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!
Every year, without fail, there’s a new, scrappy, fun-to-watch tanking team. And this year, I have no question that that team is the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings may have waited a season too long to deal Demarcus Cousins, failing to get the kind of superstar haul that would have really set them up for the future as one of the league’s more asset-rich teams. However, with the going rate for All-Stars (Jimmy Butler, Paul George, etc.) looking almost painfully low, and the Pelicans tanking out the end of last season after they failed to make the playoffs, Sacramento is sitting mighty pretty heading into the 2017-2018 season.
Buddy Hield may never end up being an NBA athlete, or reaching the kind of heights that he experienced at Oklahoma, but he showed considerable promise when the Kings put the ball in his hand to close the season, shooting 43% from 3 and showing some solid chops running the pick-and-roll as a secondary ball-handler. Trading Cousins and going all in on their youth movement also meant more minutes for Skal Labissiere who flashed a big time shooting stroke and mobility at the 4 spot. With Hield, Skal, and the gazelle-like Willie Trill, the Kings looked like they had a solid, if unspectacular core moving forward in the post-Boogie era.
Flash forward to the draft, where Sacramento was lucky to have arguably the most explosive player in the 2017 class drop to them at pick #5. With De’Aaron Fox in the fold, the Kings finally have a blue chip prospect to spearhead their rebuilding project, while the team continued to cast a wide net for young talent, trading the 10th pick in the draft for selections 15 and 20. The Kings may have passed on Zach Collins, but the move allowed them to take a reliable wing prospect in Justin Jackson and roll the dice again (in the same way as they did with Skal) on the #1 prospect coming out of high school Harry Giles. While Giles will unfortunately miss time until at least January strengthening his knees, the team is bringing over one of the best scorers in Europe, Bodgdan Bogdanovic, and will unbelievably field a team featuring ten players on their rookie contracts.
Not only that, but this is a Sacramento front office that committed to moving past the stink of the Boogie Cousins era by solely bringing in high character players. Over the summer they used their cap space to sign big money contacts to George Hill and Zach Randolph (only 150 hours of community service and that marijuana charge is resolved!), while letting Darren Collison, Rudy Gay, and Arron Afflalo walk. With solid role models/mentors in place for their young guards and big men, don’t be surprised if this team improves a lot faster than anyone expected.