My (2013-2014 NBA League Pass) Decision
Does anyone remembers a few years ago when LeBron James made his infamously-televised, capital D Decision to join the Miami Heat on national television? How can you not. It was the only thing anyone was talking about for weeks leading up to the event and it was the (poor) execution of the whole thing that ultimately made him a sort of public enemy. He could have just signed a contract and held a press conference like everyone else. He could have just tweeted out the news like Kevin Durant did with his most-recent extension. Instead, he made a huge deal out of it and free agency has never been the same since.
On an unrelated note, I have a very bizarre set of favorite teams for a San Franciscan. All of my favorite teams are based in the Eastern time zone and are almost never covered on TV or radio where I live. I don’t expect the Braves, Saints or Pacers to be covered here, but my cheering interests mean I need to get creative with the way I participate in live games. We’ve all tried the streaming thing, and it is what it is, but I need more than that. I want to be able to watch actual high-quality basketball when the games are going on. That’s where NBA League Pass comes in. Typically I’d hate paying for such a thing, but it’s really hard to follow basketball games any other way. The problem is that it’s expensive to buy the whole thing because it comes with a ton of games that I don’t want. Why would I pay for every game from every team when all I really want is to end my workday with two hours of the Pacers game. Or watch their West coast games at through an HDMI cord on my TV at home? That’s where the League Pass Choice package comes in, I pay about half the price and get to pick five teams to follow all year. That’s exactly what I want. I am going to buy it today, just when the NBA League Pass Free Trial expires.
This is where the Decision comes in. I have to pick five teams. That’s what this post is for: to make a huge deal out of which teams I pick. It’s kind of like Grantland’s Annual NBA League Pass Rankings, except I don’t get paid to talk about this stuff and I’m on a budget.
In all reality, I have a definitive second favorite NBA team, the Warriors. I liked them so much in NBA JAM growing up, that I ended up cheering for the actual team. It’s a coincidence that they’re my new hometown team. I’ll go through the exact tiers of my Decision, but before we start, it needs to be clear that this whole thing comes down to 28 teams vying for three spots.
Here are the tiers, with overall ranking in parens:
Indiana Pacers (1) and GSW (2)
The rest of these tiers will go in ascending order of attractiveness, but I need to get this out of the way. The Pacers and Warriors play at opposite ends of the style spectrum, but in these two cases, I’m picking teams that give me something to cheer for instead of picking teams that are the most watchable. In sports, a personal rooting interest is far more intriguing than just good quality entertainment. No explanation needed for these two.
Never Even Considered
In order of least-interesting to almost bearable: Sacramento Kings (30), Rondo-less Boston Celtics (29), Utah Jazz (28), Los Angeles Lakers (27), Charlotte Bobcats (26), Denver Nuggets (25), Philadelphia 76ers (24), Orlando Magic (23), Milwaukee Bucks (22), Phoenix Suns (21), Dallas Mavericks (20), New York Knicks (19) and Atlanta Hawks (18).
Unless you’re a fan of one of these teams, there’s no reason to watch them. Enough Said.
The Fatally Flawed
Memphis Grizzlies (17) — Almost exactly like the Pacers, except I don’t get the favorite team bonus. Without that, the Grizz are just a huge team that is going to win a ton of 90-80 games.
Washington Wizards (16) — People are really excited to watch this team, but I don’t get it. It’s John Wall and a bunch of other guys who are basically only good because of John Wall. And John Wall isn’t that good.
Cleveland Cavaliers (15) — Exactly the same story as the Wizards, except Kyrie Irving is better than John Wall. Plus, you have the added frustration of announcers talking how about good the team could be if Bynum were healthy, which is never true.
Chicago Bulls (14) — Another good point guard/OK supporting cast story but Rose is the best of the point guards in this group and the Joakim Noah/Taj Gibson combo is extra watchable.
No Reason to Say No, But Not Enough Reason to Say Yes
Brooklyn Nets (13) — The Nets experiment is horrible for the overall game of basketball because if they’re the champs, the game just turns into baseball where wins are decided in the offseason with dollars. This team is too old to last all season, but there’s an awful lot of star-power here.
