NBA League Pass matchmaking guide: Which team is right for you?
If you had to choose a mere five teams to watch regularly this season, which would they be?
With the cost of NBA League Pass — the platform that allows fans to view most every regular-season game — prohibitive to some, the league offers basketball die-hards an alternative. Rather than leave a pricey, league-wide subscription as the only choice on the table, the NBA now gives fans a more customizable option: the opportunity to purchase a cheaper, online-only package with access to the games of five subscriber-selected teams. This creates both a functional compromise and a fascinating mental exercise.
There’s a delicate art in constructing the perfect, personalized five-team package, inevitably drawing on both personal preference (favorite teams, players, etc.) and pragmatic concerns (schedule structure, division, time zone, etc.). But I’d also urge interested parties to pay mind to the 30 teams’ League Pass personality types, whether to stack their selections by style or balance them out as best as possible.
The teams: New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards
The appeal: Indulge your hardwood curiosities with some of the strangest — and most captivating — teams in the league.
Charting the unexpected is one of the pleasures of the NBA’s regular season, and each of these five teams offers a window into that great unknown. New Orleans’ youth and positional flexibility leaves their season as an open question, set to unfold in progress, clutter, or even fringe playoff contention. Dallas brings a fascinating juxtaposition of the efficient and the bold, as Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, and Jose Calderon will form the basis of a strange (and likely effective) offense. Brooklyn has the benefit of being refreshed in most every respect; while Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, and other core players remain from last year’s team, the hiring of Jason Kidd as head coach and a high-profile roster overhaul give the Nets a novel appeal.
For their part, Cleveland and Washington are fitting foils, defined by talented young point guards as they attempt to overcome their teammates’ injuries to compete for an Eastern Conference playoff berth. Either could again wind up in the lottery if that endeavor goes poorly, but each has intriguing potential with a wide range of possible outcomes.
The teams: New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers
The appeal: Keep up with popular, successful teams at the expense of League Pass pragmatism.
This is admittedly a logistical classification, but one can’t well separate a team’s League Pass identity from their exposure on national television. It’s one thing for a displaced Thunder fan to pay out for every one of their favorite team’s games, but another entirely for a fan of the league at large to waste a valuable League Pass slot on a team that can be readily found elsewhere on television. Each of these five teams will have roughly a third of their games (or more) broadcast on national TV this season, making them a bit imprudent to select in multiples. Pick up one of these teams to follow along with their winning season if you will, but try to avoid piling up too many lest you squander your League Pass value.
THE MANIC PIXIE DREAM TEAMS
The teams: Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets
The appeal: Learn to embrace basketball life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.
There are no options more delightfully indulgent. None of these five is especially likely to win the title this season (though Golden State and Houston come closest), but all promise fevered entertainment over the 82-game course. Detroit is easily the purest example of this kind, as an array of athletic bigs and frantic guards provide the perfect joint vehicle for slapdash brilliance. Minnesota, equipped to run relentlessly and move the ball without pause, is due a return to charismatic form. Golden State has made some fantastic moves to bolster its defense and balance its performance, but remains so explosive that watching the Warriors should still feel like a guilty pleasure.
Despite changes through its front office, coaching staff, and roster, Denver still has an imitable lightness, forged through Ty Lawson’s waterbug quicks, Kenneth Faried’s springy relentlessness, and JaVale McGee’s unquellable whimsy. Houston comes with a bit more narrative weight than the others in this bunch, but has amazing stylistic potential — between sprinting into three-pointers and working Dwight Howard in the pick-and-roll — as to warrant easy admission.