League Pass Teams to Watch (or Not Watch) for NBA Nerds

Billy Fitzpatrick ’20 and Greg Hausler ’20
Roommates and First-Time NBA League Pass Subscribers

With the NBA season underway, we take a look at the best and worst teams to watch this year from the perspective of two NBA nerds. Yeah, obviously the LA teams, Philly, and Milwaukee are going to be fun to watch, but we wanted to go a little off the beaten path here. Alas

The “Can’t Miss” Teams

  1. Toronto Raptors

Toronto? Really? Sure, the best player on the planet is no longer in the North, and the veteran core of Kyle Lowry/Marc Gasol/Serge Ibaka is another year older, their bodies another year creakier. Without Kawhi Leonard, their ceiling is much lower, with an Eastern Conference Finals appearance likely constituting a successful season. Yet, Masai Ujiri and Toronto find themselves in a Spursian situation where a young core is emerging to take the torch from the old guard. Pascal Siakam, shining at some points during last year’s postseason run, floundering at others, looks keen to take a leap into top-15 player territory. He is one of a handful of guys in the league in contention for the All-Star, All-NBA, All-Defense trifecta. Their spunky young role players like Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and OG Anunoby are playing with a newfound confidence only a Larry O’Brien trophy can unleash. With Leonard gone, Nick Nurse can fully implement his free-wheeling egalitarian offense. Championship swagger, an emerging superstar, and visually appealing basketball; what’s not to like? – BF

  1. Dallas Mavericks

Although we are merely weeks into the season, reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic has taken his game to another level, nearly averaging a triple double with 26.7/10.3/9.7. With continued superstar-level play from the 6-foot-7, 20-year-old Slovenian point guard, the addition of 7-foot-3 All-Star and Ivan Drago doppelganger Kristaps Porzingis, and marksmen shooting from Seth “The Other One” Curry and former Villanova star and Wooden Award winner Jalen Brunson, the Mavericks are teetering towards nightly “must watch” status. Though Doncic is certainly not the fleetest of foot and lacks explosive athleticism, watching him weave and meander around pick and rolls to eventually thread the needle to corner shooters or lobs to Porzingis is basketball at its finest. Doncic and Porzingis are making a case for themselves as one of the league’s most dynamic duos, and have Dallas fans reminiscing of the Dirk Nowitzki-Steve Nash early 2000s teams with their lethal pick and pops. With Doncic looking like a future MVP, it is only a matter of time before we begin to start nit-picking every aspect of his game and social media usage, so join the Mavericks bandwagon before it becomes too late. – GH

  1. Miami Heat

Ever since the end of the Big Three era, Miami has been stuck in NBA mediocrity, never tanking, but never contending. That is unlikely to change in 2019-2020, with Philadelphia and Milwaukee as the far-and-away favorites to come out of the East. Yet, this Miami team looks to be a fun and pesky outfit, going 12-deep and having the roster versatility to match up with most anyone. That depth can be a chemistry curse (where do all the minutes go?), but with an injury-plagued roster (see: Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Justice Winslow), Miami will be able to weather inevitable injuries and give everyone playing time. Rookie Tyler Herro is already developing a cult following in the vain of Devin Booker, Butler is finally in a place of his choosing, and Pat Riley has the assets to make a blockbuster trade if a star becomes available (CP3?). Odds are Miami won’t threaten to join the league’s upper echelon this year, but the party is back on in South Beach. Don’t miss it. – BF

The “Stay Away” Teams

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Just three years ago this was a team that featured LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and JR Smith and was coming off of repeated NBA Finals appearances. While Love and center Tristan Thompson remain, the rest of the championship core is long gone and has subsequently left Cleveland in NBA wasteland. Unless you love offensive rebounding, as Thompson and Love remain forces on the glass, or enjoy inefficient, turnover prone young guards such as rookie point guard Darius Garland and 2018 8th overall pick Collin Sexton, then the Cavaliers are most certainly a team that should not be making an appearance on your League Pass stream. Although the team’s new hire of former University of Michigan head coach John Beilien brings hope for aesthetically pleasing basketball with his motion-heavy offense, the team remains a bottom dweller both statistically and from an entertainment value. At the current moment the only reason to watch the Cavaliers is if you are a fellow degenerate gambler or if you are a fan of a team looking to trade for a rejuvenated Love or Thompson at the deadline. – GH

  1. Chicago Bulls

Chicago was a trendy pick to challenge for the eight-seed, and, despite a ghastly first two weeks, they still might be in the mix, thanks to the uninspiring competition. Even if they do make the playoffs (which is unlikely), don’t waste your valuable time and hard-earned US dollars on the 2019-2020 Chicago Bulls. It’s a shame, because there is a lot to like about this group. Coby White might be one of the steals of the 2019 Draft. The young frontcourt duo of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. has shown glimpses of promise and complementarity, despite health and complementarity concerns. There are useful vets like Thaddeus Young. But whoever thought that giving Zach LaVine the reins of a Jim Boylen-coached team does not deserve to be making decisions in an NBA front office. I love that there is a head coach from the Herb Brooks school of leadership in the most modern sports league in the world, but LaVine (a high-volume shooter allergic to defense) is the antithesis of a “Jim Boylen guy.” There aren’t many teams in today’s NBA that would respond well to Boylen’s old-school approach, and Chicago certainly is not one of them. This season could get ugly – stay away. – BF

  1. Charlotte Hornets

The most exciting aspect of the Charlotte Hornets is that they are owned by Michael Jordan. Excluding His Airness, it is hard to find much to get excited about with the Hornets franchise. After letting star point guard Kemba Walker sign with Boston, the Hornets have no household name to call upon. His replacement, Terry Rozier, was gifted an inexplicably massive three-year, $58 million deal which is indicative of the current status of the Hornets roster. The team is cap locked with underperforming veterans who allow the team to remain competitive enough to win some games, but do not allow them to truly tank for a Zion Williamson or Luka Doncic type of prospect. The team’s recent late lottery picks of Malik Monk, Miles Bridges, and surprisingly effective rookie PJ Washington all show promise but between inconsistent play and no chance at stardom, none make the team worth tuning into nightly. The term NBA purgatory exists for a reason, and no organization has defined it better or for longer than the Charlotte Hornets. – GH

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