We are over two weeks into the NBA season and it has been excellent so far. If you are an NBA fanatic like myself, you will often have trouble deciding which teams to watch, especially on a night with a full slate of games. So here's a small guide I have cobbled together, based off a few different factors that include: how fun their style of play is to watch and if their team and players are interesting/unpredictable. Here is the list of all 30 teams, based off of those factors, hopefully it will make your night to night decisions a lot easier.
30. Brooklyn Nets
As a Celtics fan, the Nets should be higher since it is way too entertaining knowing that Danny Ainge has their first round pick in his back pocket. But this is a list for a casual NBA fan, with no real biases. So I have to look at it from someone that isn't laughing at the screen every time Joe Johnson misses a contested 22 footer. What makes the Nets such a poor team to watch are the lack of threes (least amount of makes per game in the league, the fact that they have no young players ready to breakout, them being 25th in terms of pace in the NBA and that they simply have no athleticism. Their most exciting player might be Thad Young, which is a tad depressing. It's time to blow things up in Brooklyn and start the rebuilding phase, but until then, they will be 30th in the League Pass rankings.
29. Los Angeles Lakers
In terms of pace and three pointers made, the Lakers actually rank quite high, like top third in the league high for both those statistics, which are usually the calling cards for this list. But this is an exception, since the Lakers are just terrible. Half of their plays are isolations for a version of Kobe Bryant who you would think has broken both of his legs twice in the past three days if you didn't realize that he is in massive decline. Bryant is shooting 34% from the field and shoots more contested jumpers than J.R. Smith on a bad day. That isn't even the worst part about watching the Lakers, that prize belongs to Byron Scott and his unbelievably dull sets that don't allow D'Angelo Russell to run pick and roll with Julius Randle on every possession (which by the way should be what they run every time down the floor, if they did that they might shoot up 10 spots). It's a crying shame that this team has so much young talent in Russell, Randle and second year guard, Jordan Clarkson. But the Kobe factor, Byron Scott as a whole and something that I haven't even mentioned yet, the Roy Hibbert Experience, leaves them only one spot ahead of the Nets.
Oh by the way, for some reason I watched the game between the Lakers and the Nets and I have three words to sum up that game: WORST. GAME. EVER.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
Unless you want to watch Hollis Thompson and Jerami Grant play 30 minutes per night, watching the 76ers probably isn't for you. Watching a team that you know don't actually want to win the game is infuriating, but they do have one thing going for them that lands them above the Nets and Lakers: youth, and a whole lot of it. The 76ers are extremely young, they have some exciting youngsters that are played on a nightly basis that are interesting to watch and tune into. It is the intrigue factor I mentioned in my introduction, I know I have watched a Sixer game or two, just to see if Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and T.J. McConnell are actually decent NBA players. Other than that, they don't score the basketball extremely well (29th in terms of points per game), they don't play with a whole lot of pace (19th in the league) and shoot an average amount of threes per game (24 attempts per game).
27. Charlotte Hornets
At the start of the season, I would have told you that Charlotte would be last. Last season, they played the most boring brand of basketball imaginable. They ranked 26th in terms of three pointers made, pounded the post, slowed the game down and took the most mid range jumpers in the league.
This season, they have gotten a lot better, but still aren't entertaining enough to crack the prestigious top 26. Charlotte are now in the top 10 for both three pointers made and threes attempted. They play exclusively stretch fours and have Linsanity on their team. But at some point, seeing Steve Clifford trying to do his best impression of Tom Thibodeau gets old. Watching their bigs clog the lane on every position grows stale. Seeing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in street clothes is sad (if he was on their team, they would be at least in the top 25) and having big Al Jefferson show off his throwback post game just isn't great TV.
26. Memphis Grizzlies
Alright, I'll admit that I actually like watching the Grizzlies, I love seeing Marc Gasol's elbow passes and quirky European scoing maneuvers and watching Zach Randolph put on his angry face and try to kill the next guy that tries to guard him in the post. But, in terms of the League Pass rankings, they get nowhere near the top. A casual NBA fan would hate watching the Grizzlies. They have no knock-down three point shooters, slow the game down to a near suicidal level and lack athleticism, flair and showmanship. Still, it is better to watch a team like this that wins, rather than watching the previous four sides. That is what ranks them here.
25. Denver Nuggets
To be fair, the Nuggets have been reasonably fun to watch thus far, but I couldn't find a way to rank them any higher.
