Editors’ Note: On September 23, while discussing normal blog business, Kevin and I had the following discussion on Gchat:
Of course! A weekly assessment of the most watchable teams on “League Pass”. Why hadn’t we thought of it before? We were thrilled with the idea, and even more thrilled when Kurt agreed to write the column.
But then, this came out. And then, this. It seemed that great minds indeed think alike. But seeing what constituted as “watchability” for writers like Zach Lowe, J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas emphasized that there are no two similar NBA fans on this great green Earth (we were shocked to see Detroit ranked so low on TBJ) and only made us more excited to offer our own version of these so-called “League Pass Power Rankings”.
So step off, Zach Lowe, you talented cluckster, and I hope you feel me frowning from over here, TBJ. The Diss proudly and unapologetically presents: “No Country For Boring Teams”, our biweekly League Pass Power Rankings.
Your move, friend-o. And by friend-o, we mean Kurt.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Now, you can’t write the Lakers off after two weeks if you don’t watch those first two weeks. That’s why we’ll tune-in early — to shore up our “I told you so” bona fides. Of course we’re curious about what this team will look like, as well. Are we getting Phoenix Nash or a some neutered version, a la Payton in 2004? Can Dwight compensate for the backcourt’s defensive shortcomings? How good can you be when the big guy is your only elite athlete? There are obviously tons of reasons to keep watching all season. Just one caveat: if old bodies start breaking down, all bets are off.
2. Denver Nuggets
Pace and new personnel. That’s what the kids want. The Nuggs averaged the second most offensive possessions per game in ’11-12 and finished third in offensive efficiency. Iguodala’s arrival will key their transition game, as will the Manimal. Also worth noting is that Karl has done an excellent job of managing expectations for McGee, who’ll be thrilling in this offense now that he’s had a minute to get comfortable.
3. Brooklyn Nets
Maybe the biggest floor-to-ceiling team in the league. Offense won’t be an issue. That’s for sure. But with Brook Lopez and Deron Williams manning the two most important defensive positions on the floor, “stops when you need ‘em” will come at a premium. But on entertainment value alone? Oh yeah, this is the most intriguing team, 1 through 8.
4. Boston Celtics
This is Rondo’s team. Finally and for good. Now that Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and a rehabbed Avery Bradley are in the fold, the C’s are suddenly young, athletic and capable of running with most teams. And Jared Sullinger is their man for the half-court game. Lots to like here. All the old-team-made-new hype that the Spurs got last year will find it’s way to Beantown, I suspect.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
The Chris and Blake show is back and there’s no reason they can’t be the most exciting duo in the league, once again. But they get dinged here because Del Negro (also back) insists on a plodding brand of possession ball, which means more sub-90 point outings than you’re comfortable with. Plus: Jamal Crawford. Yuck.
6. Miami Heat
You keep one good eye on the defending champs. That’s the rule. Especially when a healthy Ray Allen threatens to put them in a class all their own. And it’ll be interesting to see what success does to King James. The popular theory are that he’ll either be complacent, or finally comfortable enough to show us his complete game in all it’s glory. It’d better be the latter, because I suspect Dwayne Wade’s reign as the game’s best “2″ aren’t long for this world.
7. Sacramento Kings
The Kings are a beautiful chaos. Scoring talent abounds but there won’t be a defender in the group to balance it out, unless Thomas Robinson is ready to do NBA-level work on that end of the floor (he may be).
8. Golden State Warriors
There’s Top 5 potential here when (IF) all these toys decide to work at the same time. Without Curry and Bogut in the mix, the Warriors are deliciously young, as my man Patrice O’Neal would say (RIP), but not seasoned enough to be taken seriously. This team needs to start making strides ASAP, by the way. I’ll have a much easier time watching and enjoying if I don’t have the sneaking suspicion that they’re a rookie farm system for the rest of the league.
9. Philadelphia 76ers
Jrue. Villain. Bynum. None of these guys have shown that they can lead an NBA team, so the hope is that between the three, someone says, “Sure, I’ll give it a go.” I’m not sure that’s the stuff winning seasons are made of. It’ll make for hella entertaining ball while the chips fall into place, though, especially while Bynum’s shelved in the goings and that dynamic backcourt is left to man the helm.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
They’re still young but no longer new. Which means that the biggest fascination here is how the Thunder stack up against the Heat and the Lakers. Pro tip: those games will be on national TV. That is, of course, is no knock on the team that may be the best in the league — it’s just that these here League Pass rankings reward the unknown, and we already know the OKC can knock the piss out of teams 4 through 30.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers
I’m just a Kyrie fan. He has legit Chris Paul-stuff in him (better size, worse vision) and knows it. I don’t love the team around him but he’ll have no problems putting them on his back, if need be, to the tune of 35-40 wins. On a “most fascinating players of 2012-13″, I can’t see a scenario where Irving falls below third.
12. New Orleans Hornets
It feels crazy writing this, but I see this team challenging for the eighth seed. Monty Williams is a hell of a coach. Eric Gordon’s back. Anthony Davis is bulked up, in mind and body, after a summer in the weight room and his stint with Team USA. If the T-Wolves were starting the season healthy I’d say that’s one too many bubble teams for NOH to compete with. But as it is there’s an opening here, brother. Get on the bandwagon before it leaves Bourbon Street.
13. Portland Trailblazers
I’m going to come clean: I have yet to see the homie Damian Lillard play, but the message board hype has me thirsteeeee. If he’s half as good as the summer league nerds (I use that term with affection, btw) say he is, Portland will be a fun watch with a re-signed Batum, a rehabbed Aldridge and Meyers Leonard (a monster, apparently) all in the mix.
