On Thursday afternoon, ESPN Senior Writer Zach Lowe released his fifth annual League Pass Rankings, a guide to each NBA team’s watchability for the upcoming season. Every team received a score out of a possible 50 points, based on 1-10 marks across five categories. Those categories are as follows:
PLAYOFFS/ZEITGEIST: A rough estimate of a team's place in the national barroom debate. This naturally favors good teams, controversy and teams that might drive the trade marketplace.
INDIVIDUAL HIGHLIGHT PRODUCTION: We're looking for players who make Twitter explode and force everyone not watching them to change channels. Curiosities such as Joel Embiid and (sigh) Ben Simmons pump up a team's score here.
STYLE: Fast breaks and fancy passing are more fun than plodding iso-ball. Starless teams, such as the peak Mike Budenholzer Hawks, can gain ground in this category.
LEAGUE PASS MINUTIA: Instead of looking at your spouse, you'll be gazing at the court and the uniforms. Instead of hearing about his or her workday, you'll listen to announcers yapping about the action. On some level, these things define the look and feel of an NBA game.
UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY: This was Bill Simmons' pet category, back when we started this at Grantland. The silly, stupid and Vine-worthy get you points here: Dion Waiters' forlorn pleas for the basketball, everything JaVale McGee has ever done, Kendrick Perkins taking 17 steps without dribbling, teammate feuds, Nick Young's shot selection, Tom Thibodeau's bellow and much, much more.
The Portland Trail Blazers received a score of 32.5, good for ninth best in the league. Here is what Lowe had to say about them:
All hail the long overdue return of Kevin Calabro to a permanent play-by-play spot! With that, all the frills in Portland are perfect.
The Blazers are a younger, more vibrant version of Dallas on offense, which makes sense, given the imprint Terry Stotts left in Dallas before taking the head job in Portland. They work the elbows, shift the ball side-to-side, and set more off-ball screens than anyone in the league. They keep all five guys involved, and make all five defenders run. They got faster and more versatile when Al-Farouq Aminu bumped up to power forward, and they will start a version of that lineup from jump street this season.
When the fancy motion doesn't work, they just give the ball to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Lillard is cold-blooded shooter who lives for late-game drama. McCollum is a jitterbug with a Hermione-deep bag of finishes from all ranges.
Stotts has to fit Meyers Leonard, settle the starting small forward spot, and figure out how many minutes Evan Turner should play with his two lead ball-handlers -- happy work for any lineup tinkerer. (Also, Evan Turner: Unblock me on Twitter! What did I do? You were a Luke Walton All-Star last season!)
For a hardcore basketball fan, reading the full list is worth your time. After all, the idea is to get a sense of where entertainment value lies outside of your home team and the perennial heavy hitters. Part 1 can be found here, and Part 2 can be found here. Want to know who to watch this year, for better or worse? Skim through and pick your poison.