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?
To be clear, this is the highest I’ve ever rated the Boston Celtics. And barring some kind of crazy mid-season blockbuster deal for a Demarcus Cousins or a Blake Griffin (or the Celtics grabbing the #1 pick in next year’s draft from Brooklyn), this is the highest they’re ever going to be.
God, if the Celtics had landed Durant I don’t know what I would’ve done. It’s not that I hate the Celtics, or the Patriots, or the holier-than-thou, pencil me in for the playoffs, smug-faced Boston sports fans, but sometimes I just need a break from the kind of sustained excellence this city produces. After a 48 win season, a top 5 coach, and the shortest All-Star since 1979 in Isaiah Thomas, this team added the third pick in this year’s draft and the second best free agent on the market (who reportedly chose this team because of how awesome their crowd is). Sheeeeit. I just don’t know what to do with these guys.
For those following along at home, the Celtics should have their first 50 win season since the Big Three and are a good bet to take both the Atlantic Division crown and the 2nd spot in the Eastern Conference from Toronto. This team finished last year with the fifth best defensive rating in the league and forced the most turnovers AND should only get better on defense. They can play big with Horford at power forward next to Amir Johnson and can put out a scary perimeter tandem in Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley when Thomas hits the bench. Hell, Bradley may be the best Steph Curry stopper in the league (Boston was one of the 9 teams to beat Golden State last year) and Marcus Smart guarded friggin’ Paul Millsap in the playoffs last year. If first round pick Jaylen Brown can hit the ground running, they could even switch everything with he and versatile swingman Jae Crowder.
On offense, Horford should fit into this team like a dream. The long-time Atlanta Hawk is one of the best passing big men in the league and is a knock-down catch and shoot guy. He can play pick-and-pop with Thomas or post up and feed some of this team’s excellent cutters. He should even be a better three point shooter than pretty much everyone on the roster outside of Bradley and Kelly Olynk. This team shot a ton of threes last year but was one of the worst groups by percentage; Horford should bring that up both by himself and by letting Thomas play more off the ball for some catch and shoot opportunities. Taking some of the burden off of Thomas will also be huge, as Boston’s offense frequently fell off a cliff when he hit the bench. If coach Brad Stevens can stagger their minutes, these guys should always have a competent primary facilitator on the floor.
This team is honestly probably in the top ten in terms of watchability, and if I wasn’t so goddamn biased they’d be a lot higher on this list. Maybe outside of New York, and for a neutral observer, these guys would be a ton of fun to turn on on a nightly basis. Unfortunately for those outside of New York, and all you neutral observers out there, that’s not the content you’re getting on this site. I will grudgingly acknowledge these guys but I will not watch them, will not root for them, and will hope to Jesus they flame out in the playoffs spectacularly so everyone in Boston can just shut it.
Last year’s ranking: 26 (+7)