The 2013/2014 ‘All NBA League Pass Team’
Without question the NBA is riding a wave of popularity in Australia/NZ the likes of which has not been experienced since ‘the Jordan era’ (TJE). This swell of popularity appears to have arisen thanks to a perfect storm of increased access, likeable superstars and a once-in-a-generation talent pool that hasn’t been seen since TJE. Arguably the most important of these factors is increased access, with the combination of the leagues widespread integration of social media and internet broadcasting technologies meshing seamlessly with an explosion of NBA centric media outlets to provide hoops fans with 24/7 coverage of nearly every aspect of the game.
The jewel in the crown of this all-access revolution as far as the Australian/NZ audience is concerned is NBA League Pass (Australia/NZ has the highest percentage of subscribers to the service in the world) the NBA’s official internet subscription service that provides subscribers with multiple viewing options for literally every minute of NBA action each year. When combined with NBA.TV (free with LP subscription this year) it is possible for subscriber to watch official NBA content all day, but let’s face it, most of us don’t have that much spare time on our hands, so with so much content and so much access how do we know what to watch? I mean some things like watching the Heat/Thunder/Spurs/Grizzlies/Clippers/Rockets/Warriors/ Knicks/Nets/Pacers and Bulls are downright obvious, but you can only watch so much of these teams before you start craving something else, but what or who could that something be? What or who could possibly convince you to switch the feed from another monster performance from LBJ or another example of Derrick Rose turning basketball into an endurance sport or the sheer sporting beauty of another clinical Spurs victory? What type of superhuman player or team could even entice you to think of doing such a thing? THESE GUYS that’s who!
Ladies and gentleman I present to you the inaugural All NBA League Pass Team.
Kyrie Irving – (PG Cleveland Cavaliers)
Are there two words that make an Australian NBA fan more excited than Kyrie Irving?
Ever since being taken #1 by the Cavs in the inglorious aftermath of ‘The Decision’ the Melbourne born PG has dazzled the masses with his otherworldly handle, explosive drives, smooth shooting stroke and affable personality. Kyrie makes playing in the NBA look like he is playing a video game and as a result his game is tailor made for the league pass audience. He can shoot the three as readily as he can break your ankles with a sweet cross over, and explode to the bucket to hit a circus shot as easily as he can throw a pin-point behind the back pass to a baseline cutting big. Put simply the kid can flat out ball, and he looks damn good doing it.
His freakish natural ability coupled with his quirky personality (including the excellent Uncle Drew commercials), dedication to his craft and accessibility to his fans (he came to Australia in the offseason to run skill clinics for kids and is seemingly ALWAYS on Twitter/Vine) has resulted in Kyrie establishing a cult like following in Australia and abroad (and even in the ranks of rival players) and given the roster that is being established around him this year looks likely to be the moment when the Cult of Kyrie rides momentum all the way to the playoffs and international superstardom.
That’s right folks Kyrie is this years’ Stephen Curry, so have your league pass at the ready and get set for blast off.
The rest of the Starters
Bradley Beal (SG – Washington Wizards)
Bit of a reach here, but the absence of good candidates (due to the likes of Harden, Wade, Byant, JR Smith, Jamal Crawford, Klay Thompson et all being excluded due to their teams contender status) and the feel good factor means he gets the nod here over Monta Ellis. Beal had a solid rookie outing, averaging 13.9 PPG at a decent clip and at just 19 years old the sky looks the limit for him. Looked incredible when used in tandem with John Wall, and with the benefit of an offseason to develop his body and a fully fit and firing Wall, he should become a must watch on offense and a key component of one of the most exciting backcourts in the league.
Josh Smith (SF – Detroit Pistons)
The only truly established veteran ‘star’ on this list, Smith makes the grade by virtue of being the most intriguing part of what promises to be one of the most fascinating teams for league pass viewers. Smith is that rare player who brings elite offensive and defensive abilities, impressive size at his position and overall all-star ability, yet still looks to have SO MUCH MORE to offer. Smith also brings an unpredictability that keeps the viewer wondering and that unpredictability when coupled with the quirks of Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond should result in a new level of league pass greatness. It’s going to be a train wreck or an astonishing success and either way a potential career year for the 28 year old Smith beckons.
Anthony Davis (PF – New Orleans Pelicans)
Anthony ‘the Brow’ Davis absolutely tore up the Summer League and the preseason racking up double-doubles with disturbing ease. A physical specimen, gifted with uncanny speed and terrific hands, Davis looks set to develop into the best PF/C combo player in the league over the next five years and this year, his second, will be the launching pad for his metaphorical rocket to prominence. Solid without being spectacular on offense in his rookie year, Davis looks to have developed a series of post moves and improved his mid-range jumper over the offseason, which when combined with his already elite shot blocking and rebounding ability, should ensure he racks up a double-double average for the Pelicans this season. He also gets bonus league pass points for being on a team with fellow potential All League Pass Team members Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon. It’s going to be spectacularly successful or absolutely disastrous, but either way it’ll benefit Davis and his All League Pass Team credentials.
