NBA League Pass matchmaking guide: Which team is right for you?
THE LOVABLE LOSERS
The teams: Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings
The appeal: Enjoy the regular season through the small victories, fundamental problems, and general anarchy of a flawed, stilted team.
Despite the fact that a number of franchises are pretty clearly positioning themselves for the 2014 draft, the cast of expected lottery teams is nonetheless charming in its own right. Utah should be a League Pass staple this season, as there’s too much unfettered potential between Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Trey Burke to let them go unwatched. Phoenix will unveil a new-look roster clad in new uniforms under a new head coach, all of which serves as an elaborate backdrop for the unbridling of dynamo guard Eric Bledsoe. Through ill-fitting pieces and all, Orlando still has its share of productive and engaging young talent, too, spearheaded by No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo — an intriguing two-way player in the midst of a positional shift.
Boston (with Rajon Rondo still sidelined) is a fascinating vacuum, in which any of several young players could take on larger roles or produce more than is expected. Yet no lottery team can ever really compare to the talent soup of Sacramento’s roster, which incorporates more disparate flavors than could ever be considered sensible. The Kings may be under new management, but the franchise still has plenty of practice when it comes to turning in miserable seasons of some redeeming entertainment value.
THE WORKING PROFESSIONALS
The teams: San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies
The appeal: Appreciate NBA veterans executing as intended, often to great effect.
These teams might seem too staid for some, but there’s plenty to be enjoyed in the workings of a veteran team that knows what it’s doing. San Antonio is the prime example of that model; you can delight in the creativity of Tony Parker or the brilliant structure of the Spurs’ play design, but all roads lead to the same glowing admiration. Chicago has a bit more broad appeal due to the energizing play of Derrick Rose, but nonetheless forges its contention with the kind of effort rebounding and relentless execution that needs to be seen in repetition to be fully enjoyed. The same is more or less true of Indiana and Memphis — teams that go to incredible lengths to deny and prevent, in the process dominating the NBA metagame.
Atlanta might seem the odd duck in a group of contenders, but the Hawks will draw on Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Kyle Korver, and new head coach Mike Budenholzer as core personalities — workers, all. They’ll be a bit less consistent due to some young contributors and a relative lack of talent, but will remain committed to executing a studied game plan to the best of their collective ability.
The teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Bobcats
The appeal: Fall back on some of the NBA’s known quantities.
Some of these squads will fare better than others, but overall the experience between them stands to be similarly static. In that, I mean only that the floor and ceiling of these particular rosters presents a fairly narrow window for performance. Milwaukee, as tends to be the case, is what it is; the roster was reloaded and spared its prior limitations, but lacks an explosive prospect that could elevate this group beyond its current form. Portland looks to be a playoff contender, but not quite good enough to secure a spot nor shaky enough to fall out of the race. Toronto is in an equivalent spot in a weaker conference — safely in the mix, but too fundamentally flawed to make any serious run in the East. With the $40.5 million-signing of Al Jefferson, Charlotte has bought itself a few spots in the rankings, but still lacks any catalytic hope. These teams can all be entertaining still, so long as the viewer knows what they’re in for: a steady ride plotted to a particular end. There’s comfort in that reliability, no matter the result.
THE LOST CAUSE
The team: Philadelphia 76ers
The appeal: Morbid curiosity.
The Sixers have barely bothered to put together a feasible NBA roster. Select them at your own risk.