Welcome back friends to the third annual installment of my NBA League Pass Rankings. For those new to the process, forget power rankings. Forget Vegas Over-Unders and salary cap gymnastics. Here at Knicks at Night we dive into the teams one by one to answer one simple question. If you’re shelling out the money for a League Pass subscription, which of these teams are worth that top 5 night-in, night-out slot and which of these guys are absolute, unwatchable garbage people?
It kills me to put my boy John Wall this low. But after a season so depressing and forgettable that Kevin Durant wouldn’t even take a meeting with his hometown team, you have to bump these guys down a little.
Much like the Nets, the Wizards responded to a free agency snubbing by signing a lot of fine, boring level replacement players. Ian Mahinmi had a career year in 2015 for the Pacers, but he’ll have to come off the bench behind Marcin Gortat and won’t be any more than a defensive, roll to the rim center. Trey Burke should be a fine backup point guard while Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith should be able to provide some kind of shooting pop from the four spot. And here I am two weeks into the season.
Look we all know who these guys are at this point. They’ll do a good job rebounding and defending, they’ll do their best to get out in transition, John Wall will average close to ten assists a game, and they’ll ultimately let down all the fans in Washington D.C. I mean, last year was the season from hell for these guys and you couldn’t even point to injuries or a departed superstar to explain the drop-off.
Enter an improved bench for a team that had absolutely horrendous back-up big man play and newly minted head coach Scotty Brooks. The last one stings a little in the aftermath of Durant’s decision; the hiring was an obvious recruiting ploy that will cost the team $35 million over the next 5 years. The team may have quit on Randy Wittman a little last year, but it’s hard to say that Scott Brooks is that much more of a tactician mastermind. He’s been much credited for helping to develop the Oklahoma City superstars, but here he’ll be asked to take an already established team (and one with a little drama at that) to the next level. I’m going to reserve judgment on that, but the team is now committed to Brooks for longer than they are for Wall. It’ll be curious to see how that plays out on the court this year.
Brooks will, however, be on the same timeline as Bradley Beal who signed a max contract extension this offseason to become the highest paid player on the Wizards. Beal has had a tantalizing, Klay Thompson-like skill set for the last three years, but all the injuries under the sun have kept him from getting even close to an All-Star level of play. The Wizards were at their best a few years ago when Wall was surrounded by Trevor Ariza and other sharp-shooters and could blast down the court and find people open for corner threes. If Beal can stay healthy, and maybe younger wings like Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre can take a step forward with their spot-up shooting, they might be able to get back to that level.
Ultimately it all comes back to Wall. When he’s right he may be the best defensive point guard in the league; long and fast and an awesome shot-blocker. This team might have made the conference finals two years ago had Wall not broken his hand, and the front-office has surrounded him with more talent (including trading a first rounder for Markieff Morris at the deadline last year) than he’s had since arriving in DC. It may not be the most exciting roster, and it all has the possibility to go belly-up if anything happens to its point guard, but these guys should be able to find their way back to the postseason. Maybe I’ll tune in then.
Last year’s rank: 12 (-16)