Los Angeles Clippers (12) — The Clip Show makes is this high because I love Chris Paul. I always have and I always will. He is the purest of pure point guards. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are really non-factors (Neither one has an offensive game. Or a defensive game) and can you name the fourth-best player on this team? If you said J,J. Reddick, you know why the Clippers aren’t a season-long commitment.
Portland Trail Blazers (11) — The Trailblazers have sneakily built a super-watchable team with one of the most exciting young players in the game (Lillard), a borderline superstar big (Aldridge) and two do-everything wings (Matthews and Batum). It’s a shame none of them are really, truly can’t-miss television.
San Antonio Spurs (10) — Anyone who likes basketball has to list the Spurs in their top 10 most-watchable teams. Popovich is impossibly good at getting this team to stay relevant and competitive. Every season he turns some ragtag group of senior citizens and teenage foreigners into a 50-win team is more impossible than the last.
Did I almost pick the Toronto Raptors?
Toronto Raptors (9) — Hear me out on this one: Kyle Lowry is one of my favorite point guards in the league and in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a point guards guy and that position is the deciding factor for almost all of these teams. Lowry is explosive and pairing him with Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan makes for drool-worthy fast break options. Amir Johnson and Jonas Valenciunas have a rare amount of inside-out-ness that not a lot of teams can match. I understand that this is the team I’m overrating the most, you don’t need to tell me.
Detroit Pistons (8) — If this were last year, the Pistons would be in the first tier where I’m picking them and I don’t even need to explain it. I watched 40+ Pistons games last year because my man Kim English was on the roster and I love to watch him play. Detroit had kind of nestled into a third-favorite situation. And then this summer, they cut Kimmie and I’m upset. Still a lot of exciting players on this team, but no team that cuts English can be higher than honorable mention.
Miami Heat (7) — My favorite team is the Pacers. My second favorite team is the Warriors. My third favorite team is whoever is playing the Heat. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Houston Rockets (6) — For a while, I assumed the Rockets would be the fifth team to make it. I was even so bold as to tweet that they were a finalist and someone needed to knock them out. Turns out that person was James Harden. I think Harden is probably the third-best player in today’s NBA (and I honestly think the Rockets are the best non-Heat team in the NBA) but don’t think I can take 82 games of his style. 82 games of the fastest first step in the West? Absolutely. 82 games of driving toward the basket with no intention of actually shooting? You should all know by now that I have a thorough hatred for personal fouls and offensive skill sets designed to take advantage of rules that grossly benefit offensive players. It’s exactly what’s wrong with the NBA today. Sorry James, you did this to yourself.
The Actual Winners
New Orleans Pelicans (5) — The Pelicans are built exactly like the Raptors team that I’m weak for, except their players are all better. Jrue Holliday is better than Kyle Lowry, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans and even Al-Farouq Aminu are more exciting wing players, and Anthony Davis is a bigger deal than Jonas or Amir. Add Ryan Anderson and Anthony Morrow’s shooting skills off the bench and who could pass on that? Without the free NBA TV trial week, I put Houston in the 5-spot, but after a week of watching the Pelicans and the Rockets, I know which team I want to stick with.
Oklahoma City Thunder (4) — An offense with the best one-on-one scorer on the planet? Check. A defense with the most exciting shot-blocker in the league? Check. A point guard that no other point guards can defend? You get the idea. I don’t have to explain why the Thunder are exciting. It’s also worth noting that I played the waiting game with Russ Westbrook in all three of my fantasy basketball leagues this year and that only cost me two games of zeroes! Westbrook is the most fantasy-relevant player for me, so that plays a role in this decision. Like anyoe would need an extra reason to watch the Thunder.
Minnesota Timberwolves (3) — It took me until this list to realize that my two favorite players not on one of my official favorite teams both play for Minnesota. Is it possible that Kevin Love (The hardest working man in show business) and Ricky Rubio (the cutest man in basketball) could be more exciting to watch? Sure. Just add in a couple of single-tool specialists like Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin and JJ Barea. Is I write this, I’m actually looking at tickets to a Warriors/Wolves game so I can go watch the whole show in person.
How do you feel about the list? Let me know what teams you’d pick in the comments.