The Knicks have returned to the top of Forbes' annual list of NBA franchise values after a one-year absence, surpassing both the Lakers, last year's No. 1 team, and the billion-dollar mark.

Forbes estimated the Knicks' value at $1.1 billion, up 41 percent from last year, a rise the magazine credited mostly to the ongoing renovation of Madison Square Garden.

The improvements helped the Knicks generate an NBA-high $243 million in revenue last season, Forbes said, with a league-best $83 million operating income.

In November Forbes pegged the Rangers' value at $750 million, second only in the NHL to the Maple Leafs, a 48-percent rise it also attributed largely to the Garden improvements.

The Knicks and Rangers are owned by the Madison Square Garden Co. The Dolan family owns controlling interests in Madison Square Garden and in Cablevision, which owns Newsday.

The Lakers dropped to No. 2 among NBA teams, but they also had a rise in value, up 11 percent to $1 billion, joining the Knicks as the first teams to reach that milestone.

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The Nets' estimated value rose 48 percent to $530 million, ninth on the Forbes list, albeit with a loss of $17 million. The Bucks ranked last in value at $312 million.

Forbes said the average NBA team is worth $509 million, up 30 percent compared with last year, due in part to the reduction in player costs that came out of the lockout that delayed the 2011-12 season. Teams had an average profit of $11.9 million.