Maybe it’s the pace. Maybe it’s the parity. Maybe it’s the fact that the Sacramento Kings have a winning record, but you can look up and down the slate each night in this early season and tune in to almost any game, knowing that it will be an entertaining watch.
Some teams are fun because they have been so damn good, others are terrible but play an exciting brand of basketball, while some are just a train wreck you can’t not watch. The Double Clutch UK team has come up with three League Pass teams so far this year that you should be tuning in to, but for three very different reasons.
The good: Denver Nuggets
Much like many of the non-elite teams in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets were a team that split opinions coming into this season.
In popular memory, the Nuggets missed the playoffs last year and this potentially cast a gloomy outlook on this season. While the result is accurate, it doesn’t account for just how tight the Western Conference was.
The Nuggets finished ninth with just three fewer wins than Portland, who finished third. They did this with Paul Millsap playing just 38 games and with one of the youngest cores in the NBA. Now sitting 8-1, including a victory over the Golden State Warriors, the young Nuggets are starting to turn heads.
In Nikola Jokić, Denver has one of the league’s most unique talents. A center capable of being a primary playmaker from the frontcourt, an elite rebounder and with three-point range to boot. In Will Barton, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, the Nuggets have three players that are criminally underrated. Millsap feels like a bonus after missing so much time last year, bringing savvy defense in the front court and veteran leadership.
The bad: New York Knicks
By James Lees
Even by this point in time the season, I’m usually ready to rant on my Knicks, but dare I say it? I actually feel excited watching New York basketball.
I don’t care that they are going to lose a lot of games this season. I’ll be happy to see them win around 20-something, but they are fighting to the end of each one. New Head Coach David Fizdale has made it a battle between his own players for starting minutes and that he’s not afraid to shake things up at a minute’s notice. Mitchell Robinson looks like a beast who should be playing more late in games.
Frank Ntilikina gets a lot of hate from NBA media, but I’ve loved watching him flourish and feel like he’s only starting to show his full potential. Look at the recent win over the Brooklyn Nets as an example of what he can become on this team – he should be starting more games.
Enes Kanter has gone from someone I used to hate when he was in Oklahoma City to someone I hope never leaves New York. I love the way he’s embraced the city.
This Knicks team resembles the Cantina scene in Star Wars. People from all walks of the NBA just coming together for the weirdest party – and it’s exciting. Well, other than when Tim Hardaway Jr, who feels like Carmelo Anthony II in the making, especially when he starts having one of his chuck-the-ball-from-anywhere-games. But hey, it wouldn’t be the Knicks without even the smallest dark cloud hanging over our heads.
The ugly: Houston Rockets
By Huw Hopkins
Something is not clicking with the Houston Rockets. Bill Simmons refers to teams as having the Dwightbola virus when Dwight Howard joins a new team, but maybe there should be an equivalent for Carmelo Anthony.
When Joe Hulbert and I broke down the Southwest Division ahead of the season, we discussed the prospect of Anthony not meshing with the team and Houston losing its defensive identity after not keeping Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute and how it might cause the Rockets to implode. But just as it would be if there were live news footage of a spacecraft launch going terribly wrong, it is hard to look away.
Not much is significantly different to last year’s 65-win team: James Harden scored 30, rebounded 5 and assisted 8 times per game – this season he is at 27, 5 and 8. Chris Paul is managing 19, 6 and 9 – almost identical to last season.
The biggest difference? Last season Houston finished sixth in defensive rating and allowed just 103 points per game, and pace is higher across the league this year, the Rockets are allowing 111 points per game so far this year to sit 21st in defensive rating.
It looks like Houston’s biggest fears are materialising this season, and while General Manager Daryl Morey is not one to panic, offering four first round picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a terrible locker room presence in Jimmy Butler is a sign that confidence of the team getting better any time soon is limited.
But I cannot stop watching.
Featured photo – via USA Today Sports / Getty Images / milehighmaniac.com / Double Clutch illustration