The season is nearly upon us, which means it’s more important than ever to plan your League Pass viewing habits. Part 2 of TFPP’s League Pass Rankings arrive just in time for one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory. With the greatest offseason in NBA history resulting in unprecedented upheaval, the storylines and style of play across the league should be more varied and interesting than ever. You can check out Part 1 here.
A quick reminder of the criteria used for judgment:
- Star Power: League Pass means you don’t have to just watch who plays in a big market or who the League thinks will draw the most eyeballs. Real stars matter. Neutral NBA fans are going to watch Houston V New Orleans over Memphis V New York 1,000 times out of 10.
- 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”)? Fans want to watch games that will have meaning now, not three years down the road.
- 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 us a rising Philly over a stagnant Detroit, thanks.
On to the top 15 teams to watch.
#15 MIAMI HEAT
Star Power: 5/10 | Playoff Impact: 7/10 | Improvement Chance: 6/10 | TOTAL: 18/30
Pace Last Season: 97.59 (21st)
Why am I watching? Have you seen the Miami Cheerleaders?! But seriously, Miami should be fun to watch with newly crowned King Of Europe Goran Dragic leading a potent dribble-drive attack. Miami don’t run too much post up offense, so there is generally plenty dribble penetration and kickouts for three and who doesn’t love a James Johnson poster? Miami also play defense. So if your flavour is at the thankless end of the floor, watching the returning Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson lock down the perimeter plus Whiteside engulf shots near the rim, will be your cup of tea. Plus, Waiters Island has never been more bountiful!
#14 DENVER NUGGETS
Star Power: 6/10 | Playoff Impact: 7/10 | Improvement Chance: 7/10 | TOTAL: 20/30
Pace Last Season: 100.70 (7th)
Why am I watching? How does elite offense sound? Denver ranked #1 in Offensive Efficiency once the Joker became the full time magician/starter at the pivot. Losing Gallo will impact that somewhat, but the addition of Paul Millsap should balance his loss and provide some much needed defense. Even without a clear starting Point Guard, Denver should continue to fly up and down the floor and the flammable 3 point attack will be alive and well. Sprinkle in expected growth from Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and perhaps Emmanuel Mudiay and there will be a lot of fun basketball in the Mile High City.
#13 NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Star Power: 9/10 | Playoff Impact: 5/10 | Improvement Chance: 6/10 | TOTAL: 20/30
Pace Last Season: 100.09 (9th)
Why am I watching? Fire and Ice. Boogie and the Brow. This is the best big man duo since Duncan and Robinson (with all due respect to Sheed and Big Ben), and after a full training camp the pair should be ready to wreak havoc on the rest of the league. Cousins and Davis will be allowed to push the ball off defensive rebounds, which will be like a Freight Train or a Pterodactyl baring down on unsuspecting defenders. Holiday and Rondo (once healthy) create a fascinating backcourt pairing, plus there is the possibility that this turns into a car crash that you can’t look away from. Lucky last, headbands galore!
#12 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Star Power: 7/10 | Playoff Impact: 6/10 | Improvement Chance: 8/10 | TOTAL: 21/30
Pace Last Season: 99.08 (14th)
Why am I watching? All eyes will be tuned to what Jusuf Nurkic can muster in his first full season in the red and black. The Bosnian Beast had an immediate positive impact on the Blazer results and his presence could push Portland into more serious contention for a deep playoff run. McLillard combine for one of the most explosive backcourts in the League, with either Lillard or McCollum capable of dropping 40 with ease. Portland shoot a lot of threes and Terry Stotts’ flow offense is very pleasant to watch. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there is always Meyers Leonard.
#11 TORONTO RAPTORS
Star Power: 7/10 | Playoff Impact: 8/10 | Improvement Chance: 7/10 | TOTAL: 22/30
Pace Last Season: 97.11 (22nd)
Why am I watching? Despite the lack of ball and player movement in seasons past, Toronto have had elite offenses and plenty of highlights. They have a flexible roster, and a top 5 backcourt with DeRozan and Lowry. Lowry is perpetually underrated (until the postseason), and his shooting off the dribble and dogged defense is always a treat to behold. DeRozan is the perfect player for Kobe fans to watch if they are yearning for a bit of contested midrange artistry. Plus this season, Coach Casey swears the Raps will move the ball more and play with more motion. If they pull it off, they could climb the list.
#10 MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Star Power: 8/10 | Playoff Impact: 7/10 | Improvement Chance: 8/10 | TOTAL: 23/30
Pace Last Season: 96.73 (26th)
Why am I watching? There are very few players that you can say by their first name and everyone immediately knows who you’re talking about. Think Steph, LeBron, Kawhi. Giannis is absolutely on that list and is the be all and end all when it comes to Milwaukee basketball. The Greek Freak can do so much on the court that it is near blasphemy to look away if he is on the floor. Milwaukee play a slow game, but Giannis with the ball makes everything right in the world.
#9 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Star Power: 9/10 | Playoff Impact: 6/10 | Improvement Chance: 8/10 | TOTAL: 23/30
Pace Last Season: 100.96 (5th)
Why am I watching? F.E.D.S. It might be a terrible nickname, but Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons are as delicious a foursome as you will find outside of the Bay Area. Philly will be playing with the intent to win for the first time in what feels like forever, and could have three generational talents on their roster, all in the infancies of their careers. The main attraction is obviously Embiid, who has a knack for huge production despite limited minutes and a flair for the moment. The kids are growing up right before our eyes, don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
#8 SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Star Power: 8/10 | Playoff Impact: 9/10 | Improvement Chance: 7/10 | TOTAL: 24/30
Pace Last Season: 96.41 (27th)
Why am I watching? The Spurs are just gonna Spurs. Year after year, they play beautiful basketball, full of motion and passing and nostalgia. San Antonio still take a tonne of midrange jumpers and have once again slowed down to a crawl on offense, but there is beauty in their old school ways. On defense, they suffocate opponents and are the best team to study on how to defend without fouling. There is also some uncertainty that will keep things fresh, with the status or LaMarcus Aldridge seemingly always in flux and the integration of Rudy Gay to be fun little subplots. The two best reasons though are Kawhi and Pop. Leonard for his extraordinary on court performances, and Pop for his thought-provoking off court performances.
