The NBA is back and the season is finally underway! Who are the best teams in the league? What are they doing well? How can you tell if your team is good or bad? We break down every single team to give you an easy-to-understand ranking.
It’s that time of year again for our most ridiculous NBA preseason tradition: League Pass Rankings! Today marks the tenth anniversary of these rankings. I can’t believe I keep fooling publishers into publishing my work.
This isn’t a list of the most powerful people in the world! They’re called watchability scores, and they’re based on an ancient formula Bill Simmons says materialized in front of him after he took too many TB12 pills.
Teams are ranked from 1 to 10 in five categories:
ZEITGEIST: Is this team important to real people?
STAR/HIGHLIGHT POTENTIAL: Do you stay up late to watch sports, sacrificing sleep and time with loved ones, in the hopes that one player will do something spectacular?
STYLE: Do they have any tactical appeal?
MINUTES FROM THE LEAGUE PASS: Announcers, uniforms, and court designs.
COMEDY WITHOUT INTENTION: Coaches making funny expressions, passive-aggressive teammates, frequent bloopers, and subtle irritants are all examples of unintentional comedy.
The 2021-22 NBA season will begin on Oct. 19, with teams reporting to training camp.
• Preseason power rankings • Marks: All 30 clubs have big questions
• East | West projected standings • NBA rankings: 100-51, 50-26, 25-6, and 5-1.
Chuma Okeke and Franz Wagner will get more action on the wing when Isaac returns; Okeke is expected to be a key contributor moving ahead. The lineup of Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Okeke, Isaac, and Wandell Carter Jr. could be entertaining. R.J. Hampton accelerates with a supercharged sense of self-assurance and little concern for his own safety. Michael Carter-Williams will go around your blasted pick, even if it means crashing through it; he bleeds profusely.
The intrigue is appealing. Under Steve Clifford, Orlando was able to utilize their potential, but the product had become stale.
The art is excellent, and the program, hosted by David Steele and Jeff Turner, is relaxing: no homerism or vitriol, and just the perfect amount of insight and deadpan comedy. Terrence Ross has a half-dozen scorchers on his resume.
Maybe the Spurs’ young players can recapture the excitement of their bubble run, when, without LaMarcus Aldridge, this stodgy club accelerated to the league’s quickest tempo and approached the basket at a rate that resembled that of a regular team.
But the bet here is that they’ll play at a moderate tempo, meandering from side to side before launching a barrage of long 2s.
Hoops nerds are interested to see which of San Antonio’s young players will break out, as well as how one of the league’s most historic teams will emerge from the wilderness after a quarter-century at the top. Dejounte Murray is their pivot, a defensive phantom who can be right in your face and then dash 15 feet to intercept your entry pass. Is there a higher degree of offense for him? To cause agony, Keldon Johnson strikes the rim. Can he make enough three-pointers to make an impact?
The NBA season 2021-22 begins in October with two star-studded doubleheaders on ESPN.
Celtics at Knicks, 7:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Oct. 20 10 p.m. ET, Nuggets vs. Suns
Friday, Oct. 22 @ 7:30 p.m. ET, Nets at. 76ers 10 p.m. ET, Suns vs. Lakers
Lonnie Walker IV is an enigma: an open-court marauder whose half-court decision-making may be erratic. Devin Vassell has the greatest promise of the bunch. In preseason, Joshua Primo has been impressive.
Drew Eubanks is an arrogant dunker. Thaddeus Young is one of the league’s best con artists, flipping hooks on the way up before facing the basket from such bizarre angles that the shot goes in before Young’s defender knows he should contest it.
The fiesta court gets a big thumbs up!
Jalen Green will get as many opportunities as he wants to run the show. We’ll find out if Kevin Porter Jr.’s outburst in Houston was genuine or just empty-calories stat-chasing on a tanking club.
Christian Wood possesses a smooth inside-out game that works well with both small-ball power forwards and hefty centers, with feathery shots and gliding power dribbles. Give me as many Wood-Alperen Sengun minutes as you can.