Emmanuel Mudiay's development is a major boost to their League Pass appeal, but that is immediately taken away when you watch JJ Hickson play exactly no defense and try to steal rebounds away from Kenneth Faried. Denver get more points deducted for starting him in place of Jusuf Nurkic, who is currently injured. Nurkic may just be the single most entertaining player in the league, with his fiery personality and physical nature. They get back those points with Danilo Gallinari, but get them taken away again by playing him at small forward, instead of the far more appealing stretch four. While it's sad that this team doesn't run like they used to under George Karl, they are playing .500 basketball and if Mike Malone continues to figure his team out, they won't be in 25th for much longer.
24. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland, with Aldridge and the rest of their starters from last season, would have been a top 10 lock with that squad. But now with only the backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum to rely on, this team, despite Terry Stotts' creativity, has to rank here.
Sure Lillard and McCollum are fun to watch, but when one of those two goes off the court, the offense gets boring and Portland have to go to Al-Farouq Aminu for offense, or Meyers Leonard for an ugly looking three. There just isn't enough talent on this roster to rise them up the list, to make up for the lack of exciting plays, high flying dunks, or fifty foot threes. This is why they are ranked here.
23. Orlando Magic
By all accounts, the sheer amount if interesting, young players that this Magic squad has, should rank them higher. But this ranking is a testament to how viewer friendly the NBA is becoming.
The Magic were starved for three point shooting last season, so they changed their starting lineup to go to a small ball look with the Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Evan Fournier, Oladipo and Elfrid Payton look. It has certainly scored them some bonus points so far, with a lot more space and ability to jack up threes. Fournier has been especially awesome. He leads the team in scoring at around 18 per game.
What disappoints me is that they aren't playing Aaron Gordon, who lit it up in Summer League and Mario Hezonja, who is the coolest player in the league. Hezonja has unwavering confidence and does stuff on a basketball court that will make you question your entire life. His coolest moment ever might have been during a EuroBasket game last year, his side was blowing the other team out of the water and in the dying seconds Hezonja decided to chuck up a three for no good reason. He of course made it (because he's Mario Hezonja) and then decided to fist-bump the opposing coach.
Until Scott Skiles unleashes Hezonja onto the world, there is no hope for Orlando getting any higher than 23rd on this list. Sorry, it's just a fact.
22. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons may have been everyone's bandwagon team to start the season, after their 5-1 record, but after losing their last four, including their latest loss at the hands of the Lakers, their play hasn't been the prettiest of viewing. This Stan Van Gundy team is a lot like his Magic team in the way that they play and the way that their roster is composed, however, it has no where near the talent that the 2009/2010 era Magic teams had. For starters, outside of Reggie Jackson, nobody can really create a shot for themselves. Their offense revolves almost exclusively around Jackson-Drummond pick and rolls that are efficient enough to repeat, but get boring after you realize that they are doing the exact same thing every time down the floor. The spacing is good and they shoot enough threes to keep the defense honest, but that's as far as they get in trying to win games with their offense. What has led them to five wins has been their excellent defense. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did well with the impossible task of guarding Stephen Curry, Andre Drummond protects the rim and their small lineup is quick enough to keep up with most lineups.
This team has been able to win so far, but to rise up this list, they will have to expand into a more crowd-pleasing brand of ball.
21. Houston Rockets
Despite being a title contender, with their loaded roster, the Rockets are off to a 4-6 start. Houston have looked awful so far, Dwight has missed four games, Harden is shooting 37% from the field and Ty Lawson has failed to mesh with his new backcourt partner, struggling with his new off-ball role.
Even if Houston were running through the West, like they did last season, it wouldn't place them all too much higher than here. They get cheap points from Harden's dives at the opposition, Dwight's post ups are painful to watch and although they shoot a mountain of threes, they don't make a heck of a lot of them, as shown by them shooting an abysmal 28.4% from behind the long line this season. Kevin McHale also never gets as creative with his offense his coaching counterparts do. He never runs any Spursy type sets, nor does he allow freedom in his play calling. McHale also gets points deducted for not having what I call the 'Pop factor'. The indescribable ability to just have as much swag as possible when coaching. To be honest, watching McHale's face stay exactly the same at all points during any matchup grows old.
This is the first part of a three part series involving the NBA ranked according to League Pass entertainment. Stay tuned in the following days for both part two and three. I will try to get them out to you as soon as possible.
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