League Pass power rankings: Nets are likable again

Published February 22, 2023, 9:30 PMMiguel Flores

The post-trade deadline Brooklyn Nets are one of the fun teams you should be tuning into.

5. Dallas Mavericks

Placing the Mavs on this list was done more to respect the basketball sensibilities of the greater NBA audience than it is a genuine recommendation to watch a Dallas game. In the small sample size of the Kyrie Irving era, the Mavs have fully leaned into the iso-heavy, your-turn-my-turn style of basketball that gets boring after 20 possessions.

Pre-Irving trade, Luka Doncic putting the Mavs on his shoulders and trying to carry them to the playoffs single-handedly felt almost noble – a reprisal of the 2004-2007 Kobe Bryant for the Gen Z audience.

Now, every Luka shot from isolation, every missed pass to an open teammate and every Irving look to the sideline feels like we’re watching the Mavs walk on eggshells. It’s always gone with Kyrie for every team he's played on. How soon will this infect the Mavs?

With all that being said, Irving and Doncic are two of the most entertaining players ever.

4. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are going all-in, meaning they’re all-in on making the play-in tournament.

Relative to the last few seasons of their playoffs success, the Raptors have had a bad season. They were in trade rumors for what felt like a month but ultimately decided to just trade for Jakob Poeltl and keep their rotation players.

It's easy to look at the Raptors’ situation and say they were better off blowing up their lineup and finding new pieces like other teams rebuilding their lineup. But the Raptors have never been content being like other teams.

At their core, the Raptors still play that funky Nick Nurse tune on both ends of the floor. They’re a group of gangly, athletic freaks. When they’re on their game, they’re always worth a watch.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder’s starting lineup is significantly younger than a college team's, which shows just how far along OKC is into its rebuild.

It happened in a flash; from being the worst team in the league last season to being on pace this season for a play-in berth. Doing this without Chet Holmgren, the second pick of the 2022 Draft, shows how much higher the Thunder’s ceiling is.

At first, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander carried much of the watchability of this team. But as the season’s gone along, players like Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams have shown they, too, can be a constant source of joy for Thunder fans.

2. Denver Nuggets

One of the best teams in the league also plays the most aesthetic basketball. The Nuggets have built a roster for Nikola Jokic to fully express himself on offense.

It’s a shame that the hardline, old school fans have used the admiration for Jokic as a talking point as if Jokic’s brilliance leans heavily on his stats. Pull up any Nuggets game this season in which Jokic played and you’ll probably get a handful of jaw-dropping plays.

You really don’t need advanced stats to see that Jokic is the most devastating singular player in the league. He definitely deserves a third MVP award.

1. Brooklyn Nets

Has any other team gone from most hated in the league to the most loved in the span of a couple of weeks? The Nets shed their temperamental stars and added some of the most likable players in the league in Mikal Bridges and Dorian Finney-Smith.

The only specter of bad vibes from the previous regime left is Ben Simmons. Who knows what being on a team without a ton of expectations and a good locker room can do for him?

Can the Nets stay on course for a playoff spot? That was never out of the question. They have just enough of a cushion for this group to finish the season as a lower seed. They have all the guys any team would love to have on their team like Nic Claxton and Royce O’Neal. Any sane superstar would love to be in Brooklyn right now.