The Hustle: Week Six – League Pass Go To’s

Chris St. Jean >>> Mitchell. I had time on Saturday afternoon and I fired up League Pass Broadband with no live games going.

I immediately went to the fourth quarter and OT of the Sixers/Pacers on Friday night (12/11). Joel Embiid. At home. In the Sixers first win of the season.

That made me think. This undoubtedly changes from one month to the next over the course of an NBA season. But right now, after three weeks or so in… when you fire up LPBB when you get home from work on a late night, what team/player/situation do you gravitate towards first?

Let’s keep it to a top three and stress that this is likely to change over the course of the season. What are you trying to witness as much as possible as we approach Thanksgiving?

Paul Mitchell >>>

This is good Hustle questioning, because I was just complaining about the lack of League Pass time in my life lately. I feel like I need to keep a notepad of strictly quarters or quality games to go back and watch, whenever the time allows.

My first priority when watching live is getting the League Pass Broadband interface to work, which was not easy in the first week or two to open the season but seems to have gained consistency as the games have gone on. If I’m lucky, I’m usually going close-and-late first or the most competitive score on the LPBB lineup.

But when I have the time and opportunity to indulge is when the problems arise and I’m forced to make decisions. So let’s break it down a bit through the luxury of the list and go through my top-three League Pass attractions this early into the season…

1.  Boston Celtics – Hey, I’m a homer. Plus Celtics broadcasts are basically the only reason I pay for cable nowadays, so I’m particularly invested in this team’s success this season. I’m not saying it’s been easy to watch or I’d recommend it to the LP atheist, but the only positive to early injuries to Jae Crowder and Al Horford is that the stable of young guys get some time on the court alongside Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley (who’s been balling, and could’ve merited some column space last week).
So here’s a mini top-three of my favorite Celtics youngsters:

  1. Marcus Smart – Maybe the most annoying player in the league on the court.
  2. Jaylen Brown – SO. MUCH. HOPS. Also way further along than anyone expected.
  3. This would normally be R.J. Hunter’s spot (or at the top, which would have slid Mr. Marcus and Jaylen down), so I guess it has to go to James Young, by default? After about three quarters of this Indiana game Saturday night, he might belong here. Shouts to Jordan Mickey, too.

2. Golden State Warriors – The corniest group of super villains ever assembled — with respect to the Serpent Society or anything DC Comics has to offer. This team makes for the perfect LPBB catch-up, in that you can isolate a scorching hot quarter or stretch to watch and re-affirm your faith in the art of the jump shot. Once Klay Thompson is able to locate his jumper, expect scores in the 140’s (which might be needed given their defensive effort some nights). And there’s always the chance they let a young team like the Lakers in a game, which elevates any random late-Friday night slate. Also, West Coast, bright court, and hype crowd.

T-3. Portland Trail Blazers – No defense, amazing guards, West Coast (ish), and a great home crowd? Yes, please. Any time you put Portland on there’s a chance you can witness a 50-point performance from either of its young guards, with the only apparent caveat to avoid games against the Clippers. This team isn’t really good yet, but the pieces still remain to assemble into a decent defense given all of the athletic bigs on the roster. (That Evan Turner contract will not end well, at least by the early indication on the court.)

T-3. Los Angeles Lakers – YOU HEARD ME, ST. JEAN! You’ve finally won me over, along with some help from Luke Walton. Given the depth on the roster, forcing them to play quicker wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, but Walton has excelled at limiting his team’s minutes and allowing them some structure along with their individuality. Suddenly veterans like Nick Young and Lou Williams are playing defense and accepting bench roles, while the quite-mocked free agent additions of Luol Deng and ‘Fey Mozgov haven’t played particularly well, but they’ve fit into a league-average offense at this point. This team is officially fun. (And this helps to alleviate my Celtics’ homerism above.)

What’s your top-three looking like, St. Jean? And feel free to save this for a later date, but are there any teams you’ve avoided, whether intentionally or not, already this season?