14. Utah Jazz
Stacked at every position, dominant at none. But they have as much room for growth this season as any team in the league. I, for one, am anxious to see how they make all of that frontcourt depth work minutes-wise. There isn’t a huge market for Al Jefferson, but they obviously need to free up some time for Favors, who’s like a screaming tea kettle that was ready to be poured 2 minutes ago. His readiness is making folks uneasy.
15. Detroit Pistons
So we knew that Andre Drummond was going to be a revelation or a disaster, and now that he’s looking like the former, it’s all hands on deck. Kid’s the real deal. Now if Brandon Knight can look something like an NBA point guard, and Stuckey can thrive off ball, there might be enough chemistry here to highlight the main attractions: Drummond and Monroe.
16. Memphis Grizzlies
Z-Bo’s back and Rudy Gay had a beast of a training camp, by all accounts. But I still get a capped-out feeling from this team. Can you see them beating OKC in a series? LAL? SAS? I don’t like when you can see a veteran team’s ceiling so plainly. It kind of kills the mystery. I’ll watch because they play a solid brand of basketball, but this situation is sorely lacking juice, from where I sit.
17. San Antonio Spurs
I gots a theory: Anyone pretending that the Spurs are appointment television in 2012-13 is trying to convince the world of their basketball literacy. San Antonio’s the NBA equivalent of Everlyn Waugh; nobody’s impressed you’re jocking them, so stop with the fakery and have some honest fun.
18. Indiana Pacers
For my money, this team’s entertainment value rises and falls with Paul George. If he takes the leap and cracks the ranks of top-30 players this season, I’m all in. If he looks sometimes as he did against the Heat in last year’s conference semi-finals, Larry Legend’s team will take a quick trip to the 20′s. I’m sorry, Hansbrough doesn’t fight enough dudes to keep this interesting on his own.
19. Atlanta Hawks
*RING DE ALARM. AND NOT A SOUND IS DYING …WHOA* Sorry, that’s my Josh-Smith-is-in-a-contract-year-and-there-isn’t-a-ball-dominant-guard-on-the-roster alert. I’ve occasion to sound it exactly once, so this is no small deal. Smith at the point forward is a glorious, if not always optimal, thing. And with Horford back, I expect this is is the officially the only frontcourt-led campaign in 2012-13, making the Hawks an oddity that is not to be missed.
20. Toronto Raptors
I kinda love this team on paper. Valanciunas and Bargnani should be a complementary frontcourt. DeRozan’s still a stud (I think? Going into year 4, folks). And I’m a big, big fan of Kyle Lowry and can’t for the life of me figure out why Houston let him go. So there’s upside here, I just need to see it play out before I tap these kids for a promotion.
21. Houston Rockets
They have good rookies, some intriguing new vets (Lin, Asik). And yet, I can’t forget that this team was designed (or maybe a better word is razed) to clear room Dwight Howard. Who’s not coming. So there’s a bit of a party-nobody-showed-up for feeling going on here.
22. Charlotte Bobcats
I know what I’m about to write is a bridge too far but I’m going to write it anyway: MKG isn’t going to let this team be terrible. Make no mistake, they have all the ingredients of a terrible team, right down to the rent-a-coach picked up from the college ranks. But Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t care about all that; the ‘Cats will compete. And when you throw in Kemba and Biyombo, that’s three - count ‘em three - legitimately interesting prospects on the roster. There are worse ways for you to spend a Tuesday night in winter, for sure.
23. Milwaukee Bucks
That quirky backcourt has one, maybe two months of entertainment value left in it until I avert my eyes. I just can’t think of one reason to take this roster seriously.
24. Dallas Mavericks
I actually think this is an intriguing roster, but call me when Dirk’s back on the floor. He isn’t just the rug that ties the room together; he is the room. Otherwise you’ve just got coffee tables and combo guards floating in ether.
25. New York Knicks
So, why am I supposed to believe that we haven’t already seen the Knicks’ best ball? Ray Felton? Their first full training camp? That’s paltry stuff. PALTRY I say. It doesn’t help that Chandler and Stoudemire are both on the mend and that we likely gave see their most exciting player, Iman Shumpert, until 2013. Now if these were MESSAGE BOARD rankings? The Knicks would have the top spot on lock, especially if Jeremy Lin gives Houston a fraction of what he gave NYK in the middle of the 2011-12 season.
26. Washington Wizards
They get consideration for a big bump the moment John Wall returns from that stress injury to his left knee AND appears to have his mind right. The knuckleheads are out (McGee, Young, Blatche), the pros are in (Nene, Okafor, rookie sharp-shooter Bradley Beal). Now all that’s left is for Wall to demonstrate that he wasn’t part of the problem. Lead this team, young man.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves
You better believe this pains me. A healthy Rubio alone would’ve put them in the top 5, and with Love in the mix they’d have challenged for #1. Alas, without either, the biggest draw here is Brandon Roy’s comeback. And that’s a situation I’d just as soon monitor by combing box scores and with the occasional LP look-in.
28. Phoenix Suns
Dragic, who’s arguably a top-10 point guard, doesn’t belong down here. But with no young talent, and no real playoff prospects, and the team’s scoring hopes tied to Michael “B-Easy” Beasley, things will get ugly quickly in Phoenix.
29. Chicago Bulls
I’ll put it this way: I’m a Bulls fan, and I resent that I’m obligated to watch. To quote Gandalf as he fell into shadow, Run, you fools.
30. Orlando Magic
If you like watching smoke plumes, may I suggest a Mad Max movie instead?