The Definitive 2018–19 NBA League Pass Watchability Rankings, Part II

Serge and Brandon rank the league’s 12 most watchable teams, from the Warriors to the 76ers…


The NBA is back, and it’s been quite a first week. Every team is scoring 120 these days, and there have already been key debuts, overtime games, signature moments, and plenty of drama. Finally.

Of course, the only way to watch it all is with a pricey NBA League Pass subscription that only works about three times a season… unless of course you have Google or NBA Reddit streams. Are these actually the 2018-19 NBA Reddit Rankings? Maybe they are. Either way, you need to know what to watch, and serge and I got you.

We already zoomed past the Cavs and Pistons of the world, saved the youth of the Knicks and Kings for another day, recognized the friskiness of the Hornets and Hawks, and starting getting to the good stuff with the Pacers and Suns. Still, all of that was just the bottom 60% of the league. All that’s left now are the top 12 most watchable teams in the NBA.

So let’s review our breakdown from Part I and hit the top 12…

TIER VII — THE DREGS

30. Cleveland Cavaliers (last season: 10)
29. New York Knicks (19)
28. Orlando Magic (26)

TIER VI — THESE AREN’T THE DROIDS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR

27. Detroit Pistons (30)
26. Miami Heat (13)
25. San Antonio Spurs (8)
24. Sacramento Kings (18)
23. Chicago Bulls (27)

TIER V — FUN FRISKY FODDER

22. Brooklyn Nets (23)
21. Charlotte Hornets (25)
20. Memphis Grizzlies (21)
19. Atlanta Hawks (29)
18. Los Angeles Clippers (20)

TIER IV — THE NBA BOURGEOISIE

17. Indiana Pacers (28)
16. Houston Rockets (11)
(15. Minnesota Timberwolves post-Jimmy, reserved)
15. Washington Wizards (7)
14. Phoenix Suns (22)
13. Portland Trail Blazers (14)


TIER III — IT JUST. GOT. GOOD.

12. Golden State Warriors (last season: 6)
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (2)
10. New Orleans Pelicans (17)
9. Minnesota Timberwolves (4)
8. Boston Celtics (12)
7. Toronto Raptors (24)

Brandon

Alright, let’s have this Wolves talk. I’m ready. Ready for Jimmy to go. Ready for Thibs to go. Ready for Jimmy to stay and force Wiggins out. Ready for any scenario that involves KAT staying and pretty much anyone else going. Which is why we’re probably going to keep Jimmy and Thibs all season, go 41–41 and do just enough to get swept as the 8-seed, estrange KAT, and actually physically blow the team up next summer. I’m done.

This entire thing is a joke. Pre-arranged interviews and staged temper tantrums is not being a leader, no matter how many Kobe and MJ videos you watch. Hey Jimmy, quitting on teams is not the sign of a leader. You’ve won two playoff series in your career, and you were not the leader on either team. You’re 15–26 lifetime in the playoffs, 3–8 as the team leader. And you’re 0–2 leaving teams without nuking them in your waste. Be gone.

Serge

I’m tired of people lambasting Jimmy Butler because he made some good points in his interview, which KAT and Wiggins didn’t exactly combat. When your disgruntled star is talking about effort and posting workout clips and you’re instagramming Fortnite victories, it’s not a good look. Jimmy gets to choose where he wants to work, same as you and I, and he made that vocal and the Wolves bucked. So whatever. We’re talking about the #30 pick who lived in foster homes and cars and had to scrap for every comma on his contract, whereas KAT and Wiggins have basically been prodigies since high school but decide that it’s more fun to hang out on Twitch. There are absolutely zero physical reasons either KAT or Wiggins can’t be premier elite defenders. NONE. I’m with Jimmy, I’m also tired of this shit and I will gladly watch him berate everyone on that team until he is traded.

Brandon

KAT and Wiggins do need to do better. You know who else needs to do better? The good people at The Ringer NBA Show that insist on calling him K-A-T on the podcasts. Like bruh, they spellin’ it out over there. Nah.

The thing about the Warriors is there’s still nothing in sports like Steph going nuclear, and I still get excited when the Ws are trailing by 15 as the third quarter’s about to start. The Warriors won’t try until May but they’re still a prideful team that gets every opponent’s best shot, and that remains fun.

Speaking of fun, hey isn’t your team in this tier?

Serge

I actually had to confirm with myself internally that I had Toronto top 10. I’m usually not the biggest fan of watching the home team on nights where there is more compelling basketball, but Dwane Casey is gone, Kawhi Leonard is really a Raptor, and the Bench Mob is intact. It’s going to be interesting to see the evolution of the Nick Nurse offense and how they keep everyone incorporated. The can now truly spread the floor and move the ball while playing top three defense with the right lineups. If they pull it together, this could be a fluid watching experience. Kawhi really a Raptor, too.

