The National Basketball Association announced its full schedule on Monday night. Without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on the national broadcast schedule (plus League Pass rankings).
Total (277 games)
Warriors (43), Rockets (40), Cavaliers (39), Thunder (37), Lakers (35), Celtics (34), Spurs (32), Clippers (31), Wizards (28), Timberwolves (25), 76ers (23), Trail Blazers (21), Bucks (16), Nuggets (15), Pelicans (14), Knicks and Suns (13), Raptors and Kings (12), Mavericks (11), Jazz and Heat (10), Grizzlies, Hornets and Pistons (8), Bulls (5), Magic (4), Pacers (3), Hawks and Nets (2)
No stunners with regard to the top four, but the Lakers edging out contenders such as Boston and San Antonio is shocking. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so startling, but the two teams in L.A. account for nearly one quarter (23.5 percent) of the national broadcast schedule. With 65 of the 277 total games featuring either the Clippers or Lakers (or both), that’s more than Toronto, Milwaukee, Memphis, Denver, and New Orleans combined.
I’m as excited to watch the Lonzo show as anybody else who didn’t shell out 500 clams for a pair of Big Baller Brand sneakers. At least we’re not being force-fed 20-plus Knicks games, right? Still, it’s possible (even likely) that the Lakers will once again wind up with fewer wins than national TV appearances. Among the rest of last year’s non-playoff teams, the Timberwolves and Sixers are also receiving lots of love, with the 10th and 11th-most airings respectively – while the Nuggets and Pelicans are among the top-half too.
ABC (17 games)
Warriors, Rockets and Thunder (6), Cavaliers (5), Celtics and Spurs (4), Wizards, Timberwolves and Lakers (1)
From last year’s lottery pool, the Lakers and Timberwolves each earned one broadcast on ABC.
TNT (67 games)
Warriors, Rockets, Thunder and Cavaliers (12), Celtics and Lakers (11), Spurs and Clippers (9), Wizards and Timberwolves (7), Trail Blazers, Nuggets and 76ers (5), Bucks (4), Jazz, Pelicans and Knicks (2), Raptors, Grizzlies, Heat, Pistons, Mavericks, Kings and Suns (1)
Now for tonight’s top story: the TNT Bulls have been buried alive. Don’t feel bad for Chicago, though: sources indicate that this was per the request of GarPax, as the franchise is trying to tank for a shot at drafting Luka Doncic.
TNT is passing on six teams, all of whom play in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte, Indiana, Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, and Brooklyn won’t be seen on Turner Sports unless they manage to make the playoffs. The Hornets are by far the most likely of this bunch to earn a playoff berth. Given their acquisition of Dwight Howard (and drafting of Malik Monk), I’m definitely surprised to see TNT leave Charlotte off its list. I trust Shaq will still make time to stomp on Superman.
My apologies for beating a horse that may already be dead, but imagine if L.A. had LeBron James, or Russell Westbrook and Paul George. The rest of the league would be scrapping for national TV showings while the Lakers would be on a major network for all 82 games. The fact that they have more TNT matchups than the Bucks, Raptors, Grizzlies, Pelicans and Jazz combined is just completely insane.
ESPN (87 games)
Warriors (13), Spurs and Lakers (11), Cavaliers, Rockets, Celtics, Clippers and Wizards (10), Thunder, Timberwolves and 76ers (9), Bucks, Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Knicks (6), Jazz and Mavericks (5), Raptors, Nuggets and Heat (4), Hornets, Pistons, Kings and Suns (3), Grizzlies (2), Pacers and Bulls (1)
ESPN decided it could do without Orlando, Atlanta and Brooklyn in 2017-18.
NBATV (106 games)
Warriors, Rockets, Cavaliers, Clippers and Lakers (12), Thunder, Wizards and Trail Blazers (10), Celtics, 76ers and Suns (9), Spurs, Timberwolves and Kings (8), Raptors (7), Bucks, Nuggets and Pelicans (6), Grizzlies, Hornets, Heat, Knicks and Mavericks (5), Pistons, Bulls and Magic (4), Jazz (3), Pacers, Hawks and Nets (2)
By far the most diplomatic of the networks, NBATV is covering each team at least twice. Like the rest of the stations, NBATV is jumping off the Raptors, Grizzlies and Jazz bandwagons, with all three among the bottom-half of the league despite being playoff squads in 2016-17. Toronto is the only shoe-in postseason team that somehow finished outside of the top-half in terms of TV spots. Where’s the love for Canada?
League Pass Rankings: Offseason Edition
These rankings only include clubs that aren’t already penciled in to the playoffs. That means no Warriors, Rockets, Thunder, Spurs, Cavaliers, Celtics, Wizards, Raptors, or Bucks. This highly-subjective 21-team list also takes into account the number of national TV appearances afforded to each franchise.
