NBA League Pass Rankings: Offseason Edition, Part 1

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NBA League Pass might just be the greatest thing the NBA has ever done. Once upon a time the casual fan was forced to wait for the one game a week that was picked up by their local network, or pray that their cable package would have the home town team’s broadcast rights (pretty sure this still happens in Portland). And if you lived overseas, you just had to wait for Michael Jordan games to be aired, or for your Uncle to record games on VHS (remember them!?) and your mom would bring them back after she visited family once every three years.

I used to be spend hundreds of dollars a year on a cable package that included ESPN so you could pick up the Wednesday and Friday double headers, plus a quarter of the playoffs if you’re lucky. But now? Now I still spends hundreds of dollars, but can watch every game of the season (for those not in Australia, League Pass costs us roughly AUD $400).

Given this heavy financial investment and the sensitive, variable nature of viewing time, it’s important to watch the best basketball as often as one can. If the Blazers aren’t playing, I need to explain to my wife that I’m still up because team X is playing team Y, and this is important because of  reason Z. She won’t understand me staying up to watch Detroit vs Brooklyn, but she might tolerate me watching Cleveland vs Milwaukee.

Speaking of reasons to watch, I offer you these three:

  1. Star Power: League Pass means you don’t have to watch just who plays in a big market or who the League thinks will draw the most eyeballs. Real stars matter. I’m going to watch Houston V New Orleans over Memphis V Orlando 1,000 times out of 10.
  2. Potential Playoff Impact: Is it likely this team matters in the back half of the year? Do they have a chance to at least make the playoffs? Will they be competing for something tangible every night (not just “to get better”)? I want to watch games that will have meaning now, not three years down the road.
  3. Likelihood for Improvement: Everyone loves the shiny new toy or the next great thing. Remember when Phoenix came out of nowhere to become a 60-win team back in 2005? We all love the new story, the up-and-comer. Give me a rising Milwaukee over a (presumably) stagnant Memphis thanks.

Last items considered are pace, and the major story line heading into the year. How well they hold up remains to be seen, but a fast game means more possessions which should mean more fun things can happen. And whether we like it or not, narratives drive entertainment, and the NBA is in the entertainment business. Lonzo and the Lakers is more interesting than Blake and the Clippers…for now at least.

We start with teams 16-30. Part 2 will be coming soon.



Star Power: 2/10 | Playoff Impact: 2/10 | Improvement Chance: 2/10 | TOTAL: 6/30
Pace Last Season: 99.83 (10th)

Why Am I Watching? Is it unfair to say the best thing coming for the Hawks is their court side bar and barber shop owned by Killer Mike? Atlanta have a well coached, young team designed to lose games. Dennis Schroder will make some plays and I’m genuinely interested to see if John Collins can help the highlight factory live up to its name. Other than that…?



Star Power: 3/10 | Playoff Impact: 2/10 | Improvement Chance: 1/10 | TOTAL: 6/30
Pace Last Season: 98.15 (18th)

Why Am I Watching? Are the Pacers on the treadmill of mediocrity? Sure seems that way after perennial All Star Paul George was moved for a bag of pretzels and deck of Cards Against Humanity the former Indiana University product Victor Oladipo and inconsistent 2nd year forward Domantas Sabonis. The new re-brand of the Pacers better be apt, because no one on this roster is drawing a star to come join them. The only reason to watch is a full year of Lance Stephenson: Best Player On The Team And Unequivocal Leader. Bring on the lottery.



Star Power: 3/10 | Playoff Impact: 1/10 | Improvement Chance: 2/10 | TOTAL: 6/30
Pace Last Season: 99.11 (13th)

Why Am I Watching? …Who knows? The Magic have some interesting players on some not-so terrible deals, but with a new management team and the clear need to re-rebuild (again…again), the closing night roster should look very different to the one that opens. While Jonathan Issac will be fun to watch develop and highlight machine Aaron Gordon should provide some aerial action, there isn’t a tonne else to see here. The off court intrigue should far outweigh the on court product.



