With the advent of real, actual NBA preseason basketball, fans get to flip their calendars to the 2017-2018 season and start gearing up for one of the more anticipated campaigns of the last decade. As always, at Knicks at Night, we look ahead and break down the upcoming year, not by the quality of each team’s roster, but by how entertaining each should be to watch on a nightly basis. With nearly half the league’s All-Stars changing homes over the summer, there’s a lot more variability in these rankings and a lot of exciting, new situations to monitor. There’s never been a better time to plunk down that 100 bucks or so for the league’s premier subscription service, but also never a harder time choosing who to watch on a given night. To help answer that question… here are your Fourth Annual League Pass Watchability Rankings!
What a junk heap…
$15 million/year for bench players, guards who can’t shoot next to centers who can’t defend. Multiple top 10 picks still on their rookie contracts with straight zero superstar potential between them and no one on this team coming close to cracking 20 points a game. Who knew hell would be so close to Disney World?
Now, I did advocate for the Knicks jumping all over Johnathan Isaac if he happened to fall to 8th on draft night. Pairing his athleticism with shotmaking just close to league average should give you a player near perfect for the modern NBA: rim protection and switchability, efficient off the ball with the ability to juice the pick and roll by either popping out for a jumper or finishing a lob near the rim. Pairing him with Porzingis could have been devastating; a combination of length and speed at the forward positions to make Milwaukee’s rangy roster look small by comparison.
Only problem is, Isaac doesn’t project to be a team’s primary scorer or even the third best player on a Conference Finals team. He joins another hyper-athletic forward in Aaron Gordon, but neither of the two can really put the ball on the floor to playmake or really do much of anything on offense either than launch open 3s and finish dunks. Having the two together on the floor forces one of them to play out of position at small forward and pretty much guarantees the Magic will continue to keep their $72 million man Bismack Biyombo tethered to the bench.
I get what the Magic are trying to do here by building a roster full of versatile, super athletes. They have a proven defensive coach in Frank Vogel and a number of players who can switch screens and take on multiple positions. Their new President of Basketball Operations, Jeff Weltman, comes from years of prolonged success in Toronto and has demonstrated a clear ability to find value late in the draft. They have a number of young players with room to improve, own all their picks going forward, and brought in Spurs free agent Jonathon Simmons on an excellent, three-year contract.
Outside of French guard Evan Fournier, there’s just no one on this roster who can shoot the ball (or really play offense at all). The Magic remain committed to seeing if Elfrid Payton can be the starting point guard on a playoff team, now going into the final year of his rookie deal. Payton remains a feisty defender and showed flashes of excellence with a handful triple-double games down the stretch of last season, but he doesn’t have the All-World level of court vision that other non-shooters like Rubio and Rondo have used to remain productive on the court. The team has a number of disappointing options to pair next to him with Fournier, Terrence Ross, and Croatian super-bust Mario Hezojna and looks to rely heavily on Mareese Speights or Knicks Legend Aron Afflalo to provide any kind of scoring punch off the bench.
Bottom line is, the Magic suck every year, but never suck worse enough to find a transcendent player in the draft. They figure to be a bottom five group on offense and, outside of those eight Aaron Gordon dunks a year, lack any kind of highlight reel player. If they knew what was best for them, they’d try to finish with the worst record in the league. Instead, with how bad the East is this year, they’ll probably end up making the playoffs.