- Denver Nuggets – The addition of a second unselfish star (Paul Millsap) who can complement Nikola Jokic on both ends of the court should have been enough to earn this team 20-plus appearances on the national scene. I like Denver’s odds of stealing one of the final four playoff spots up for grabs in the Western Conference, and the race should be extremely entertaining. With just the 14th-most airings (15 total), the Nuggets sit atop this list.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Minny is getting plenty of respect, nine national airings more than its closest neighbor (Milwaukee). However, their acquisition of Jimmy Butler makes them must-watch material in the gauntlet West.
- Philadelphia 76ers – Again, the Sixers are receiving no shortage of support, with 23 games on tap for primetime television. However, the plethora of young and talented players in Philly puts them in my top-three here.
- New Orleans Pelicans – The Pels are zigging while just about everyone else is zagging. Even if we don’t get to see a ton of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis pick-and-rolls, this team should be fascinating to watch in 2017-18.
- Utah Jazz – Despite Gordon Hayward’s departure, the Jazz have a solid core in place, and could play a more uptempo brand of basketball with Ricky Rubio at the helm. If you’re a fan of defense, be sure to tune in to Utah.
- Dallas Mavericks – Dennis Smith will be given the keys to the Dallas offense, and it could be absolutely glorious.
- Charlotte Hornets – The Hornets are just one year removed from winning 48 games, and now they have the depth down low to survive an occasional injury bug. The Buzz would likely be higher on this list if they were out West.
- Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers lose a lot of points thanks to their 35 national TV games. But I’m still amped to watch Lonzo Ball’s pass-happy high-basketball IQ in action, and being out West means that he’ll be going up up against a borderline star (at point guard) on a nightly basis. Sign me up.
- Los Angeles Clippers – You don’t need to be a fan of Pat Beverley in order to be excited about the Chris Paul-less Clippers. Point Blake Griffin: engage.
- Memphis Grizzlies – The Grizzlies are expected to fall out of the top-eight in the West almost every year. This could finally be the year that happens, but Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and company will be playing faster than ever, and their two stars are among the most underrated in the sport.
- Portland Trail Blazers – New season, same issues. Portland will struggle to stop the opposition from scoring, but they’ll put up 120 points or more, no problem. The Splash Brothers Lite are still worth the price of admission.
- Miami Heat – Miami basically brought the whole gang back, plus Kelly Olynyk. This team was clicking on all cylinders in the second half of last season (30-11), and they should be a resilient bunch again in 2017-18.
- Detroit Pistons – Swapping in Avery Bradley in exchange for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris doesn’t move the needle much in terms of improving Detroit’s watchability. But if Stanley Johnson’s summer is any indicator, the Pistons might be a pleasant surprise in their new downtown arena this season.
- Indiana Pacers – Call me crazy, but I’m actually more excited to watch the Pacers this year than I was last year. Myles Turner is set to be unleashed rather than operate as a third or fourth option, and Victor Oladipo has an opportunity to breakout as well. I think there’s a chance, albeit a small one, that Indy sneaks into the playoffs.
- Phoenix Suns – How many minutes per game will Josh Jackson see as a rookie? The balance he brings to the table will make the Suns much more watchable than in years past, but he’ll have competition in the form of T.J. Warren and Jared Dudley. If Eric Bledsoe performs at his peak, Devin Booker continues to improve, and Tyson Chandler turns back the clock, Phoenix might not be that bad.
- Brooklyn Nets – D’Angelo Russell deserved the chance to shine as the true lead guard of the future, something that wasn’t going to happen with the Lakers selecting Lonzo Ball. For the first time in what feels like forever, the Nets won’t be a bore, not one bit.
- Sacramento Kings – I’d be tuning in to see De’Aaron Fox no matter where he went, but the collection of talent here is very intriguing. George Hill is a great mentor for Fox, and I’m curious to see how well Dave Joerger does in terms of developing this young group of guys (especially after inking established veterans and former Grizzlies Zach Randolph and Vince Carter).
- New York Knicks – Unless or until the Knicks bite the bullet and trade Carmelo Anthony, I don’t think I can take them seriously. If rookie Frank Ntilikina starts at point guard, I reserve the right to change my mind and move New York up a few spots. But Kristaps Pozingis can’t make this team watchable all by himself.
- Orlando Magic – My fear is that by the end of the season we will have witnessed less than 100 minutes of Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac sharing the court as the 5 and 4. My hope is that Frank Vogel can turn the Magic into a defensive stalwart. The pieces are in place. Evan Fournier isn’t the best defender by any stretch of the imagination, but a lineup of Elfrid Payton, Fournier, Isaac, Gordon, and Biyombo could be scary on D.
- Atlanta Hawks – It will be a year where the Hawks are trying to learn as much about their young talent as possible. And lose as many games as possible. It’s going to be interesting to see what Mike Budenholzer does in this drastically different situation.
- Chicago Bulls – Fred Hoiberg has his hands full. Chicago is a solid bet to finish last in 2017-18. Is it possible that Bucks fans will start driving to the Windy City for a cheaper ticket? There’s a first time for everything, right?