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!
This is make or break for New Orleans. With Demarcus Cousins a free agent at the end of the year and ADs’ free agency continuing to loom large on the horizon, this is the season the Pelicans need to put it all together. The only question is, can the rest of this roster ready to do that?
Looking at the team page on NBA.com you can’t help but be struck with a feeling of disbelief. Similar to how the Pacers looked this year; is this really a team you could use the entire salary cap on?? Jrue Holiday is a solid, if somewhat average, point guard pulling in the max on a new deal signed this summer. The Pelicans overpaid for passable role players in Solomon Hill (set to miss almost the entire season with a hamstring injury) and E’Twaun Moore last summer and are still living under the horrible decisions of big money contracts for Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca (who by the way, play the same position as their two best players). With all that money tied up in C+ talent, it’s no surprise that this team will need big contributions from some of their fringe signings this summer.
Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, Jordan Crawford. Take your pick on which one of these past their prime players will have the biggest impact for New Orleans this year. You could say Rondo, who managed to parlay two incredible playoff games against his former team into a $5 million contract. He was somehow slated to start before a sports hernia injury, which would have pushed Holiday to the 2 and further choked the spacing for a team already planning to play major minutes with two traditional big men. However, I think it will be Crawford and the Grindfather that the Pelicans will need much more from. The Pelicans were incredibly fortunate to land Allen as the injury to Hill left them without a single player to defend 3s on the roster while Crawford should (again, SOMEHOW after ten seasons bouncing in and out of the league) be incredibly important as the only player on the roster outside of Moore who can credibly stand outside the three point line and knock down shots.
All of this is depressing, and is ultimately getting away from the single most important factor for this team’s success. In Davis and Cousins, the Pels have two of the top 20 players in the league, and arguably the most skilled players at both of the big man positions. It’s been a long time since San Antonio ruled the league with the twin towers alignment of Duncan and Robinson, and there’s a good chance that the success of the 3 ball eviscerated any chance of a revival. However, if there ever was a chance of rejuvenation, it would be with these two players. Cousins and Davis can shoot, they can protect the rim, Cousins is an excellent passer, Davis a world-class finisher. Cousins has the bulk to take up space in the paint while AD has the gazelle-like speed to get out and guard on the perimeter. These two could be dominant defensively on the court together and head coach Alvin Gentry can keep his team rolling by staggering their minutes and keeping an elite player on the floor at all times. There may not be a lot to love around the margins for this team (with scattered role players and horrible uniforms), but if these two can actually click, the Pelicans could be on the cusp of a real small-ball counterrevolution. And, if it doesn’t, and everything melts down with Cousins and Rondo bashing their teammates and Davis eying greener pastures… all the more fun to watch this train catch fire.