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!
When was the last time a rookie was so hyped up? Lebron James? If that sounds insane that’s the level of excitement surrounding the Staples Center heading into this season. Lonzo Ball is in the building, Lebron James and Paul George loom large in the summer of 2018, and the Lakers have some serious buzz. Let’s see how this year plays out.
Pretty much any statistical model you look at will tell you that rookies almost never contribute to winning basketball. They’re bad on defense, they don’t execute the schemes, and they have to adjust to the night-in night-out professional grind. And, with Lonzo’s funky shooting form and lack of NBA-level athleticism, it would be misguided to think that he could affect games with his scoring. But that’s not Ball’s game.
Think of Lonzo like a force multiplier. It’s not only that his passing puts all of his teammates in a better position to succeed. His passing is infectious. UCLA was 69th in the country in offensive efficiency before Lonzo Ball came to the campus. After one year, the program was 1st overall and Ball had the Bruins running up and down the floor and launching 3s from San Diego. If his summer league play is any indication of future tendencies, particularly when coupled with head coach Luke Walton’s desired Warriors-style ball movement system, this is going to be a fun offense to watch.
There are a lot of players on this roster who are going to look completely different with a true pass-first point guard. Brandon Ingram is entering the season with almost no expectations despite being the kind of do-it-all player who was able to put down better than 50 made 3 pointers, 50 steals, 35 blocks, and 155 assists with the prestige of a 2nd overall pick. Jordan Clarkson should be maximized in his role as a super 6th man scoring threat who can pair with Ball for 15 minutes a game while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has all the motivation in the world on a 1 year $18 million prove it deal to play lock down defense and knock down 3s. Hell even Julius Randle, written off by the team as they prepare to save all of their cap space for the upcoming season, should have a huge season slimming down and playing as a do-everything Draymond Green-lite power forward. Brook Lopez should space the floor for the entire team while Kyle Kuzma is going to be the league’s MVP in two years based on his torrid scoring pace from the preseason.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This will still be a bottom 7 or 8 team that won’t be able to defend anyone. The prognosticators who have picked them to make the postseason this year will be sorely disappointed (sorry Lavar), as this still figures to be a bottom 5 defense trying to contend in the loaded Western Conference. But, with the passing mastery of Lonzo, as well as the shine of the new Magic Johnson-Rob Pelinka front-office era, this is a team to get excited for. It might be a stretch to say Showtime is back, but this Lakers team is going to be awesome to watch all year.