David Nwaba, Kenyon Martin Jr. (an incredibly terrifying dunker), and Jae’Sean Tate, a switchy behemoth with embryonic passing skills who is only a dependable jumper away from being very intriguing, are the tweener wings who are bridging the gap.
Will John Wall act as though he doesn’t care about the games? Will Eric Gordon’s shoes have “trade me” written on them? Is Daniel Theis aware that he joined with this organization? Will Stephen Silas be able to grin more now that he’s spent his first year as coach trapped in the James Harden honey bun vortex?
Is this a lot of red for only one basketball court?
For the 11th year, ESPN’s list of the league’s best 100 players is back. What celebrities made the cut?
Paul George is a redeemed star (who didn’t need as as much salvation as the Pandemic P reviewers suggested), but no one watches him coil off screens.
The artwork is generally amusing. Ivica Zubac is a vicious dunker who goes unnoticed. Isn’t there still something enticing about Justise Winslow? Anyone? Splitting analyst responsibilities between Jim Jackson and Mike Fratello is a home run: Jackson is a budding star, whereas Fratello is a legend. A Steve Ballmer Cam might pique my interest, but only if it blurred out armpit perspiration.
Minnesota Timberwovles (19.) (31.5)
We gave the Wolves extra comedy points for misspelling their own team name in a press release announcing their president of basketball operations’ abrupt — and very Wolves-y — dismissal last month.
Minnesota has a strong chance of becoming one of the league’s top 10 most entertaining teams if you rank the following half-dozen teams any way you want. When Chris Finch took over, the Wolves stepped up their game and began firing more 3s. Finch is an offensive wizard who has a lengthy history of pushing talented big men to reach their full potential.
Karl-Anthony Towns may be the most versatile scoring big man in history, and Finch plans to use every tool at his disposal: Towns’ silky jumper, his explosive pump-and-go game, and an unbeatable arsenal of power and finesse post moves. Finch will press for more and run offense via Towns at the elbows, since Towns is a good passer.
Towns has the ability to be a top-10 player in the league. The difference between here and there boils down to defense, guts, and a genuine concern for the unpleasant aspects of winning.
Unfathomable catastrophe has struck Towns. It would be a fantastic conclusion to see him storm the gates and drive the Wolves close. They are good enough to make the play-in with 500 points after 30 games. Give me a 27-12-5 record on 50/40/90 shooting, better defense, and some screaming pleasure in the NBA’s bleak winter.
With Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards on the court, Minnesota scored almost 121 points per 100 possessions, which was better than Brooklyn’s league-best record. (Please disregard the defensive statistics.)
Russell is a gutsy late-game shot-maker who whips up crazy step-back streaks despite his flaws. With Russell spotting up around him, Edwards showed flashes of a strong pick-and-roll game. Edwards, who is sought for crushing Yuta Watanabe into thousands of tiny pieces, is already one of the league’s cruelest dunkers.
Every game, Patrick Beverley starts a fight. Naz Reid is a better scorer than you would expect. Minnesota’s season may be made or broken by Jaden McDaniels.
The broadcast is excellent, and I like the court design, which has the traditional howling wolf and a little “Minnesota” wordmark:
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Kidd certainly doesn’t believe Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavs’ legion of centers are a match for his failed Milwaukee-era blitzing defense, right? How serious is he about posting Porzingis and putting him beside Dwight Powell, a paint-clogging center? Should the Mavericks’ offense be limited to “Let Luka cook”?
One of Kidd’s most essential responsibilities is to keep Porzingis active inside that framework. Porzingis as a lone big man would make it more difficult for opponents to neutralize him.
I loved the controversial graffiti jerseys Dallas debuted two seasons ago because the art is so boring.
The three-man show is entertaining. It still makes me grin to see an enthusiastic, rowdy Mark Cuban in his baseline seat. Will we have a chance to see Dirk Nowitzki at a game? Is it possible for him to join the broadcast a few times?
The Mavs have more shooting surrounding Doncic, so here’s hoping Sterling Brown gets a full-time job in Dallas. Josh Green isn’t on my mind!
