One of the annual harbingers of the approaching NBA season is Zach Lowe’s “League Pass Rankings,” a tradition he started at Grantland with Bill Simmons and has continued on his own since moving permanently to ESPN’S flagship site. The rankings are a subjective bit of fun meant to indicate the teams Lowe is most excited about watching, while nodding to some of the Twitter elements and arena idiosyncrasies that add so much to the NBA viewing experience.
Lowe assigns scores on a scale of 1-10 for each of 5 categories representing a satisfying viewing performance, from team playing style and highlights, to broadcast and arena accoutrements. Since the inauguration of the exercise, the Sixers have never been placed higher than 18th, the bump they received last year for Embiid’s rookie season. In the three preceding years, Lowe (and Simmons for a short while) placed our boys 26th, 30th, and 29th.
This year, they’ve leapt all the way up to 5th.
Lowe admits this is in large part because Embiid is THE GREATEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO BASKETBALL.
“I mean, look at this dude. LOOK AT HIM!” Lowe writes, accompanied by two gifs of JoJo clowning on (a) the entire goddamn Celtics team and (b) poor, crippled Joakim Noah.
But the ranking is not only a reflection of Embiid’s magnificence; it’s also affirmation that the Sixers have emerged out of their rebuilding cocoons, and they are now being taken seriously as NBA contestants, both from a competitive standpoint and from a purely hedonistic one.
Since Hinkie’s Process began in 2013, Lowe has been one of the fairest national writers, taking the time to reflect on the style of play the team was instilling in their players, and occasionally commenting on the development (or lack thereof) of some of their notable players, where most outlets ignored it.
(Side note: Lowe blocked me on Twitter for an anodyne comment about one of these such instances. If any has any sort of influence with Zach, maybe convince him I’m not a bad guy...?)
Still, Lowe has never been excited to watch the team before. Their ranking today puts them ahead of the three time Eastern Conference defending champs, Giannis’s Bucks, the Timberpups, and, my personal League Pass darlings, the Denver Jokices. It’s an indication that, even beyond our little corner of fandom, the league has taken notice of what the Sixers have built, and they’re excited to see our harvest finally come to fruition.