As a fan of Zach Lowe’s work, I was overjoyed to see him do a preview of the upcoming season in terms of NBA League Pass for Grantland. As a longtime fan of League Pass (and someone who has written about it in some frequency with my Non-National Games of the Week pieces over the last two seasons), I was intrigued to discover how differently the two of us see the upcoming slate. Much of this discrepancy comes from what appears to be a contrast in philosophy on League Pass- Mr. Lowe appears to appreciate quality and artistry while I also enjoy those with some chaos and some intriguing young talent.
To me, a quality NBALP team needs to have: (1) young talent that still needs to be analyzed and appreciated, (2) some level of chaos or uncertainty, and (3) something that makes them worth repeat viewings like a coach, system, or DeMarcus Cousins.
Keeping that in mind, here is my preliminary ranking of League Pass teams for 12-13.
New Orleans Hornets- No team encapsulates those three components better than the Hornets. They have the best rookie in the class (Anthony Davis), the most divisive rookie in the class (Austin Rivers), a leading scorer who seemed more than ready to leave (Eric Gordon), and Ryan Anderson. Couple that with a coach that should be around for the long haul and the adventure of Austin Rivers’ trial by fire at point guard and you have the makings of a must-follow season. Clear-cut #1 for me.
Minnesota Timberwolves- The only way a qualifying team with Ricky Rubio does not top one of these lists is when he is hurt for a portion of the season. Beyond being my basketball soul’s spirit animal, Rubio makes any game worth watching to see what he does next. Bring in Kevin Love and the possibility of consistent whitewashes with multiple lineup possibilities and the return of Brandon Roy (an all-time favorite) and you have another great Central Time Zone League Pass team.
Milwaukee Bucks- As someone who has spent far too much time watching him, Monta Ellis’ exclusion from Zach’s list felt almost criminal. What makes Milwaukee even more special from this perspective is the long-form experiment of Ellis in a backcourt with Brandon Jennings and the possibility that Scott Skiles splits in half trying to coach them. The Bucks also have a shot at the playoffs in a strange East and potentially the most befuddling frontcourt in the entire league.
Denver Nuggets- Here we have an agreement! While also standing as the NBA’s best team to qualify in these rankings, Denver plays an intensely fun system with a ton of my favorites both in the starting lineup and dotting the bench. Beyond JaVale McGee in the starting lineup, the Nuggets feature one of my favorite potential garbage time trios in Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, and Anthony Randolph. Considering how many blowouts they should have, those three might generate their own Twitter explosions throughout the season.
Sacramento Kings- Thanks to the Warriors getting too conventional to take their usual throne as the Pacific Time Zone NBALP squad, that honor goes to DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento (for now) Kings. Beyond having the most compelling big man in the sport, Sacto has Thomas Robinson, Isaiah Thomas, and a bizarre swingman hodgepodge that should be interesting. If that was not enough, they have JIMMER, the NBA’s Tim Tebow (except that Jimmer is a better passer and Tebow is likely a better shooter).
Honorable Mentions: Cleveland (will fly up this list once Kyrie gets some perimeter help), Portland (two lottery picks), Dallas (OJ Mayo and Darren Collison on the same team? Sign me up!), Toronto (Jonas Valanciunas, DMDR, and Terrance Ross), and Houston (Linsanity, Asik, and the mismatched roster of a lifetime).