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Features

League Pass power rankings

February 24, 2021 , 11:39 AM ● Chuck Araneta

This week's League Pass power rankings feature the Knicks, Kings, Bulls, Wizards, and Grizzlies.

For those who are hardcore basketball junkies, NBA League Pass is an essential part of daily life. The thrill of switching from game to game while waiting for your favorite team’s match to begin is one of the best parts of the day.

But with 30 teams in the league, there will be times when you miss out on a team absolutely killing it for different reasons. This is where we would like to help. Beginning this week, we will post our League Pass power rankings for the top 5 teams that you should switch to when their games are on.

Just a few caveats before you wonder why your favorite team is not on the list:

  • If your squad is a top 4 contender, you’re probably watching them regularly on One Sports or NBA TV Philippines. So they’re not on this list, because they’re in nationally televised games regularly.
  • We’re looking for under-the-radar teams. So those that are battling for the Playoffs or Play-In tournament will more often than not be featured here. Consider this our way of helping the NBA fan who’s on the go and doesn’t have the capability to follow all 30 teams religiously.
  • We’re also looking at teams that haven’t been discussed much as of late. So for now, the list excludes the Charlotte Hornets because of LaMelo Ball and the New Orleans Pelicans because Zion Williamson has taken a leap forward. But who knows, they could be part of this list in the future.
  • All of this could be thrown out the window at any time and for any reason!

Without further ado, here are the five teams that made our inaugural list of the League Pass power rankings.

5. NEW YORK KNICKS

Julius Randle is a point forward extraordinaire


The Knicks are good again! How awesome is that?

Under Coach Tom Thibodeau, there’s finally discipline and patience for a Knicks franchise that hasn’t normally displayed these qualities. The team has definitely had growing pains this season, but they have weathered the storm and are now firmly in the playoff race.

Why? Because Julius Randle has been excellent all season long.

The raw numbers of Randle (23.2 points, 10.9 rebounds) aren’t that different from what he did in previous seasons, but what is making him a breakout player is his vastly improved playmaking abilities. He’s averaging a career-high 5.5 assists per contest, and is basically the team’s de facto in that category. It’s not surprising anymore to see Randle receive a handoff from the team’s guard at the top of the key, then watch as the floor opens up for Randle to penetrate and make the right decision to find his teammates either spacing the floor or cutting backdoor.

With Randle doing a great job, players like Nerlens Noel and rookies Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin have flourished. The jury’s still out how long Randle can handle this kind of offensive load. But while he’s still rolling, the Knicks are must-watch basketball. 

Oh, and Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier are still doing play-by-play and analyst duties for Knicks games. That alone should be enough for you to tune in.

4. SACRAMENTO KINGS

Fox and Haliburton running the show

Let’s be honest. When you’re flipping around League Pass on a random Saturday morning, you’re not necessarily looking to watch the best defensive players, or a disciplined and structured defensive team working together on a string. What you want to watch is a squad getting BUCKETS!

If that’s the case, may I humbly suggest you check out what’s happening in Sac-Town? You may not know much about the Kings, aside from De’Aaron Fox, the team’s budding All-Star candidate. If you’re an old-head, you probably know this team as the squad that hasn’t made the playoffs since Chris Webber and Brad Miller were running the show.

But the Kings, as of 2021, have... something. Fox gets better and better, and is growing into his role as not only the team’s leading scorer and facilitator, but the team’s finisher as well.

There’s also Tyrese Haliburton, the team’s rookie who came out of nowhere and is now running alongside LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets in the Rookie of the Year race. Haliburton has one of the funkiest 3-point shots, but who can complain when he’s making 2.3 a game at a 44.3 percent clip?

Another sneaky fun player to watch is center/forward Richaun Holmes. His numbers may not pop out on screen, but what he can do, he does really well. And what Holmes does REALLY well is taking floaters. Watch how many floaters he drops in each game. He’s shooting a gaudy 64.8 percent from the field, and it’s mostly because of that classic, old-school tito move.

3. CHICAGO BULLS

The sleeping giant of the East is starting to wake up

Let’s face it -- the Bulls have been a laughingstock over the past few years. Trading away Jimmy Butler, signing Jabari Parker, then hiring Jim Boylen have all resulted in mediocrity mired in numbness for one of the most passionate fan bases in the NBA. There wasn’t a lot of hope in the Windy City that this team could turn it around in the immediate future.

That is, until the team finally decided to clean house during the offseason and begin with a new regime. One of those people hired to turn this franchise around was former Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. He inherited an intact squad, with only 4th overall pick Patrick Williams and veteran free agent acquisition Garrett Temple as the new faces.

But the change has been immediate for the Bulls under Donovan. It’s like night and day for this squad compared to last season. Donovan has the team playing modern basketball, predicated on on-ball and off-ball movement for the five players. There’s no stagnation, which was so glaringly evident last year.

Zach LaVine has also taken a leap this season in both offensive and defensive efficiency. He’s averaging 35.8 points per contest over the past 8 games, as the Bulls are making a push to get into the playoffs this early.

It will be awhile before Chicago can really be considered a contender, but think of this as the prologue. If LaVine and company can continue to grow together, it’s only a matter of time. 

2. WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Watching Brad Beal carry an entire team on his shoulders

Let’s flashback to 2020, right around this time. You’ll remember that at one point, Brad Beal’s then-fiance  called his All-Star Snub a “joke”, despite being sixth overall in the league in scoring.

Fast forward to 2021, and now Beal is first overall in scoring and voted a starter in the All-Star Game!

What a turnaround for Beal, who is only 27 years old despite being in his 9th season in the NBA. The Wizards aren’t that good yet, although they are beginning to surge, with four straight wins under their belt. And it’s all because of Bradley Beal, a supernova of scoring and efficiency. 

The league’s leading scorer is averaging an absurd 32.9 points per game on 24.2 shots and single-handedly propping up a Wizards squad that would probably be winless without him. Amidst injuries (Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant), absences due to Covid (Rui Hachimura) and subpar play (Davis Bertans), Beal continues to be the lighthouse in the team’s darkness in the sea. 

We should never take for granted watching a player at the absolute peak of his powers, so enjoy watching Beal ball!

1. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

The youth movement is in full effect in Memphis

The Grizzlies were a play-in tournament game away from making the playoffs a season ago. They returned basically the same squad this year, hoping that the team would improve after an offseason together.

It hasn’t gone that way thus far. Reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant has been in and out of the lineup due to injuries, and it’s no surprise that the team struggled to stay afloat in the playoff race when he missed several games due to a severe ankle injury. Jaren Jackson Jr. continues to mend after a knee injury, and has yet to play a game. Promising sophomore Brandon Clarke has also been banged up, together with veteran Jonas Valanciunas.

That being said, on the rare occasion that the Grizzlies are complete, they are one of the toughest teams in the league. It starts with Morant’s athleticism and leadership, already one of the best in the game at knowing when to get his teammates involved and when it’s time to take over.  Brandon Clarke and Dillon Brooks take pride in defending, and they also have an evolving offensive arsenal. It’s also fun to watch rookie Xavier Tillman, who has been one of the surprises of this draft class. He flew under the radar as the 35th overall pick, but he has proven that he is worthy of a spot.

Still, it all starts and ends with Morant. Everytime Ja is available to play, the Grizz are must-see on League Pass.

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