Brandon

Kawhi is really a Raptor and Toronto is really good. They’re my East pick, and I just want to see this team defend the Warriors.

The thing about Boston and Toronto is we’ll see plenty of them this spring, but they both defend and play so hard every night that it’s always worth tuning in. It’s hard because the Celtics play the right way and have so many interesting players and President Brad is our future, but on the other hand… Boston fans. Hey Serge, you think Jayson Tatum is in the Hall of Fame yet?

Serge

With the Red Sox in the World Series and the Patriots shaking off a bad start we might be for a record insufferability index coming out of Massachusetts. I don’t think I’m ready. I just need Boston fans to make up their mind about whether or not Jaylen, Jayson, and the rest are really underrated or if Brad Stevens coaching is the catalyst to make average players look good (the former for Tatum and definitely the latter for Brown).

I’ve run out of things to say about the Warriors, but it’s always interesting to see how they keep their motivation and who Draymond Green will get into this year. I keep trying to hate this team, but they make it hard because of how aesthetically pleasing the basketball itself is. The Thunder meanwhile are a roller coaster of emotion with Russ making them both better and worse every single night. They’re the exact opposite of Golden State fluidity and I simply can’t get enough. Besides we must preserve Steven Adams at all costs.

I think the Pelicans will be really good, too. I never understood the DeMarcus Cousins addition, and Julius Randle is a capable replacement who may actually run back on defense. The Pelicans have a lot to build on from last year with guys who play good basketball, but Anthony Davis alone is worth the price of admission every night. I’m pretty sure that at some point he will grow wings since I believe that’s how evolution works.

Brandon

I’m not actually convinced the Pelicans will be good, because when am I ever, but I do think they’ll be fun. They were one of the league’s more entertaining teams running and gunning with Brow at center, and Jrue Holiday is the new Mike Conley as every NBA nerd’s secretly favorite guard.

The Westbrook show has grown tiresome but is still a good watch until you get too much in the playoffs. I’m ready for more Dennis Schröder and Steven Adams. Would you rather fight one Adams-sized Schröder or 100 Schröder-sized Steven Adams?

Serge

I would never fight my one true King Steven Adams in any form.

Brandon

My sun and stars.


TIER II — BASKETBALL NERDERY, UNITE!!

6. Utah Jazz (15)
5. Denver Nuggets (9)
4. Dallas Mavericks (16)

Serge

I cannot count the number of cashiers in the food court next to my office who I’ve tried to convert to the Church of Luka Doncic. I’m here for an entire season of him proving everyone wrong and me subtweeting the Hawks every time he gets a double-double. Luka puts Dallas squarely in my top five LP teams. He might have a similar impact to Jokic, where everything just flows through him.

Speaking of, while I understood the NBA nerd fascination with Jokic, I never really bought into people ranking him higher than Embiid. Hell, I’ll take Al Horford on my team over Nikola Jokic. I just think there are too many negatives in terms of long-term outcome, but boy are these Nuggets fun. They might drop 140 on someone visiting Denver on a back-to-back and I wouldn’t blink an eye.

Brandon

When I did my rankings, I had the obvious teams at the top and started listing off the teams that should go next when I came across the Mavs, and I was like, huh, I actually really want to watch this team. I snuck them into my top 10 and thought I’d have some explaining to do. Apparently not: you had them #3. This team is gonna be FUN. So glad I don’t have to watch grainy internet footage of Luka anymore. Now I can watch grainy NBA League Pass footage I paid $200 for! Much better. Gimme Doncic, year two of Dennis Smith Jr., and the Dirk Farewell Tour over the DWade Fade 100 times out of 100.

I’m already a little sick about how quickly #NBATwitter is going to turn on one of these West contenders. It’s gonna be the Jazz or the Nuggets, it’s gonna be this year, and it’s gonna center around Jokic or Spida Mitchell. I’m sick about it. Physically ill.

Can we just enjoy something beautiful? I honestly don’t care how good the Nuggets or Jazz are. Does it really matter whether they lose in the first or second round this spring? The Jazz and Nuggets are the long game while we all embark on one long death march toward 16 more Warriors wins and everything is stupid. Why not just enjoy Spida and Big Honey along the way?

Serge

I am turning on Jokic the moment Lakers run LeBron at the five against the Nuggets and he becomes unplayable.

Brandon

You spelled Jonathan Williams wrong. LeBron’s too busy missing free throws and step-back threes to play center. If you could make one super nerd team from this tier, it would definitely be Luka, Spida, Jingles, Dirk, Jokic, and the internet would implode upon itself. Middle America would be so torn between rooting for the four white guys or the one American.

