Preseason’s underway, everyone’s in the best shape of their lives, Jimmy Butler is doing Jimmy Butler things, and James Harden has demanded another trade. That means it’s time yet again for my NBA League Pass rankings!
As a reminder, I rank these teams from the view of a neutral hoops fan. This is a subjective exercise. Winning basketball helps, but isn’t everything. An overhauled roster, interesting young guys, a unique playstyle, sexy jerseys, a good broadcast team… lots of things can contribute to making the final product watchable.
This year, more than any other I can remember, there are zero unwatchable teams. Even the squads at the bottom of the rankings have compelling reasons to tune in each night. But everything is relative, and unfortunately, someone had to bring up the rear. This year, that team is…
30. Chicago Bulls
The sum is less than its parts here, as the Bulls have plenty of compelling players. DeMar DeRozan puts on a footwork clinic every night, Zach LaVine still has bounce and a silky jumper, and Alex Caruso dogs the other team’s best ballhandler with rabid, frenetic fervor. I’m looking forward to seeing if Coby White can continue his startling climb into two-way competency and if Patrick Williams can finally break out.
But this is the same team we’ve seen before, and they’ll still be a clunky, midrange-heavy mess on offense despite preseason protests to the contrary. If Coby White makes the opening paragraph, you know you’re in for a long season. The Bulls have a pretty clearly defined floor and ceiling. Without much variability or overwhelming must-watch talent, the Bulls are a hard team to recommend given the viewing competition.
29. Toronto Raptors
Man, this team will be a slog to watch.
Maybe Scottie Barnes will make a leap under new coach Darko Rajakovic. He’s capable of becoming an all-world point forward with unmatched two-way versatility, although that might be a bit much to expect in year three. Unfortunately, that’s about the only reason for most viewers to tune in.
The halfcourt offense will be an unbearable swamp, and nobody outside of Pascal Siakam and Barnes ranks as an above-average positional passer. Some of the court and jersey art is solid, and broadcaster Jack Armstrong is lovable (if you avoid overexposure). But this team is filled with low-feel players who don’t play pretty basketball.
Toronto should have a perfectly mediocre record, and they have some talent. There’s also a real chance that the Raptors trade Siakam and/or O.G. Anunoby before the season’s over, signaling a teardown.
But Barnes is the key to this team’s future — and watchability. If he can make The Leap, this ranking will look absurd.