Jalen Brunson is a cinder block that spins. In the preseason, Boban Marjanovic has been launching 3s. Please, more Boban!
Philadelphia 76ers (#12) (34.5)
Ben Simmons has arrived in Philadelphia, but will he be able to contribute? If he does, the Sixers — back-to-back League Pass winners in 2019 and 2020 — become more entertaining than this rating indicates; every possession and sideline interaction would need Zapruder-level scrutiny. Did Simmons cast a glance towards Joel Embiid? Is it true that he sneered at Doc Rivers before refusing to wear a sweater?
Too many free throws (Philly gets a lot on both ends) usually detracts from the game’s appeal, but every Simmons free shot is a must-see.
How excited are you to see this squad if Simmons is dealt sooner rather than later — and without knowing what Philly could receive in return? I like Seth Curry, especially when he steals the ball on defense, but there was a worrying lot of Curry in the conference semifinals as Simmons faded away. Even if Simmons is completely committed to the Sixers, the stakes don’t seem the same with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks as strong East favorites.
Still, Embiid has a unique blend of vintage toughness, agile agility, improved midrange touch, and biting trash talk that makes him the league’s most exciting player. If Simmons is gone, will we see more of Embiid’s post game — clearing the lane?
Andre Drummond is one of the several centers Embiid has real estate in. It’s almost a pity they’re teammates, since we’ll never see Embiid’s ritualistic humiliation of Drummond until we get more of this Embiid nonverbal snark:
From Karl-Anthony Towns to… new teammate Andre Drummond, Joel Embiid has a burgeoning real estate portfolio in the minds of rival NBA centers.
The young men, particularly Tyrese Maxey, are intriguing, but the learning curve is usually steeper than you expect. Overall, the art is tied with Portland for first place. Doc Rivers has the greatest Anguished Coach Face in the NBA. His lips flattens into a long straight line, and his skin tightens to the point where you think his face would break.
Thybulle Matisse is a ghost. He moves in a way that no one else does. So, how do you do it?
Utah Jazz (#11) (34.5)
We’ve arrived in elite territory. For die-hards, Utah’s drive-and-kick blender is paradise, and Quin Snyder adds a new element each season. Jordan Clarkson had transition 3s and the greenest light conceivable a year ago.
You would assume the Jazz are reserved, but they have two daring heat-check shooters in Clarkson and Bogdanovic, as well as Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, the latter of whom was previously obedient to a fault, hoisting with recklessness.
Mitchell, while lacking Doncic’s height and playmaking ability, is developing as a scheme-proof playoff superstar. Mitchell improved as a passer and cutter last season, and the more of an active, roaming threat he becomes, the more deadly Utah’s offense becomes.
Joe Ingles is a top-five trash-talker who is always involved in a fight. He may have the greatest pass fake since Manu Ginobili, and he delights in humiliating defenders with it.
Utah is under the weight of four consecutive playoff failures, new ownership, and Finals-or-bust expectations. Stress levels may quickly increase if they start slowly. (The Jazz governor, Ryan Smith, has sparked a discussion among my friends: Is wearing a hat backwards in public beyond the age of 40 considered a red flag? Discuss.)
Let’s see if Snyder offers Rudy Gobert more opportunities to beast switches as a means of prepare for the postseason’s small-ball lines.
Both courts are my favorites:
My favorite piece of NBA art is the note with the colorful ball at the top. Even if the jerseys are gone, the gradient court gets a thumbs up. Heat, did you hear that? Couldn’t you have retained the “Vice” court at the very least? I’m still furious.
I especially like this yellow jersey, which is one of at least three new-ish alternates with no writing on the front (the others belong to the Spurs and the Phoenix Suns):
Watch out for the little guys: Miye Oni, Eric Paschall, Trent Forrest, and Jahlil Butler all offer a lot of explosive, unexpected energy that contrasts well with Utah’s beautiful game.
In addition, Holly Rowe!!!
The NBA teams list is a tool that uses data from the NBA to rank all 30 teams. It also includes information about each team, such as their record last season, how many games they won, and who their coach is! Reference: nba teams list.
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