Serge

Please protect Luka Doncic, who I am going to see live this very Friday, at all costs. I’ve already enjoyed a fair share of hounding all those on Twitter who said “LuKa IsN’T NbA rEaDy” all summer. With Carlisle at the helm, Dennis Smith Jr. in a more efficient second year and Luka off ball, Dallas will be fun.

The Jazz are one team I watched surprisingly a lot last year, but I fear that Donovan Mitchell gets a little bit reckless with his forays to the rim. Ricky Rubio is the essential check and balance on that team and everyone’s worst impulses.

Brandon

Ricky Rubio is stupid and we don’t miss him in Minnesota at all, not at all. Sigh.

Denver is the team in this tier I’m most eager to see grow. Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray are all 23 and under, Paul Millsap is back after a lost season, and somehow all four of those dudes are underrated. Michael Porter Jr. and IT are the X factors. Denver is the one team I could really see throwing things off balance in everyone’s expected West standings.


TIER I — THE UNTOUCHABLES

3. Los Angeles Lakers (5)
2. Milwaukee Bucks (3)
1. Philadelphia 76ers (1)

Brandon

I think it’s actually impossible to watch one of these three teams play and not enjoy it. Let’s start with the Lakers. This team is everything we thought it would be, and everything we thought it wouldn’t be, too. They’re going to be awesome if they change the rules so only passing and dunking are allowed, but did they forget about shooting and defense?

I’m just so excited LeBron is finally a Laker. I’ve rooted against the Lakers all my life, and I have rooted against LeBron since he quit Cleveland the first time. Now the stars have aligned and I can happily root against LeBron’s Lakers all season long, so what is that, like 87 or 88 games? #blessed

Serge

As a Lakers fan, this is my moment to watch this team sneak into the playoffs and lose 4–2 in the first round. After eight years of Finals or bust, James finally has zero championship expectations from anyone still relatively attached to reality. He gets to chill, work on Space Jam 2, and occasionally comment how well Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball are coming along.

The Sixers are still the greatest show on hardwood when they’re rolling, but their game against Boston showed that their offense still needs work. They rely on Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid making things happen a bit too much. While that may work against 80% of the league, it won’t get you past Boston in seven. It’ll be interesting to see them figure it out even more this year.

Brandon

I worry that the Sixers are in for a bit of reckoning this season. The defense will stop them from falling back too far, but you’re right, the offense needs work. I see a lot of talk about Joel Embiid as a sleeper MVP and I would never bad mouth ya boy, but the dirty little secret is that Embiid isn’t great on offense or even good. He turns it over too much, pounds the shot clock out in the post, and takes too many inefficient shots. His footwork and post moves are gorgeous, but it’s 2018 and we’re too smart for this.

I worry for Sixers fans. They want this so bad for Embiid and Fultz. I mean, they were cheering Markelle for dribbling straight in the home opener like he was some sort of Make-a-Wish walk-on or something. I want to watch the Sixers grow and learn, but I want to give them grace. I think it could be a bumpy ride. They’re still #1 on my list every time.

Serge

I actually moved Milwaukee first on my list because I watched the first game against Charlotte and they looked terrifying. After the disaster that was the Jason Kidd tenure of making Giannis swim in a kiddie pool, we now see how the great white shark operates in a wide open ocean. Mike Budenholzer runs an up-tempo spread that will leave Giannis in space with a defender and I’d rather square off against Michael Myers than defend Antetokounmpo in space. He might average a legit triple-double this year, without having to shank his own teammates for rebounds.

Brandon

YEAH, baby. Allow myself to introduce… myself. And I hope we allow Giannis to reintroduce himself this season too. I feel like Aladdin at the end of the first movie. Giannis: you’re free. No more Jason Kidd. No more outdated offense. What would YOU do if you had Antetokounmpo on your team? Would you unleash him as a Spiderman center? Would you let him run point? Let him learn how to shoot? I feel like I’m writing a Dr. Seuss novella. Oh, the places Giannis will go. I can’t wait to go there with him.

Serge

Milwaukee’s season may be a better supervillain origin movie than Venom. Speaking of villainy, is LeBron in the Stavro Blofeld stage of his career? I honestly don’t think he cares if the Lakers even make the playoffs this year. He’s in L.A., working on movies and HBO shows, making Maverick Carter rich just by being LeBron James. Sure, playing with someone as brilliant as him will be amazing for likes of Hart, Ingram and Lonzo, but LeBron is just happy everyone on the court knows the score of the game at all times.

Brandon

You know what they say… Can’t spell LeBron’s L.A. Lakers without three Ls at the beginning. See you in the Reddit streams.


Improve your Twitter existence by following Serge @Sergetacular and look for his and Brandon’s work at Grandstand Central. Follow Brandon @wheatonbrando for more sports, TV, humor, and culture. Visit Brandon’s writing archives here.