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NBA Watchability Rankings 2018-2019

LeBron James, Lakers
The NBA season is long and sometimes overwhelming, as it seems like there are hundreds of players and storylines you have to follow at one time to really get a good feel for the league. With that in mind, we came up with the definitive list of which of the 30 teams you should actually pay attention to, and which ones aren't even worth your time. Without further ado, here are our "watchability" rankings for this 2018-2019 NBA campaign, going from worst to first.

30. Orlando Magic
Orlando has struggled to regain a footing in the weak Eastern Conference since Dwight Howard left town, and this season does not looking very promising either. The Magic did add a tantalizing young prospect in lengthy big man Mo Bamba, whose gigantic wingspan and feel for the game will lead to a lot of blocks, but likely not much wins. Orlando also did lock up forward Aaron Gordon, who had his best season in the Association a year ago, and could be one of the more underrated playmakers in the league. However, despite that there really isn't a lot to get excited about on this roster, which lacks much proven ball-handlers or shooters. It looks like it is going to be a long season once more, but perhaps watching Bamba and another young piece, Jonathan Isaac, grow will be worth some viewing.

29. Charlotte Hornets
Outside of drafting talented swingman Miles Bridges and adding longtime Spur Tony Parker, Charlotte had an incredibly quiet off-season. This roster does have some interesting weapons, but it is filled with a bunch of guys who never lived up to their high NBA Draft selections (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Jeremy Lamb). A possible Kemba Walker trade could add some much needed intrigue to this organization, but their ceiling looks like mid-tier Eastern Conference squad, which isn't exactly worth much viewing in the current landscape of the league.

28. Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn GM Sean Marks was tasked with a near impossible rebuild when he took over the reigns of the franchise in 2016, but he has done a good job getting the Nets back to respectability. Examining the growth of young pieces such as D'Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen are worth a tune-in every one in awhile, but this team still has a long way to go to evolve into a true Eastern Conference contender. That could certainly change if the Nets are somehow able to land Jimmy Butler, who has interest in going to a big market like Brooklyn.

27. Memphis Grizzlies
Once a consistent contender out West, Memphis had a dismal '17-'18, leading to the drafting of Jaren Jackson, who a lot of people are really high on. Though, the route to a successful season for the Grizzlies lies in the health of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. When healthy, they can still be cornerstones of a Playoff team, but both have had long-term health problems, and Gasol has openly expressed his discontent with the current predicament. With that being said, the Grizz could still be a factor in the Western Conference, but there isn't really anything too special to make them a must-watch this year.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers
Life after LeBron 2.0 begins in earnest this season for Cleveland, with Kevin Love as the tentative cornerstone. Cleveland is hopeful Love can regain his Minnesota form, and their massive, four-year commitment to him speaks volumes. The addition of explosive point guard Collin Sexton and how he is integrated into this offense should also be interesting, but beyond that Cleveland's roster is full of mismatched toys. The Cavs could still end up being a factor with how weak the East is, but their days of being must-watch NBA TV are long gone.

25. Los Angeles Clippers
The "Lob City" era is officially over in Los Angeles, as the Clippers opted not to bring back aging center DeAndre Jordan this off-season. That will certainly lead to less highlights, but the Clippers are hopeful it will finally give some of their youth opportunities to shine. Guards Jerome Robinson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were both picked up in the lottery and should be able to make some interesting plays, but LA really lacks much exciting options beyond that. It appears the Clippers are back to being an afterthought once more out West, at least for the time being.

24. New Orleans Pelicans
The short-lived Demarcus Cousins-Anthony Davis experiment came to an end quicker than most expected in New Orleans, but the hope is that less distraction will be lead to more success. Davis is still worth watching, as the dynamic big man seems to only be getting better. However, trade rumors continue to swirl surrounding the MVP candidate, and New Orleans' championship window seems to be closing fast. That could lead to some desperate measures from the Pelicans, which is always worth watching, but this roster just doesn't have enough pieces to get much interest in the loaded Western Conference.

