For as long as they’ve been bigwigs of the NBA media scene, I’ve paid particular attention to the Bill Simmons/Zach Lowe League Pass Rankings. It’s a simple ranking. What teams are the most fun to watch for a variety of reasons if you have the NBA League Pass. (We don’t have that problem, here, because NBA League Pass doesn’t help us watch Sixers games here in Philadelphia.)
This season, your Philadelphia 76ers have the top spot on Lowe’s list this year. The top five in this year’s list included the Sixers, the Denver Nuggets (seriously, Denver is FUN), the Los Angeles Lakers (LeBron), the Golden State Warriors (duh), and the Boston Celtics (begrudgingly agree). The Sixers have been at the bottom for a while for obvious reasons (to the national media, not to us).
Lowe notes that the Sixers were tied with the Boston Celtics, but the Sixers’ offensive system is more conducive to fun-zies:
“Philly plays faster, with Ben Simmons as chaos engine. Boston has the more elaborate half-court offense, though it’s close; Philly’s lack of dependence on the pick-and-roll provides welcome relief from stylistic hegemony.”
In short, the Sixers play faster making them more fun to watch. Both are true statements. Some of my favorite teams were the Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs. Yeah, they won titles and were incredibly fundamental, but let’s just say when they were on television, I didn’t really need my Melatonin pills.
Lowe comments the Sixers’ starting five may have been the league’s best lineup last season — which is somewhat debatable. Listen, I loved the Sixers starting five last year, but that Warriors starting five with Durant has been the stuff of legend.
The ESPN columnist takes a moment to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of the Sixers court which I also enjoy quite thoroughly. The cursive on the baseline for this year is a subtle touch, and the mid-court art isn’t an eyesore. If aliens from another planet can see your mid-court art from space within a domed arena, you’ve gone too far. (*Cough* “Clippers”.)
Here’s my favorite part about the court that Lowe describes:
“They also realized there is no point in slapping the team’s website or Twitter account along the sidelines. Anyone with a brain can find those; use space for something unique!”
Hence the new “Brotherly Love” tag by the Sixers’ bench. Everything about the court this year is fantastic.
From a players stance, Lowe simply loves Joel Embiid. Who doesn’t right — except maybe Aron Baynes? Lowe puts Embiid’s power over Celtics guard Kyrie Irving’s finesse which is curious because you don’t think about “power” being synonymous with “fun”. He does cite Embiid’s other abilities like his driving after a pump fake or his splashing three pointers.
Let’s be real, though. Embiid’s trash talking and personality also give him the nod. (Come on, Kyrie. You didn’t think for a second to put Joel Embiid in “Uncle Drew”? You didn’t think about it? Not once? I call b/s.)
Lastly, Lowe comments on Markelle Fultz — which is ultimately why the Sixers got the top spot over Boston.
“He is the biggest unknown in the league. Every scenario is on the table. He could can enough jumpers, work as the speedster pick-and-roll playmaker Philly badly needs, and solidify his spot in the starting lineup. (His first two preseason games have been encouraging. He made a 3-pointer on Monday!) He could redevelop the yips and crater. No matter what, I want to see every second of it. Philly wins.”
So, I’ll just say if the latter of that proposal happens, Zach Lowe just made the hit list. He’s absolutely correct about the former part of that. If Fultz becomes that secondary playmaker and scorer, then the Sixers become that much more interesting — and probably win closer to 55 games versus closer to 50 or 52.
There’s going to be so much to look forward to this season, and we’re all here for it. Props to Zach Lowe for getting on the train with us, but Zach, your seat is in the way back. A lot of us have been riding this train for years.