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?
So, is this the team you love to hate or the team you hate to love? Whatever you think about the Durant decision: decry him a shiftless pussy, bemoan the long-vanished competitive balance in our league, or just take the boring moral high road that KD is an adult making the obvious best-case career decision, no one can deny that this is going to be a fascinating season in the Bay.
On paper, this team is invincible. Zach Lowe and Jeff Van Gundy speculated the other day whether anything short of a massive injury would stop this team from reaching, and eventually winning, the NBA finals this year (spoiler alert, no). And, after watching them fall behind to a gutsy Portland team by 16 points on Friday before turning on the jets and BLOWING THEM OUT OF THE WATER, I’d be hard pressed to find a chink in the armor, either.
People might point to the fact that top 5-10 players have a hard time co-existing when they’ve spent so much of their careers to this point with the ball in their hands. They’ll rightly say that everyone’s individual numbers will go down or wonder whether Draymond Green’s attitude can torpedo another championship run for Golden State. I don’t think any of this is the case. KD and Steph’s incredible shooting makes them a much better fit than say Lebron and Wade in Miami because both of them can easily play off the ball as cutters or spot-up shooters. And, though the numbers may go down, the team’s efficiency on offense as a whole is about to spike in a major way. Look at some of the threes from that game I was talking about. Yup, these guys are going to be that open all season long.
It seems almost laughable to do this before a single game has been played, but this is going to be the best offense in NBA history. This team pushed hard for 73 wins last year to break the record, but might fall into almost that many again without even trying. They sacrificed almost nothing in depth by acquiring Durant; both Bogut and Ezeli were banged up for huge chunks of last year and were non-factors in the Finals. Zaza Pachulia might not have the upside or rim protection of either of those guys, but he’s a much more consistent nightly presence and this team STOLE David West to play backup center after he completed that role for one of the best defensive teams in NBA history. Hell, they even added 6’7″ swingman Patrick McCaw to join two of the best bench players in the league in Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
Now I’m going to be rooting against these guys on a nightly basis. It’s not that I hold this no-brainer decision against Durant or the Warriors front-office. I already disliked these guys after two years of rooting for Cleveland in the Finals and sitting through Draymond Green’s antics. While I’m less likely to cheer on KD getting over that hump for his first championship, it’s not like assembling this super team has increased my antipathy any more towards the Dubs or their douchy, entitled ownership. I didn’t like them before and I don’t like them now. What has changed, though, is how compelling this team is going to be just from a pure Xs and Os basketball standpoint.
Subbing in Durant’s length and next level defensive intensity for Harrison Barnes in the revamped lineup of death? Running out line-ups where three starters routinely shoot over 40% from 3 and can make plays off the dribble? Having easily one of the two best lineups of all time on paper (and probably just the best to be honest) playing night in night out against every team that wants to make a statement by toppling the villains? Playing in the league’s most raucous arena where every $300 ticket is sold out and advertisers are lining up to pay $20 million for a 2″x2″ piece of jersey? At this point what else is there left to say?
The 2016-2017 Warriors might be terrible for the idea of parity in this league. They might make laughingstocks out of every other franchise, savaging their way through the regular season and the Finals. It might be anticlimactic and horrible and leave 29 fanbases agitated and depressed. But if this is the beginning of the next great basketball dynasty? And if this team redefines what we even think is possible for a group of 5 to accomplish on the hardwood? Then this is history in the making. And we need to be watching every second of it.
Last year’s ranking: 7 (+6)