DeMarcus Cousins (C – Sacramento Kings)
DeMarcus Cousins, the man, the mystery, the enigma. Who is he? What position does he play? What is his ceiling? Will he ever reach that ceiling? When do we find out? The answer to the first four of these questions is either an all-star calibre centre averaging a double-double as the dominant force on a developing young team who are a few shrewd recruiting moves away from a playoff berth OR a ‘could-have-been-champion’ center who became such a distraction to his teammates due to his questionable on-court and off-court behaviour that they hit the panic button and traded him for little value in return. The answer to the fifth is this year. Oh yes people it is the dawning of a new era in Sacramental, and that era is one in which the keys to the kingdom have been handed to this wildly talented but absolutely unstable young man.
An absolute beast of a man, the still very young (he’s 23) Cousins has the potential to be one of the NBA’S most dominant big men, and with the new ownership, front office and teammates in place, I’m backing Cousins to make significant steps towards achieving his seemingly limitless potential. My confidence in his ability to do so stems from the fact that despite never looking focused and playing a horrific team, Cousins still managed to average 17.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game last year. Those are solid numbers for any big and there is little doubt around the league that a switched on Cousins could push those to something approaching 20/15/5 such is the unique nature of his skillset/size combination. If he does that, then Cousins will become required viewing for league passers and his contract will look like a bargain. If however it all spirals out of control, then the schadenfreude factor will keep us all tuned in anyway. Oh and he also comes with added Be McLemore. Consider him your vice-captain.
The bench mob
Ricky Rubio (PG – Minnesota Timberwolves)
Reason: He passes the ball and sees the court like no other man alive AND he does things like THIS
Contributing factors: He plays on a team with Kevin Love, Alexey Shved and Nikola Pekovic, this should be FUN.
Monta Ellis (SG – Dallas Mavericks)
Reason: “Monta have it all”
Contributing factors: He plays with Jose Calderon, Dirk Nowitzki and a bunch of other guys that make no structural sense on one of the leagues weirdest rosters.
Nicolas Batum (SF – Portland Trailblazers)
Reason: Accomplished all-around player with seemingly limitless potential who is always a candidate to end up on the nightly highlight real. He also once punched a national treasure in the nuts during an Olympic game that was being televised live internationally. You don’t want to miss that.
Contributing factors: He plays in one of the best buildings in the NBA alongside one of the best PF’s in the game in LaMarcus Aldridge, an explosive SG with serious ‘heat up’ potential in Wesley Matthews and the reigning rookie of the year/one of the most watchable young PG’s in the league Damian Lillard.
LARRY SANDERS!!! (PF/C – Milwaukee Bucks)
Reason: It’s LARRY SANDERS which translated means BLOCK PARTY and blocks are SUPER ENTERTAINING.
Contributing factors: He plays with Ersan İlyasova and Brandon Knight, two of the most divisive yet tantalising prospective stat-sheet-stuffers in the league on a roster that seems designed to be in fringe playoff contention, so you know the games will be close.
JaVale McGee (C – Denver Nuggets/the Internet)
Reason: He’s JaVale McGee – king of the NBA blogosphere.
Contributing factors: He plays at altitude despite having asthma (which is heroic) on a team that seemingly insists on throwing him lobs every five seconds and on average takes fewer than 7 seconds per offensive possession. His teammates include Nate Robinson, a potential All League Pass Team member himself, ‘the Manimal’ Kenneth Faried (for now anyway), Danilo ‘He’s a spicy one’ Gallinari, and the fastest point guard in the league Ty Lawson.
Jonas Valančiūnas (C- Toronto/ #YOLOnto Raptors)
Reason: My tip to win the NBA’S Most Improved Player award, Jonas has ripped it up throughout the preseason and looks set to cement himself as the Raptors go to guy at center.
Contributing factors: He plays with a LOT of good dunkers. Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and an untrustworthy yet talented PG in Kyle Lowry, it’s like a highlight reel explosion waiting to happen. Oh and Drake is in the crowd and they have an inflatable Raptor mascot! (I know he is a stand in because the normal one did his ACL but still it’s cool).
Eric Bledsoe (G- Phoenix Suns)
Reason: Mini LeBron/BEAST released into the wild to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
Contributing factors: There really are none left, sorry, unless you’re Slovenian, then Dragic, I guess.
The honourable mentions
Derrick Favors/Gordon Hayward/Enis Kanter (Utah Jazz), Rajon Rondo/ Kelly Olynyk (Boston Celtics), Kemba Walker/Michael Kid-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats) Nikola Vučević/Tobias Harris (Orlando Magic)
Note: Before you rip me a new one on Twitter about the absence of the likes of Stephen Curry, LeBron James, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the returning Derrick Rose from this list, please know that I ABSOLUTELY consider those guys to be all out league pass draw-cards (who wouldn’t?) it’s just that due to the quality of their teams and their reputation, you’re likely to be watching their games anyway and the purpose of this team was to put the spotlight on some of the more marginally ‘out of focus’ guys, the guys that will provide much needed entertainment value when the mid-season blues kick in and the guys who will likely perform so well this year that they’ll have to be excluded from the team next year. So with this in mind, feel free to let me know if I missed anyone or compile your own team and send it over to me at @iambren10.
Happy league passing everyone…and REMEMBER..