League Pass power rankings: Nuggets, Clippers lead must-watch list

Published January 30, 2022, 3:30 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez

The Clippers coming back from a 35-point deficit? Nikola Jokic dishing game-winning dimes for the Nuggets? Despite missing key pieces, these two teams are still fun to watch.

5. Detroit Pistons

Cade Cunningham is the No. 1 overall draft pick this season. Just a gentle reminder, in case this information has been buried in the lede that is composed of Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, and Jalen Green. Cunningham doesn’t get enough love because the Detroit Pistons aren’t winning, and that’s just unfortunate. 

The Pistons are most definitely a must-watch League Pass team. Reason No. 1 is Cunningham. His all-around game (16.0 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, and 5.2 assists per game) is a joy to watch. Perhaps not as joyful as, say, a Jalen Green-head-to-the-rim highlight, but joyful nonetheless. Cunningham is a special player whose Year 1 highlights are not getting enough shares and views. Let’s fix that by making the Pistons a League Pass staple. 

The Pistons–still without their star player Jerami Grant–have an 11-37 win-loss record. This won’t get any better. Cade Cunningham, however, will.

4. Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic have an even worse record than the Pistons with 10 wins and 40 losses. That’s a lot of losses and we haven’t even reached the All-Star break. So what are they doing in the League Pass power rankings? Is this a typo or something? 

Magic games should be watched because of plays like this one:

The good thing about this Jalen Suggs’ poster is that it isn’t all that rare. He’s due for at least one per game. Then there’s always the possibility of a Franz Wagner career-game, a Cole Anthony mixtape, or a Mo Bamba block party. These things won’t guarantee wins, but what it does guarantee is a good time.  

3. Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers team is a highway that is perpetually under construction. Check out this starting five: Myles Turner, TJ Warren, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon, and Domantas Sabonis. That five is a problem. Unfortunately for the Pacers, it did become an internal problem because those players have played together on the court this season for a total of zero minutes. Injuries to Warren, Turner, and Brogdon have thrown Indiana to the pits of the Eastern Conference, just hanging by the ledge over the Pistons and the Magic.

Still, they’re an exciting team to watch. That’s because the detours they had to take made for unpredictable and fulfilling results. One left turn got them a couple of inspired moments from Lance Stephenson, a Pacer returnee who should pull off an Udonis Haslem and just never, ever leave Indiana. A right turn got them big games from rookie Chris Duarte, including a surprisingly good overtime win against the Golden State Warriors. The Pacers we’re seeing now isn’t even the full version, but somehow they’ve made some of their games a must-watch.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

Not a lot of things can happen when both 1a and 1b of your franchise are on the sidelines nursing injuries. Typically, the team just cuts their losses, calls it a season, and looks forward to the future. Not the L.A. Clippers, a team that lost both their 1a and 1b superstars, yet somehow, are still making things happen.

Even without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers are finding ways to win games. They are sitting in seventh place in the Western Conference with a 25-26 record, just within striking distance from the Denver Nuggets (27-21) and the Dallas Mavericks (28-21). Granted, all teams this season have their own versions of incompleteness, but the Clippers had it bad. 

As an example, the Clippers fielded this starting five against the Washington Wizards recently: Terance Mann, Nicolas Batum, Reggie Jackson, Ivica Zubac, and Amir Coffey. They won this game by a point. Games like this one is a good enough reason to keep the Clips on League Pass rotation. With Coffey and Mann as super starters, backed up by Luke Kennard and Isaiah Hartenstein from the bench, the Clippers are an underrated squad with upside. 

1. Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic, the league’s reigning MVP, is averaging 7.7 assists per game this season. That number is down from the 8.3 he averaged in his MVP season, but what he lacked in quantity, he seemed to have made up for in quality.

Not that his passes weren’t always of high standard. It’s just that this season, with two of Denver’s top players sidelined, it feels as if Jokic’s passes went one notch up the difficulty scale. Take this outrageous, cross-court, game-winning assist, for instance:

These are just some of the things that happen in Nuggets’ games. A magical Jokic pass here, an insane Aaron Gordon highlight there. Then there’s also a bit of Will Barton and Monte Morris exchanging splashes as Facu Campazzo plays tricks with the basketball. 

Nuggets games often play out like heart-racing heist films that can be both stylish and dirty. In the middle of it all: Jokic doing things that are downright bizarre, borderline illegal.