23. Sacramento Kings
Sacramento still lacks any player ready to take a jump to true stardom, but their young core is actually one of the better built groups in the league. De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, Buddy Hield and possibly Harry Giles (if he can stay healthy) all have serious potential, and the future looks bright with them locked down. With that being said, that roster isn't yet ready to win much games, and another season without Playoff basketball appears likely in Sacramento.Yet, tuning in for some exciting young talent growing up can certainly be worth it.

22. Chicago Bulls
The rebuild in the Windy City is still underway, but the signing of forward Jabari Parker this off-season adds some significant intrigue to this team. Can Parker finally stay healthy and fulfill his vast potential, or will his defensive woes continue to haunt him? The same can be asked about Zach LaVine, who signed a hefty extension this summer and has clearcut talent, but has been a complete liability defensively his entire career. Those are some huge question marks to keep an eye on, as is the continued growth of Lauri Markkanen, who was one of the biggest rookie surprises of the '18 campaign.

21. New York Knicks
There is no timetable for Kristaps Porzingis' return from a torn ACL, and there is a strong chance the entertaining big could be out for the entire season. If that is the case, the only real reason to tune into Knicks basketball will be some of their young pieces, namely last year's first-rounder Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox. That may be worth it for some major NBA nerds, but for the casual fan, this is likely to be a quiet season from Madison Square Garden.

20. Indiana Pacers
Indiana was one of the nicest stories of last year, managing to land the fifth seed out East in the first season post-Paul George. Victor Oladipo's emergence from secondary option to All-Star was just as fun to watch, and examining what he will do for an encore could be awfully interesting. The continued growth of youthful bigs Domantis Sabonis and Myles Turner should also be worth a tune-in, but Indiana still lacks the lineup needed to truly contend with the Eastern Conference powers.

19. Miami Heat
Miami was unable to land Jimmy Butler in recent trade negotiations, but that doesn't mean this team isn't worth watching. First things first, the Butler deal is not completely dead; if Minnesota struggles or Butler becomes a larger distraction things could get even more interesting. Secondly, the Heat have a good crop of underrated talent, which still includes veterans Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. And lastly, Erik Spolestra remains one of the sharpest basketball minds in the game, and he should be able to keep this Miami team in playoff contention out East.

18. Detroit Pistons
Detroit has struggled to contend for some time now, and they decided it was time to move on from Stan Van Gundy this off-season as head coach and President of Basketball Operations. With that being said, there is no denying that there is a lot of serious talent still on the roster, including Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. Watching how those two operate in the same frontcourt for an entire season is certainly worth tuning-in, and trade rumors around Reggie Jackson should add even more intrigue in the Motor City.

17. Washington Wizards
This is a make-or-break season in the nation's capital, with franchise centerpieces John Wall and Bradley Beal at odds for some time now, and head coach Scott Brooks setting firmly on the hot seat. Wall and Beal are very fun to watch when both are playing well, but Wall is still not 100 percent, and the team's play without him has some questioning if it may be time to move on. Add in the ultimate wild card, Dwight Howard, and things are either going to go well or completely blow up. Either way, it should give us plenty of interesting basketball out in D.C. this winter.

16. Denver Nuggets
With their high-flying brand of basketball, Denver is always a fun team to watch, and they have plenty of intriguing pieces to keep an eye on this season. Center Nikola Jokic is already one of the best big men the Association has to offer, and he could be playing even harder with a freshly signed extension in his back-pocket. First-round NBA Draft selection Michael Porter Jr. is also going to be interesting. There is no denying Porter's upside and he could quickly make plenty of plays, but his health concerns are well-noted. Either way, Porter and Jokic offer plenty of redeeming storylines, and the Nuggets look ready to still contend, even in the unforgiving Western Conference.

15. Phoenix Suns
Checking in consistently to No. 1 selection Deandre Ayton should be well worth it, as the former Arizona big man has all the tools to be dominant from the get-go. His play in the preseason and Summer League only has Phoenix more excited for what he can be. The Suns also offer plenty of other interesting pieces, namely swingman Josh Jackson and rookie Mikal Bridges, who will have some growing pains but should take a major step forward this year. If that doesn't do that for you, seeing one of the best pure scorers in the sport, Devin Booker, should.