Star Power: 4/10 | Playoff Impact: 2/10 | Improvement Chance: 1/10 | TOTAL: 7/30
Pace Last Season: 97.72 (20th)

Why Am I Watching? The fans who fill the United Centre. Lets be honest: the biggest question facing the Bulls has nothing to do with the development of Dirk 0.5 Lauri Markkanen. It has nothing to do with whether Kris Dunn or Cameron Payne can become the Point Guard of the Future. It doesn’t relate to whether Zach LaVine can rebound from his knee injury or if D-Wade makes it through the season. Anyone tuning into a Chicago game is waiting to see if the fans orchestrate a mutiny against Garpax. There is no other reason that makes sense.



Star Power: 4/10 | Playoff Impact: 1/10 | Improvement Chance: 2/10 | TOTAL: 7/30
Pace Last Season: 97.06 (25th)

Why Am I Watching? Competency!? It’s an association many haven’t made with the Kings since the mid 2000s, yet here we (finally) are! Vlade Divac has assembled an interesting young core and surrounded them with capable veterans to learn from. Fifth overall draft pick De’Aaron Fox is the big ticket attraction, but there is potential everywhere one looks on the Sacramento roster. And if that isn’t enough to tune in, there is one more go around for Vince Carter.



Star Power: 4/10 | Playoff Impact: 2/10 | Improvement Chance: 2/10 | TOTAL: 8/30
Pace Last Season: 98.63 (15th)

Why Am I Watching? The Knicks are lucky they have Kristaps Porzingis. He and he alone is the reason the Knicks might have a way, way, way outside chance of making the playoffs in the watered down East… if you squint your eyes just right. Other than him and Frankie Smokes, you’re tuning in to see if there are any survivors from a vicious car crash. Phil Jackson’s dismissal was the fatal collision, and Carmelo Anthony should likely be the final vehicle to be pulled from the wreckage. Only then can GM Scott Perry assess the damage and set to rebuilding the squad.



Star Power: 3/10 | Playoff Impact: 1/10 | Improvement Chance: 5/10 | TOTAL: 9/30
Pace Last Season: 103.58 (1st)

Why Am I Watching? I want to know if they avoid furnishing Boston with back-to-back first overall draft picks. Brooklyn look set to be the most competitive they’ve been in years and watching what D-Lo does in his quest to prove the haters wrong will be fascinating. Coach Atkinson has the team playing at breakneck speed, and the Nets will play hard. Having said all that, they will still be bad. But, better than the Knicks!



Star Power: 4/10 | Playoff Impact: 5/10 | Improvement Chance: 5/10 | TOTAL: 14/30
Pace Last Season: 97.85 (19th)

Why Am I Watching? The most interesting thing about Charlotte this season might be the blog that GM Rich Cho has created for his culinary exploits. Dwight Howard will be a mildly interesting subplot as the season unfolds, but his game hasn’t been ‘Must See’ since his Orlando days. Malik Monk should have opportunities to impress, but he is not enough of a draw. Charlotte will play hard and defend, and Kemba is fun to watch, but it’s just not enough to get excited about. There is likely to be little buzz for Buzz City.



Star Power: 4/10 | Playoff Impact: 4/10 | Improvement Chance: 6/10 | TOTAL: 14/30
Pace Last Season: 97.09 (24th)

Why Am I Watching? The intrigue! Detroit delivered one of the more surprising offseasons in a summer full of player movement. Gone is Marcus Morris, traded for Avery Bradley in a short term win for Detroit. Somewhat surprisingly, gone too is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. What we are left with is a boom-or-bust team with little margin for error. IF Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond can return to their 2015/16 form, then Detroit should be competitive and interesting. If not, look for the ‘Yard Sale’ sign in front of the Pistons’ practice facility.