#7 WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Star Power: 8/10 | Playoff Impact: 8/10 | Improvement Chance: 8/10 | TOTAL: 24/30
Pace Last Season: 99.68 (11th)
Why am I watching? John Wall and Brad Beal. Funeral games. Wall vs Thomas (once healthy). Wizards vs Cavs. Wall vs Irving. Wall and Beal vs Lowry and DeRozan. Wall and Beal vs Curry and Thompson. Beal vs Waiters. Wall and Beal vs Lillard and McCollum. Wall vs Westbrook. Morris vs Morris. There is no team who has beef quite like the Wiz, which makes most games must watch. Wall is a supernova with an improved jumpshot, Beal should be an All Star this year, the bench is looking better than it has in years. Brooks has his team playing together, and they obviously care about what everyone else thinks.
#6 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Star Power: 9/10 | Playoff Impact: 7/10 | Improvement Chance: 8/10 | TOTAL: 24/30
Pace Last Season: 97.11 (23rd)
Why am I watching? ‘Sota look as primed as any team to make major improvements in the W column this season. The addition of Jimmy Butler makes this a real playoff contender, and the team was already must watch with the young pups in Towns and Wiggins looking poised to make the leap. Wiggins will provide some athletic marvels, Towns will wow you with his overall game, and everyone will watch with baited breath as Thibs attempts to run Jimmy Butler into the ground. The Pups are ready to grow up, switching out their young roster for a mostly veteran cast, and they are primed to improve on both sides of the ball.
#5 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Star Power: 10/10 | Playoff Impact: 8/10 | Improvement Chance: 8/10 | TOTAL: 26/30
Pace Last Season: 100.47 (8th)
Why am I watching? What do you get when you pair the NBA’s #1 player in usage rating with two other members of the top 20? Sam Presti is betting you get a title contender and at the very least, Russell Westbrook agrees. OKC have the potential to be a monster on defense, with Paul George and Andre Roberson terrorising the perimeter and Adams holding down the paint. Presti pulling a magic trick and turning three rabbits into Carmelo and PG13 puts the Thunder back into contention in the brutal West and whether or not this works, OKC will be appointment viewing. All this, and Russell Westbrook is providing an encore to his historic MVP season.
#4 HOUSTON ROCKETS
Star Power: 10/10 | Playoff Impact: 9/10 | Improvement Chance: 8/10 | TOTAL: 27/30
Pace Last Season: 102.54 (3rd)
Why am I watching? Points. Points, points, points, points and more points. Multiple Point Guards in the attack for Reigning COY Mike D’Antoni. Multiple bucket getters at multiple positions. A preseason spent making 50 3PA look normal. Houston will be dropping points like it’s nobodies business. The dual PG attack of James Harden and Chris Paul thrusts Houston front and centre in the chase for the scalp of the Warriors. The thought of CP3 in charge of MDA’s already potent offense is a salivating thought. The extra energy Harden should have means more potential feats of greatness. Houston will rain points, and challenge every notion we have on offense.
#3 BOSTON CELTICS
Star Power: 9/10 | Playoff Impact: 9/10 | Improvement Chance: 9/10 | TOTAL: 27/30
Pace Last Season: 99.32 (12th)
Why am I watching? It’s not often you can move one of the greatest performers of the past 10 years, a player that literally gave all of himself to a team and have a better outlook than you did originally. Boston enter this season with Kyrie Irving overshadowing everything. Can he prove to himself he made the right choice? Can he convince the public that leaving LeBron was a wise career choice? And then there are juicy subplots like GORDON HAYWARD REUNITING WITH HIS BFFL, Ainge betting on the talent of Irving and Jayson Tatum, the growth of Brown, Smart and Rozier… So much can go right in Boston, so much could go wrong.
#2 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Star Power: 10/10 | Playoff Impact: 10/10 | Improvement Chance: 8/10 | TOTAL: 28/30
Pace Last Season: 98.38 (16th)
Why am I watching? This should be a Revenge Mode team. LeBron James – revenge on Kyrie leaving him, revenge on the Warriors, revenge on the assumption he isn’t the greatest in the game. Isaiah Thomas – revenge on the Celtics, revenge on Danny Ainge, revenge on his standing as worthy of long term investment. The whole team seeking revenge on Golden State after succumbing to a gentleman’s sweep in the Finals. Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose seeking revenge on their standing among the game’s elite. The city of Cleveland seeking revenge on Kyrie Irving’s claims that they aren’t a ‘real sports town’. The Cavs are poised.
#1 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Star Power: 10/10 | Playoff Impact: 10/10 | Improvement Chance: 10/10 | TOTAL: 30/30
Pace Last Season: 102.24 (4th)
Why am I watching? Swaggy P on the best team in the league. JaVale McGee potentially becoming a back to back champion. Four of the best 20 players in the world on one team. Elite offense. Elite defense. Two of the best scorer’s on the planet. Two of the best shooters on the planet. Zaza’s annual run for the All-Star game’s Starting 5. Jordan Bell attempting to become Draymond 2.0. The chance at becoming the greatest team of all time. Why wouldn’t you be watching the Warriors?