York, either. Identify LA's other team with Hollywood and usurp the Lakers' spot as Hollywood darlings and generate instant worldwide interest. Call them the "Agents" and you have a cool spy mascot.
3. Utah ZionWant to guess how many of these jerseys they'd sell? It fits--Salt Lake is the Zion of those crazy Mormons--and yet it's just general and inoffensive enough to be acceptable. Plus it carries on the tradition of singular (ie, not plural) team names, so "Jazz" is not forgotten entirely. Best of all, then New Orleans can go back to being the "Jazz", or else the best they can do is to be called...
4. New Orleans Big EasyWhen the Jazz left New Orleans and moved to Utah, the "Utah Jazz" were born, with the most improbable name since the Lakers moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles, which is possibly the least-lake-having place in the country.
The best solution would be to give New Orleans back the name "Jazz". But if that's not possible, at least let them have a name that ties them somehow to their city; "Hornets" has always been generic and dull (although the logo is a masterpiece). "Big Easy" is memorable, and somehow sexy, but also intimidating, like a huge guy named "Tiny".
5. Milwaukee ShotsI know the Bucks have a venerable history, but they've been mediocre for a generation and it's time for a change. What's more appropriate and badass than a male deer as your mascot? Hard liquor. They make alcohol (well, beer) in Milwaukee. And "shots" evokes not just getting wasted, but bullets and completed basketball field goals. I can't believe this hasn't already been used.
6. Washington PresidentsI understand that you can't call a team "the Bullets" in a city with one of the nation's highest violent crime rates. But "the Wizards" has probably caused more violent crime (borne of city-wide shame) than "the Bullets" ever did. "The Presidents" is just as generic as the tepid names "Capitols", "Nationals" and "Senators", but it comes with a big bonus--opponents would call them the "dead Presidents" and then they'd start calling themselves that, and it would be an ultra-cool nickname.
7. San Francisco Samurai"Golden State Warriors" has got to go, and what better way to put it on the map than to admit where most of its fans are, recognize the local Japanese population, and hitch a ride on one of the great exploited historical tropes? The sports cliches about forcing opponents to commit seppuku would write themselves.
8. Orlando MickeysWhen Shaq learned that he would likely be drafted by the Magic back in 199something, he vowed to sit out a year rather than play for such a crappy team. He quickly rescinded this offer, but it's hard to imagine him having the same reaction to the other bottom-ranked teams of the time, the Mavericks, Timberwolves and Clippers. "Magic" is an awful name. Since they're a Disney pet team, like the Angels and (shudder) Mighty Ducks, why not go all the way and call them "the Mickeys", have Mickey Mouse be the mascot, profit from Mickey Mouse's inexplicably huge inner-city street cred, and let the fact that the team name doubles as slang for date-rape drugs bring on controversy?
9. Denver Snow CapsI'm sorry, "Nuggets"? Are you kidding? "Snow" in your name and "Caps" as your nickname = headlines like "No Snow this Summer" and "Shots Bust Caps".
10. Toronto ReapersA generation of fans who missed the supposed all-consuming Mighty Ducks craze will forever ask their parents, "Why the is our team called the fucking Mighty Ducks?" So too will those too young to have caught Jurassic Park fever wonder, "What the fuck is a Raptor and why is it Canadian?" I submit that a quiet change to "Reapers" would serve us all well. I swear no one will notice, and when the team is actually good one day, everyone will be happier for it. Plus a guy roaming the stands with a giant sickle is a great showpiece.
Virginia GallowsIt's colonial. It's badass. People die whether they win or lose.
Bloc QuebecoisFor a team based in Montreal. Andre Benjamin and Wyclef Jean would be spotted wearing the jerseys and they'd fly off the racks.
New Mexico AliensFor a team based in Santa Fe. Refers to Roswell, but doubly fun because of immigrants. The jerseys would become required gear for protestors.
Puerto Rico LocomotionFor the inevitable Puerto Rico expansion team. So-named only so that their nickname will be the "Locos".
A bad team name isn't just a slight to one city or region--it sends a message to children everywhere that they should not try to excel creatively, since any old name will do. But there's no reason we have to settle for bad team names. Dare to dream, NBA, and every team can be like the (pre-Isaiah Thomas) Knicks!