Star Power: 7/10 | Playoff Impact: 2/10 | Improvement Chance: 5/10 | TOTAL: 14/30
Pace Last Season: 102.88 (2nd)

Why Am I Watching? Will Phoenix get Kyrie? If they do, then nothing else needs to be said. Irving plus Devin Booker should challenge McCollum/Lillard and Curry/Thompson as far as explosive back court combinations. If Cleveland don’t settle for a package sans Josh Jackson, then this is still a fun team to tune into on occasion. Phoenix will score a bunch and play very fast, so aesthetically the game should be appealing to the casual fan. Past that, Booker, Bender and Jackson’s development will be interesting, but far from appointment viewing. Look away if you value defense.

blake griffin clippers


Star Power: 7/10 | Playoff Impact: 5/10 | Improvement Chance: 4/10 | TOTAL: 16/30
Pace Last Season: 98.22 (17th)

Why Am I Watching? This seams low, but I think I speak for most people when I say I have Clippers fatigue. Maybe that will change without Chris Paul holding all the keys, but Doc Rivers still leads this team. There is room for upward mobility, especially if the Clips manage to play a more pass heavy game, and maybe spend less time bitching to the refs. This is now unequivocally Blake Griffin’s team too – for better or worse. At his peak, Blake is must watch. But the Clips have no one else close to his level, and he isn’t exactly known for being durable. It’ll probably be more fun to tune in if things are going sour than if they are flourishing.



Star Power: 6/10 | Playoff Impact: 5/10 | Improvement Chance: 6/10 | TOTAL: 17/30
Pace Last Season: 94.16 (29th)

Why Am I Watching? The bridge between the past, present and future has finally formed in Dallas. Dennis Smith Jr looks like the real deal. Harrison Barnes should be better in Year 2 as a featured player. And then there’s the wunderkind, Dirk Nowitzki. At this stage, we should treat Dirk as if every game could be his last, so turning down an opportunity to watch him seems sacrilegious. Despite the positives, Dallas play slow and don’t look ready to challenge for the playoffs.



Star Power: 6/10 | Playoff Impact: 7/10 | Improvement Chance: 4/10 | TOTAL: 17/30
Pace Last Season: 94.74 (28th)

Why Am I Watching? There are three reasons to tune into the Grizzlies this season. Number one is Marc Gasol. The lumbering big man is truly worth the price of admission, and his diverse inside-outside game was beautiful last season. Combining with the perennially underrated Mike Conley, they form as tough a duo as you can find, and serve as the two players that make Memphis watchable to the general masses. Lastly, every press conference with Coach Fiz is must see after his playoff performance.



Star Power: 8/10 | Playoff Impact: 2/10 | Improvement Chance: 7/10 | TOTAL: 17/30
Pace Last Season: 100.80 (6th)

Why Am I Watching? Same reason you watch a car crash, or someone allow themselves to be covered in spiders ala Fear Factor. You just can’t help it. I’ll admit, LaVar Ball kinda makes me want Lonzo to flame out, but I’ll be watching along right with the rest of the basketball world. The Lakers have their mojo back, and so far Magic has proven adept in a front office role. Coupled with Brandon Ingram’s development, KCP and Brook Lopez’s arrival and the fate of so many players being up in the air – Paul George, LeBron James, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Luol Deng – and the Lakers are back to being super compelling.



Star Power: 6/10 | Playoff Impact: 6/10 | Improvement Chance: 6/10 | TOTAL: 18/30
Pace Last Season: 93.62 (30th)

Why Am I Watching? At first glance, you think “yeah, why?” Utah will be slow as shit again, probably worse on offense and lacking their homegrown All Star. Despite this, there is still reason to tune in. They will always play hard and be competitive thanks to their (projected) elite defense. Rudy Gobert gives some star power, and isn’t afraid to speak his mind (link). The Ricky Rubio arrival tour couples with Dante Exum’s revival tour, and the whole state of Utah has a chip on its shoulder after Hayward left. Utah will be a basketball nerd’s dream: no frills, elite execution, maximum effort.

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