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!
Is there a more depressing .500 team in the NBA?
A year after sneaking into the playoffs and bowing out to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a plucky, strangely competitive four game sweep, a lot of people picked the Pistons to go through a mini surge of internal improvement, win games in the high 40s and challenge for homecourt advantage in the East. Instead, Reggie Jackson injured his knee heading into the season going on to miss 30 games, Andre Drummond regressed in his 5th season in the league, and the team devolved into infighting, disappointment, and far too much Jon Leur for any real basketball fan.
What’s different heading into this season? Well for one, the team surrendered their best young prospect, after they traded Markieff Morris to the Celtics for Avery Bradley to avoid paying Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a max contract in restricted free agency. You can view the trade as a bet against KCP’s potential living up to that contract, or a simple cost cutting move for a mediocre team already $10 million above the cap, but the fact is Detroit didn’t even wait for another team to give the young guard an offer sheet before moving on. Avery Bradley’s defense may be a slight upgrade over Pope this year, but he’s an unrestricted free agent next summer and the team should definitely suffer by having to replace their starting forward in Morris with Leur or third-year disappointment Stanley Johnson.
The boost in minutes will be good for Johnson, though, who has the strength and physical profile to develop into a lockdown defender, but the team has dangerously little talent left after him coming off the bench. All of their backups’ names read like someone better suited to be the third or fourth best player at their position on a good team with Beno Udrih and Langston Galloway trying to stay relevant in the NBA and Boban Marjanovic fighting to resemble anything other than some ridiculous physical curiosity. Their first round pick, Luke Kennard looked decent in summer league, but outside of he and Johnson there just aren’t the young prospects to get excited about on this team. Hell, even their jerseys lack any kind of spark or charisma.
Not to mention that the Pistons tried their absolute hardest to move what should be their franchise cornerstone Andre Drummond at the trade deadline last year and seem to be teetering near the edge of total collapse. No one has ever enjoyed sharing a locker room with Reggie Jackson (who was thoroughly outplayed last year even when healthy by NBA journeyman Ish Smith) and Stan Van Gundy has the look of someone ready to explode at the meter maid giving him a $200 ticket. With SVG holding the power over player personnel to blow up the roster if things do indeed go south, Detroit should be a serious candidate to go fire sale in January and spend the last four months of the season churning out a miserable, unwatchable NBA product.