Everyone knows about the League Pass Rankings that ESPN’s Zach Lowe does before each season. Lowe measures the teams by excitement to figure out how the casual NBA fan should rank them in order to achieve the maximum enjoyment from watching basketball.
This is like that, but replace enjoyment with importance to the 76ers and 76ers fans. This is the 2018-2019 Philadelphia 76ers League Pass Rankings, the definitive (???) list of how you should prioritize watching non-76ers games if your focus is on potential playoff series and watching your old favorites and then your third concern is fun basketball games.
Ready to find out where I have each team ranked? (And then to tell me I am wrong, because I am probably wrong?) Let’s go!
In putting together these rankings, I considered the following factors:
- Will this team’s games have an effect on the 76ers playoff seeding?
- Is there a former Sixer on this team’s roster that we’ll want to watch?
- Are there other Philadelphia connections that matter?
- Are there league-wide reasons to care about watching this team’s games?
- Western Conference teams get knocked down because the main focus of this is the Sixers.
The one thing I did not consider is pettiness. It would have felt good to put the Celtics last, but Sixers fans should probably pay attention to Boston since they’re one of the biggest playoff threats to the team.
Ready? Let’s get started
29. Utah Jazz
Okay, I know I said no pettiness, but the Jazz fans really like to bring up that whole “Ben Simmons wasn’t a rookie” thing and also have started suggesting that Rudy Gobert is the best center in the NBA. Since they don’t factor into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, you’re free to ignore them completely. (I promise this is the only ranking where I am docking a team for reasons unrelated to the actual basketball.)
28. Sacramento Kings
While there’s a slight chance the Kings first round pick comes to Philadelphia this year, the chance of that happening — the Celtics get the better pick of this one or Philadelphia’s own pick unless the Kings pick ends up number one overall, which could happen but also...probably won’t — are slim enough that there’s no need to worry about a “Kings Tank Watch 2k19.” (You probably don’t want to want to watch Nemanja Bjelica after he spurned the Sixers this off-season. (Okay, now I am actually done being petty.))
27. Memphis Grizzlies
Jaren Jackson Jr. is a guy I’m really high on, but Memphis being in the Western Conference knocks them down a few spots.
26. Orlando Magic
Nikola Vucevic’s one season with the 76ers back in 2011-2012 isn’t enough reason to watch this team. Aaron Gordon is a fun and talented player, but the rest of this roster feels like it’s built for some different version of the NBA than the one we live with.
25. Chicago Bulls
If Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker are somehow both healthy, there will be reasons to watch this team, but I’m not holding my breath for that. Philly won’t meet them in the playoffs.
24. Atlanta Hawks
It’s like the Bulls but with the excitement of Trae Young!
23. Dallas Mavericks
It’s like the Bulls and Hawks but with the excitement of Luka Doncic! (He’s good enough that you should watch him even though the Mavericks are in the West.)
22. Los Angeles Clippers
Lou Williams! Luc Mbah a Moute! Also, a handful of players who were never Sixers but I can easily imagine a world where they were on the team in the early/mid-2010s: Tobias Harris, Patrick Beverley, and Wesley Johnson. Like, those guys definitely feel like guys who would have been members of this team at some point, right?
21. Portland Trail Blazers
Pros: Evan Turner is there, they should be a playoff team, and they are currently the latest team to give K.J. MCDaniels a chance. Cons: Nik Stauskas is on the team and I know that a lot of y’all would like to forget about Nik Stauskas.
20. Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook could go for 40/15/15 at any moment and Nerlens Noel is the backup center. Also, Jerami Grant.
19. Phoenix Suns
This may seem a little high, but you get to see Mikal Bridges, who probably should have been a Sixer. (I mean, a 2021 unprotected first from a Heat team that definitely could be bad that year and Zhaire Smith is interesting, but I really, really liked Bridges.) Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are going to create some offensive firepower for that team as well.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves
Did you ever wish that the Process-era Sixers had a chance to go up against the Chicago Bulls in a competitive playoff series? Well now you can get a lesser version of that with the Minnesota Timberbulls! The teams will play twice this season, but you can relive the olden days at anytime on League Pass.
17. Denver Nuggets
Not really any major Philly connections here, but the Nuggets would be very near the top of a team-neutral version of this list because of Nikola Jokic and I can’t in good faith suggest they be placed any farther down than this.
16. San Antonio Spurs
MARCO BELLINELLI LET’S GO. (Also, Dejounte Murray is a point guard who tries hard on defense but shouldn’t shoot threes ever. We can appreciate that, right?)
