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!
If high-level pickup ball were any indication, the Chris Paul and James Harden chemistry experiment is already complete. The two have spent pretty much the entire summer buddying up together: clowning at concerts, going to weddings, and getting on courts all over New York to refine their two-man game. They’re still a distant second to Drew League All-Star Demar Derozan in the summer basketball power rankings, but head coach Mike D’Antoni has to be encouraged by his All-Star backcourt bonding so well before the season has even started.
And he had better be. Compared to some of the other blockbuster deals of the past six months, Houston gave away a treasure trove of assets, including junkyard dog Patrick Beverley, key reserves Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell, and a protected first round pick. It’s definitely a worthy gamble to acquire a player of CP3’s caliber and raise the team’s risk profile while staring the Warriors in the face but it also has the potential to leave the team very shallow. Luckily, wonderboy GM Daryl Morey pivoted excellently by bringing in defensive minded wings in PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute on small-money deals to build up the team’s bench. Beverley might have been an All-World defender, but with these reserves and Paul coming close to leading the league in steals every year, these guys should be able to form a top 10 defense to go with last year’s 3rd ranked offense.
Not only that, but this figures to be one of the better second units in the entire league. Eric Gordon is coming off a season where he took home 6th man of the year and smoked both of the Splash Brothers in the 3 point shooting contest. Having both Paul and Harden on the team should leave D’Antoni with an elite creator on the floor at all times and if, for some reason, Nene can’t replicate his incredible performance from their playoff series with OKC, the team can always juice their offense by playing Ryan Anderson at center with the backups. With shooting at almost every position, versatile defenders to play position-less basketball, and two of the league’s 5 or 6 best passers, this team is going to be overwhelming. Anything less than 60 wins and the second seed in the West should be a downright disappointment.
Whether or not this team can actually hang with the Warriors is another question. Houston flamed out in the playoffs in pretty spectacular fashion last year when Harden played so poorly people thought he’d been concussed the game before. With Paul’s legacy also in question having never made a conference finals, both of these guys have a ton to prove this year in cementing their hall-of-fame legacies. While they’ll certainly need to adjust their play style to accommodate one another, if this works out how the Rockets’ front office is betting, this team’s ceiling could be ridiculous.