14. San Antonio Spurs
Its a weird day for San Antonio, who has just one notable piece remaining from their last Finals team: head coach Gregg Poppovich. It should be fascinating to see how Poppovich is able to blend all the new faces on this roster, the most notable being DeMar DeRozan. Even so, this San Antonio roster doesn't have the usual names they once had, and while they should still play a pleasing brand of basketball, they aren't the threat they once were. Yet, Pop has proven time and time again he will find ways to win, and it wouldn't pay to overlook this Spurs squad.

13. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta made quite a risky move this NBA Draft, deciding to trade the rights of European sensation Luka Doncic for Trae Young. Young has undeniable scoring abilities and a great feel for the game, but questions about his shot selection and size in the league have already been raised. Those are valid concerns, but Young is going to be the No. 1 option on this Atlanta, and will get the greenlight to shoot as much, which should be awfully entertaining. Add in steady veteran Vince Carter, who can still provide a highlight at 41 years old, and this Hawks team should provide plenty of fireworks, even if it doesn't come with a lot of victories.

12. Utah Jazz
They may not play the most exciting or unique brand of basketball, but there is no denying how strong of a team the Jazz are. They offer everything a basketball fan should want: a dominant rim protector (Rudy Gobert), an elite-level passer (Ricky Rubio) and a young star just scratching the surface of what he can (Donovan Mitchell). Watching Mitchell's encore, after he came agonizingly close to a Rookie of the Year award, should only make things better. There is going to a lot of attention given to the big market teams out West, but don't forget about this Jazz team this season.

11. Philadelphia Sixers
"The Process" finally came into fruition last season, as Philadelphia won 52 games and finished third in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers were unable to add a big name superstar (ahem, LeBron and Kawhi) to further cement themselves as a NBA Finals threat, but the core of Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and Joel Embiid is still plenty exciting, and sure to continue doing damage out East. Perhaps the more interesting storyline, however, will be whether new GM Elton Brand can bring this team from one with significant potential to one ready to win rings.

10. Portland Trail Blazers
With one of the highest-scoring backcourts in the NBA, Portland is always going to be worth a watch, and this particular team has some interesting questions. Their lack of recent playoff success has elevated the pressure level, and it isn't unreasonable to think C.J. McCollum or Damian Lilliard's future in Portland could be in question if it continues. More paramount is the continued lack of a quality big man, as the Blazers continue to search for somebody that make an impact in the frontcourt consistently. They could become very active on the trade market early on if they really believe a Lilliard-McCollum team can win a title.

9. Dallas Mavericks
After a dismal season, Dallas made a number of big moves to upgrade their roster, namely selecting accomplished European Luka Doncic, and adding veteran center DeAndre Jordan. That might not mean they make the jump from being in the cellar to a Playoff berth, but it should make them very fun to watch. The backcourt pairing of Doncic and second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. will suffer plenty of growing pains, but it is going to bless us with some awesome highlights. There is also the continued appeal of the ageless Dirk Nowitzki, who continues to play at a high level at the tender age of 40.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves
The drama surrounding the Jimmy Butler situation is going to be extremely fun to watch. As of right now, he will begin the season on the Timberwolves roster, but trade rumors and the chaos around them should be must-watch television. Outside of that, the Wolves still offer plenty of redeemable qualities, namely Karl Anthony Towns. Despite a poor postseason showing, KAT remains one of the premier young talents in the league and if he can refine his shot selection there is still hope Andrew Wiggins can fulfill his limitless potential.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City is hopeful that the second rendition of Paul George and Russell Westbrook ends up doing better than the first, which bowed out in just five games to Utah Jazz in the first round. The pairing should have better chemistry and the absence of Carmelo Anthony could actually be a good thing in opening up the offense. Just as interesting to watch will be this team without Andre Roberson, who is out for an extended period of time after suffering a setback in his recovery from a knee injury. The Thunder struggled mightily without the assistance of their top defensive stopper. Will that be the case once again in '18-'19?