15. New Orleans Pelicans
In addition to Anthony Davis being great, you get to watch Jrue Holiday continue to do his thing. Holiday, the first sacrifice in The Process, remains one of the NBA’s most underrated guards. New Orleans also has a little played named Jahlil Okafor who...okay, who probably won’t be on the court at all this season, but you don’t want to miss out if he is!
14. Charlotte Hornets
I don’t see the Hornets making the playoffs and a lot of the pieces they have don’t really have any wow factor, but I guess if things go 100% perfect for them they could sneak into the playoffs? And if things go 100% perfect for the Sixers then there’s a universe where this is a first round series? That’s maybe enough reason to have them this high?
13. Los Angeles Lakers
Here’s the thing about the Lakers: NBA fans are going to want to watch this team because they have LeBron James, but the regular season Lakers aren’t going to be the most enjoyable team to watch. The supporting cast around James has some good, young faces, but it also has some very dysfunctional pieces.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland doesn’t excite me this year for one very obvious reason. Kevin Love is good, but the rest of this roster screams “EIGHT OR NINE SEED.” Which, hey...a little overachivement and we’re seeing them in May.
11. Miami Heat
These next three teams are pretty much interchangeable, but there’s a fairly high chance that one of them ends up as the first round opponent for Philly, so watching them can help you be better prepared for that series. You want to be knowledgeable fans, right? When some dude at a bar tells you “man, hope we can get past Dwyane Wade” you want to be able to say “hey, uhh, Wade didn’t even play this year.” The Heat are the least exciting of these three teams.
10. Detroit Pistons
Slightly more exciting because they have Blake Griffin.
9. Washington Wizards
I have no clue what to expect from the Wizards this year. They’ll make the playoffs because they have John Wall and Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr., but the addition of Dwight Howard means that the Wizards could either have everything click and contend for the four seed or explode into a million tiny, eighth seed sized pieces.
8. Houston Rockets
If the Sixers make the Finals, this is who they’ll be playing if the Warriors suffer from any injuries. James Harden and Chris Paul can be frustrating to watch at times, but Houston is also the place that gave Sam Hinkie to Philadelphia and they deserve your eyes — your sad, Hinkie-less eyes — for that reason alone.
7. Golden State Warriors
If the Sixers make the Finals, this is who they’ll be playing. A pair of top five players plus Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Yeah, this is the Western Conference team that should be at the top of your radar.
6. New York Knicks
These next two teams aren’t exciting by a lot of measures, but paying attention to Atlantic Division foes is important. The Knicks get the sixth spot because Kristaps Porzingis won’t be back until the latter half of the season and the roster beyond him is pretty young. Keep an eye on Frank Ntilikina and rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. Their development plus the return of Porzingis could mean some tough Knicks/Sixers games a couple years from now.
5. Brooklyn Nets
The other Atlantic Division foe that doesn’t pose a threat for Philly this season but is worth watching because of the whole division thing. The Nets have some good, young pieces in Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, and D’Angelo Russell. They could make a run for the eight seed this year, which is enough of a reason that you should prioritize watching them over watching the Knicks, who will be closer to the worst team in the East than a playoff team.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
GIANNIS! And the team from outside last year’s top four with the best chance of crashing the party! And former Sixer Ersan Ilyasova, plus Villanova legend Donte DiVincenzo. Lot of compelling reasons to tune into Bucks games.
3. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are the biggest threat for the three seed. You’ll want to keep your eyes on them all season and you’ll also need to keep navigating your complicated emotions when it comes to Thaddeus Young and the fact that he’s playing for another contender.
2. Boston Celtics
There are intriguing storylines for Boston this year. After making into to the Conference Finals this past season, the team will have a healthy Kyrie Irving, a healthy Gordon Hayward, and both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will have another year under their belts. This is the team that will probably win the East during the regular season. We can’t ignore them.
1. Toronto Raptors
I’ve got the Raptors in the top spot over the Celtics because the Raptors have Kawhi Leonard now. Remember that brief moment in time where a Kawhi trade to Philly was definitely going to happen and this team was going to pair him with LeBron and the East would be theirs for the rest of our lives? Well...we all know what happened, but since pettiness is not a factor in these rankings, we’re going to want to pay attention to Toronto. How will Leonard look after basically taking a year off? Is a Kyle Lowry/Danny Green back court going to be impossible to score on? Also, look — I want to be realistic here. The 76ers are probably heading for the three seed this year. The Raptors are probably heading for the two seed. This is a potential Eastern Conference Semifinals match-up.
There we have it! 29 teams ranked by how much you should care about watching them this season, and with only a little bit of pettiness! If you’re watching basketball on a night where the Sixers are off, hopefully this gives you some ideas of who to watch. (At least until, like, December when we see how the league has changed for the year and these things end up all shuffled around.)