Every year, diehard NBA fans look forward to a few things that surround the upcoming year other than the season itself.
We as fans have always looked forward to the national TV Schedule, Christmas games, our favorite team’s opening night matchups, when certain players or teams come to our town, when traded players or free agents who jumped ship travel back to the city they were on the year prior, the release of video games and the superstars and rookies’ ratings in them, fantasy drafts and so on and so on.
One thing that lead to the NBA’s increase in popularity over the past decade or so is all of the storylines that surround the actual on-court-play. It’s a men’s soap opera of sorts. A soap opera, that thanks in large part to technology, we can watch almost everywhere and anywhere.
NBA League Pass is the latest thing diehard NBA fans look forward to every year, save for the bill, which was increased this year for one reason and one reason only: more and more people are subscribing, as they should be.
The plethora of talent in the NBA is as high as it’s ever been. Each team has either a player, storyline or circumstance that makes them worth watching. And as we all know, no sports league is better at marketing what it has to offer than the NBA.
“League Pass Teams” are generally thought of as teams who fail to receive a whole lot of, if any, nationally televised games. For the purpose of this column, we are going to leave out the top five teams from each conference due to their frequent appearances on national television, and rank the remaining 20 teams in the NBA.
Here are the best five teams from each conference. For argument’s sake, we’ll list in no particular order.
Eastern Conference: Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks
Western Conference: San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets
That’s general consensus top 10. As the reader, you can select your own order for them if you desire. But with that, we bring you the top 20 NBA League Pass teams you need to be watching this season.
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20. MILWAUKEE BUCKS
This particular NBA junkie will enjoy watching something or someone in every NBA team. Unfortunately, some team has to be ranked 20th. Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo and hometown guy Caron Butler will be interesting offensively to say the very least, and as always, Larry Sanders will be a joy to watch on the defensive end.
19. PHOENIX SUNS
The Suns are one of several teams who are all in for the 2014 NBA Draft. As the roster currently stands, they possess a few exciting on-court talents and we’re all especially excited to see what Eric Bledsoe is capable of in a bigger role.
18. UTAH JAZZ
With Derrick Favors the go-to-guy in the post for the first time in his career, and college phenom Trey Burke running the point, Utah has some young potential, but truth be told, they’re still many pieces away from being an exciting team to the likes of the Utah Jazz teams from yesteryear.
17. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
The consensus is that Michael Jordan‘s camp has blown another lottery pick and paid steeply for a center and shooting guard who don’t play a lick of defense. As always, it will be fun to watch basketball in Charlotte, for one reason or another.
16. BOSTON CELTICS
With the Boston Three Party all gone, Rajon Rondo remains the only piece from Boston’s 2008 championship core still on the roster. As much fun as Rajon is to watch, especially when he’s nationally televised, it will be interesting to see if he’s capable of doing Rondo things without a stout supporting cast for the first time since being named the full-time starter at the beginning of the 2007-08 season.
15. PHILADELPHIA 76ers
The Sixers are in absolute rebuilding mode. With two lottery picks, one of which many believe should have been the No. 1 pick in the draft, Nerlens Noel, the Sixers still seem to be an interesting watch. Many can’t wait to see if GM Sam Hinkie made the right move on acquiring Noel for his All-Star point guard, especially given the Sixers recent track record with big men with knee issues. Many think Nerlens is the exception, however, given his age and potential. Whenever it is he steps foot on the court, all with League Pass will be watching.
14. ATLANTA HAWKS
This is probably the only team in the East outside of the top five that is a lock for the playoffs. Are they great? No. But they’re the Hawks and Atlanta always seems to have just enough in them to make the playoffs and subsequently bow out. Still, they have Jeff Teague, who is one of the league’s most underrated players and perhaps the most exciting player you’ve never bothered to pay attention to. We’re expecting five or six posterizations from the ATL point guard this year.
13. DALLAS MAVERICKS
Since winning the NBA title in 2011, Mark Cuban has been putting Band-Aids on a gaping wound. Failed offseason after failed offseason has lead Dallas from being a perennial contender to perennial lottery attendee.
12. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Heading into this season with much different expectations than last, the only player responsible for the second-best team in L.A. being ranked as high as they are on this list is Kobe Bryant. We all can’t wait to see how he bounces back from an Achilles tear, and knowing Kobe, he’s not going to come back quietly.
11. SACRAMENTO KINGS
The only thing certain about Sacramento this season is the location in which this team will play its home games. And rightfully so, with some of the best fans in basketball, who refused to leave the arena following their last home game of the year last season. Coupled with the always entertaining DeMarcus Cousins and perhaps the steal of the draft in Ben McLemore, it will be extremely entertaining to see how this team performs on a nightly basis.
10. TORONTO RAPTORS
Toronto has several young pieces who are looking to gel as this season progresses, most notably, Jonas Valanciunas, who the team and their fans expect big things from this upcoming season.
9. ORLANDO MAGIC
Two years later, who would have thought that the Orlando Magic would win the Dwight Howard trade? Certainly not myself, but with double-double machine, Nikola Vucevic (acquired in the DH trade), Tobias Harris (acquired in the J.J. Redick trade), and my pick for Rookie of the Year, Victor Oladipo, Magic GM Rob Hennigan has built one young, exciting basketball team.
8. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
It’s often debated how “fun” the Memphis Grizzlies are to watch. This particular writer cherishes watching teams play tough defense on every possession, teams that makes the opposition work for every orange that touches twine. Memphis is one of a very very few teams who do this.
7. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
If Anthony Davis can stay healthy enough to anchor the defense, the Pelicans ought to have a real shot at fighting for a playoff spot in the West. They acquired an All-Star caliber point guard in Jrue Holiday and overpaid for a sixth man in Tyreke Evans, but when you’re a mid-market team, these are the things you have to do to be competitive. Those two acquisitions, along with Eric Gordon, the aforementioned Davis and Ryan Anderson‘s ability to spread the floor, this is going to be one exciting team who on any given night isn’t going to be an easy out.
6. DENVER NUGGETS
Denver allowed their GM (of the year) and their coach (of the year) to walk, to put it lightly, as well as (in video game ratings) their best player. Yet for some reason, it doesn’t feel like they’ll take much of a step back, if at all. They added double-double machine J.J. Hickson, will bring back Wilson Chandler and will still have Danilo Gallinari eventually this season. They also have Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried to put up points in bunches in the Mile High City. Did I mention Nate Robinson? As always, Denver will be lighting up scoreboards and giving Las Vegas fits on how high to place their overs. And as always, we’ll be watching.
5. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are worth the price of admission alone. It will be a blast to see what Lillard is capable of in his sophomore season, and drafting C.J. McCollum (who’s ALREADY hurt with a broken foot… Portland has terrible luck) to share the ballhandling duties should allow Lillard to display his off-the-ball abilities as well.
4. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Unfortunately, we’ve only seen appetizers of what Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are capable of doing together. With both players coming back healthy this season, the emergence of Nikola Pekovic and the depth of role players the organization has surrounded them with, the Minnesota T-Wolves will once again be a thrilling team to watch.
3. WASHINGTON WIZARDS
D.C. may have the most exciting player in the NBA to not have a All-Star bid on his resume. They drafted well in each of the past two years, giving John Wall two wing players who ought to complement him greatly. With John’s ability to put up 30-40 points and 5-15 highlight plays on any given night, the Wizards are a fringe playoff team with a ton of upside and are a must-watch for every NBA fan. Something tells me this year is going to be John Wall’s year. A year in which he puts himself and the Wizards on the national map.
2. DETROIT PISTONS
The acquisitions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith may (or may not) translate to wins. What they certainly ought to do is translate to one hell of an exciting basketball team to watch night in and night out. Detroit possesses the potential to have the best frontcourt in the NBA. It’ll be interesting to see if there is enough basketballs to go around in Detroit this season.
1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
With a budding superstar in Kyrie Irving, along with a plethora of offseason moves, the Cavs are poised for their first playoff birth in the post-Decision era. League Pass subscribers will get to watch them all season long as they make their way.
Which teams will you be watching on NBA League Pass?
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