C.S.J >>> Life comes at you fast Mitchell. And even if you do start keeping track of those quarters/runs/games/performances that you’d like to go back and re-watch, the games keep coming… night in and night out.

The one night on the NBA schedule between opening night and the end of the regular season besides the All-Star break where there are no NBA games is Thanksgiving night. And that’s coming soon. So this question is apt. On Thanksgiving night, with no ‘fresh’ NBA games to consume, where will I be looking on the League Pass archives?

All of your choices deserve merit Mitchell. That’s the other amazing thing about the NBA. For fanatics like you and me, as we’ve said before, there is so much out there across the league to enjoy/learn from/investigate/be disgusted by/laugh at.

Here’s my ‘in the moment’ top three League Pass Go-To’s:

1. Kemba Walker and the (8-3 as of Saturday) Charlotte Hornets. Considering players like Walker and Nicolas Batum had career year’s last season and that the Hornets needed to let Big Al Jefferson and Courtney Lee walk in free agency, I think the assumption coming into this season was that Charlotte would regress a bit.

But I think we forgot that Steve Clifford has been getting this team to overachieve regardless of the talent for multiple years now. Oh yea, and it’s looking more and more unlikely that Kemba Walker is regressing to his previous status. Kemba is becoming a legit star in the league. His pick-and-roll waterbug routine makes him one of the deadliest ball-handlers in the league and he’s proving that his much improved outside shooting is more development than statistical anomaly.

Currently, Steve Clifford’s defensive schemes have the Hornets at 4th in the NBA in Defensive Rating per Basketball Reference. Kemba is shooting over 46 percent from the 3-point line on almost seven attempts per game. Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Frank Kaminsky are showing signs of development and performing at a quality level.

The Hornets are flat out playing well and just to throw it in there, there’s not many better League Pass experiences between the surprisingly lively Charlotte crowd and one of the League’s best color schemes (both jersey and court design). Also, shout out to Stephanie Ready, the NBA’s first female local game analyst on the calls, one of the better analysts across the league.

2. DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors. We’ve spent time in this space and on the podcast talking about DeRozan’s start. He’s not doing anything all that different (shooting mid-range jumpers and getting to the free throw line), but he’s hitting everything and has been consistent in his elite efficiency through 12 games.

He’s averaging 33 points per game, has a 29.0 PER (according to Basketball Reference) and has scored at least 30 in 10 of the 12 games this season.

Traditionally, the Raptors have never been on my League Pass radar. Even when they were playing well there was too much isolation, beating up on bad teams and struggling against great ones, and just a general lack of young, intriguing players. But during this run at least, I can’t help but check in to see if DeRozan went for 30 on a given night.

3. Anthony Davis and the … well Anthony Davis. The Pelicans suck. Their roster is pathetic. It’s really objectively horrible to have this player and pair him with absolutely no other talent in his age range whatsoever. It’s just a shame.

But, Davis is taking it all in stride and continuing to develop his skills. Davis had previously been putting up insane numbers. That’s not the surprising part. But this season, I feel as though Davis is beginning to master the art of attacking double teams.

Many intriguing young players are transcendent one-on-one, but then struggle to grasp the simplest of concepts once doubled. It’s an entirely new layer of offensive skill to perform against a double team.

And I’m not talking about the double from the passer, kick back out of the post to the 3-point line. Passing out of the double team is one thing and double teams come in more complex forms than that (i.e. doubling from the opposite corner). Davis is mastering the ability to score directly against a double team.

His size and skill demand a double team in the post, but he is now able to spin away from where the double team is coming, use an escape dribble to free up space and shoot over the double team, or use his uncanny (for his size) ball handling to split or dribble around double teams as he attacks the basket.

Davis’ scoring ability is as well-rounded as there is in this league at this point. And to be clear, if you switch over to the Pelican’s game and Davis is on the bench, it’s totally acceptable to find another game for the next six minutes. There’s not really anything else worth watching in New Orleans.

I’m wondering. What teams are our readers gravitated towards this early in the season?

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