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!
There’s almost no chance that this Clippers team experiences the kind of success that saw Lob City come within a Josh Smith heatcheck of their first Western Conference Finals in 45 years. But I do think there’s a good chance that this team could be a lot more fun to watch.
Gone is Chris Paul and his alpha-dog, control freak playing style on the court. But in exchange for sending the Point God of his generation to Houston, the Clippers netted a windfall return, prying away Pat Beverly, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, and a 2019 first rounder. Also, with the extra cap space, Los Angeles was able to hand out contracts to Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Youtube passing phenom Milos Teodosic. Paul may have been the master of the assist-to-turnover ratio, and has remarkably not fallen out of the top 10 in the league in PER over the last 10 seasons, but he also took his game orchestration to somewhat of an extreme. The Clippers were a below average team in terms of pace last year, and Paul’s scoring largely came down to a methodical approach to getting his 18 a game in the midrange. With the combination of Teodosic, and the junkyard dog Beverly, the Clippers have excellent change of pace options at point guard to give their offense two completely different feels.
Which is not to mention the effect that Paul’s absence might have on Blake Griffin as a playmaker. During a summer when he and Gordon Hayward were viewed as the biggest offseason free agents and could have been wined-and-dined across the league, Griffin spent almost no time at all re-upping with his current team and coming back on a 5 year max deal. Although, Blake has largely had to play second fiddle to Paul during their time together there’s reason to believe he still has the talent to be a franchise player when healthy. Proponents of his will point to his ridiculous 2013-2014 campaign where he finished third in MVP voting and pulled the Clips to a 12-6 record in the games Paul missed or his utter domination of the Spurs in the 2014-2015 “Best First Round Playoff Series Ever” bowl. L.A. showed they’re willing to bet on the 28 year old with a history of freak, unrelated injuries because he still has the upside of a top-10 player. Let’s see if it pays off.
Even if not, everywhere you look this is a team filled with characters. Austin Rivers and Lou Williams will face off to show who’s more convinced he’s the best player in the league. Deandre Jordan should continue to improve on his hyper aggressive, trapping defense (and perhaps form an even more incredible lob catching connection with the crafty Teodosic) while the team paid money to draft March Madness hero Sindarius Thornwell in the second round. Gallinari, in particular, should also absolutely thrive in a system playing with other veterans after being a weird primary option/old head mentor to the youth movement in Denver. Hell if Doc Rivers wants to get creative, he can unlock one of the deadlier offensive combinations in the league by sliding both his forwards up a position and rolling with Blake at center.
There’s no denying that the West has only gotten better over this summer and that the Clippers have only gotten worse. But, without the eternal bitching of Paul (and I do love Chris Paul) and no championship-or-bust expectations, this team should feel like a breath of fresh air. With a lot of new faces, and the Clippers potentially removed from the disappointment and pressure of the last six years, L.A. has a chance to rewrite the story for Lob City.