6. Milwaukee Bucks
Since hitting .500 in 2014-2015, the Bucks have yet to make any significant progress on it, with their 44 victories this past season being their highest total in nearly a decade. That has left the franchise with significant pressure as Giannis Antetokounmpo starts to really get going. Antentokoumpo is always worth plenty of watching; his freakish physique and other-worldly athleticism create highlight after highlight. He could even more lethal in the new offense fresh head coach Mike Budenholzer is set to create. The more interesting thing to watch will be whether his supporting cast can take a step forward. Can Khris Middleton play up his All-Star level and stay healthy? Can Eric Bledsoe regain his form after a terrible postseason showing? Much like New Orleans, the pressure is on for this team to start winning with their superstar centerpiece. If they don't, things could get very intriguing and some real chaos could occur.

5. Houston Rockets
The Rockets have had the league's most explosive and fun-to-watch offense the past two seasons, and there are plenty of reasons to tune into the Western Conference runner-up again in 2018. For one, Chris Paul and James Harden are both returning, and should put up plenty of points and big-time plays, particularly Harden, eager to defend his first MVP award. Then, there is the addition of Carmelo Anthony, which was highly scrutinized over the summer. 'Melo seems to be trending towards the end of his career, but there is still some hope he can be the extra scoring punch Houston needs to overcome the Warriors. Watching how Anthony and former head coach Mike D'Antoni work together after their brief and drama-filled stint in New York should be must-watch television.

4. Toronto Raptors
Toronto made the most surprising and most impactful trade of the off-season when they shipped off long-time star DeMar DeRozan in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, who was clearly unhappy in San Antonio but expressed no interest in playing for the Raptors. Leonard hasn't played significant minutes in quite a long time, but when 100 percent, he may very well be the best two-way player in this league. Watching him finally return to the court will be a special treat, but perhaps even more fun to watch will be the drama surrounding his future. He has just one year left on his deal, and has made it clear he wants to play in Los Angeles. Can Toronto manage to sway him to stay north of the border for the long term? Only time will tell us.

3. Golden State Warriors
With three NBA Titles over the last four seasons, it goes without saying the Warriors are the team to watch if you want to see the absolute best the NBA has to offer. Their main core is all back for '18-'19, but with a new addition, after Demarcus Cousins opted to sign a one-year contract this off-season. Cousins is coming off an Achilles tear and will likely miss most of the season, but it will still be interesting to see how he fits into this team. It is well documented Cousins has had character issues throughout his career, and there remains a reasonable chance he could be more of a distraction than a plus for this team. Even so, Golden State is going to be well worth-watching as they should still score a ton, win a lot and show us some of the purest brand of basketball you will ever get.

2. Boston Celtics
After coming agonizingly close to their first NBA Finals appearance since the "Big Three" era, Boston looks like the clear-cut favorite out East. The interesting thing to watch will be which players end up actually leading this team. Youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown showed out in last year's postseason and look ready to lead the team. Yet, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are finally healthy after both missed most of last season, and both will expect to be top options. Will Tatum and Brown accept bench roles? Can Brad Stevens allocate minutes to all the pieces Boston has to feed? More intriguing, does Danny Ainge go all in on this team and try to swing a trade for Anthony Davis or a disgruntled Kawhi? Either way, it looks like it is going to be an eventful and fun season for the Celtics.

1. Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James finally made the jump many around the league assumed he would, committing to the Lakers for what will likely be the twilight of his legendary career. The thing is, LeBron might actually take somewhat of a backseat to all the other interesting characters Los Angeles assembled around him. The roster now includes guys like Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley, all interesting guys not known for being great locker room guys. Will some drama arrive between LeBron and a few of them (ahem, Lance Stephenson)? And then there is the Lakers' young core, which shouldn't be forgotten. Brandon Ingram has impressed coaches and fans all summer and looks ready to make the jump. Can Kyle Kuzma have a strong encore and play the five in a small-ball lineup? Will Lonzo Ball recover from knee issues and improve on a rookie season where he made plenty of plays, but shot terribly? There are so many storylines and players to pay attention to on this LA team, and it is going to be absolutely fascinating to watch. I'm not sure whether the Lakers are going to be Finals contenders right away, but I'm positive they are going to absolutely thrilling to watch every time they step on the court.

1 comment:

Mike McGowan said...

re: Timberwolves - "fun to watch". Agree that it is a must watch, but I am not sure I would call it "fun". More like a train wreck that you can't turn your head away from.

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