I was touched from above recently and given the chance to see Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the rest of their Lob City crew when they visit Salt Lake City at the beginning of February. I am extremely stoked to see Blake Griffin run the floor looking for an alley-oop from his new point guard; surely even the Jazz fans will clap and cheer for this exciting duo. Meanwhile, this week, my in-laws are going to see the Miami Heat when they take their talents to Denver to face the Nuggets. As excited as I am to see the new look Clippers, I couldn’t help but be slightly jealous at seeing the spectacular duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It got me wondering, who would I rather see, Lob City or the Heat? After much deliberation, here is my list of the teams I would most like to see in person in the NBA, starting with the least desirable and ending with either the Clippers or the Heat.
30. Detroit Pistons: Given the chance to see any NBA game, I will be in, but the Pistons have little that excite me about their team. They have one or two nice young players, but not much else would draw me to go see this once proud franchise.
29. Toronto Raptors: I don’t rate them so low just because they are in Canada. Their best player right now is a soft big man who can score but cannot do much else. They have an exciting, yet erratic player, DeMar Derozan and a UNC alum, Ed Davis (which also scores some bonus points in my book), who isn’t getting enough playing time.
28. Houston Rockets: The Rockets have to be hurting after nearly getting such a prominent player in Pau Gasol. They still have a few nice players in Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Kyle Lowry, but they don’t produce much desire to watch them play, and they aren’t producing wins. I would like to see Chase Budinger play… volleyball, that is.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers: If having a Tar Heel on your team gains some bonus points, building around a Dookie will certainly lose you some. Kyrie Irving is going to play a huge role in the Cav’s future which is tough to handle. Their leading scorer right now however, is Antawn Jamison, who I love, but is past his prime. The Cavs are not offering much else right now, inless Anderson Varejao’s hair is a big interest to you.
26. Charlotte Bobcats: DJ Augustin has shown steady improvement in his time in Charlotte, and Boris Diaw is a multi-talented big man; this duo is leading the Bobcats right now. What I really want to see from them is a lot of playing time from the long shot blocking rookie, Bismack Biyombo… and a third comeback from MJ.
25. New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets just lost the best player in their franchise’s history and got a few nice pieces back for him. Eric Gordon is the best of the bunch and will be one of the top shooting guards in the game soon, but he is hurt right now and the league-owned Hornets don’t have a lot of other attracting power.
24. San Antonio Spurs: Four or five years ago, this team would have been much higher on the list. But as the bodies of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili decay, so does their merit. They were never the most exciting team, but they could put on a clinic of how basketball should be played; they can still do that, just at an even more boring level now.
23. Philadelphia 76ers: The league is in a good state right now, because we are still in the bottom third of the teams I would most like to see and from here on out, I would really enjoy seeing any of these teams. The Sixers lack a true star at the moment, but they have a nice, exciting, young core of players that are fun to watch. Led by the glue man of their team, Andre Iguodala, the Sixers can beat you with a variety of young players.
22.Milwaukee Bucks: To me, the merit of seeing this team play lies in Brandon Jennings. You never know when the young point guard is going to explode for thirty on you. He is tough to contain when his jump shot is on and he is attacking the basket. Andrew Bogut, when healthy, is one of the best centers in the game today. And Captain Jack is one of the best at certain player-fan interaction which must bring an anxious buzz to every Bucks game.
21. New Jersey Nets: If Kris Humphries was able to keep a marriage for longer than two months, the Nets might have earned a higher spot on the list. Or if they can manage to bring Dwight Howard to the team, their spot will rise. But for now, Deron Williams and an emerging MarShon Brooks provide reason to go see this team play. Williams is still one of the top two point guards in the game and plays the position almost as well as anyone.
20. Utah Jazz: The Jazz are floating around .500 right now but I feel like they have enough solid players to get going. They have one of the best low post scorers in the game in Big Al Jefferson. They are solid at every position and have a nice pair of rookies in Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. They may be unspectacular but seeing them play as a team with their balances roster is nice.
19. Indiana Pacers: The Pacers are deep with young players filled with energy from top to bottom. Led by the exciting Danny Granger and newcomer David West. Danny Granger is one of the top young players in the league and partly due to that and their depth, they would be fun to watch.
18. Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers are finally playing at an up-tempo pace due in large part to Raymond Felton (a former Tar Heel). Felton has energized the Blazers, but their big duo is LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace. Wallace is one of the most interesting players in the game going full speed one hundred percent of the time. And Aldridge is becoming one of the best big men in the game. His length and alley-oop chemistry with center Marcus Camby are a must-see.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Perhaps one of the best things about seeing the Hawks in person would be the tension felt by the Atlanta fans prior to the game. Every game, they have to be wondering what kind of team is going to show up that night. Josh Smith’s length and athleticism make him one of the most exciting in the game. Other great players Joe Johnson and Al Horford lead this team, but you never know which version of themselves will show up, the team that that beat Miami with Miami’s big three playing, or the team that lost to Miami without D Wade and LeBron.
16. Dallas Mavericks: We know our league is doing well when the defending champs are in the bottom half of my must see list. I would love to see how Dirk can do what he does while being horribly unathletic. Jason Kidd, despite his age continues to be one of the best passers in the league and I also want to make sure that when Shawn Marion shoots the ball, it actually goes in, because right now I can’t see how it does with that form without special effects from ESPN.
15. Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies are another one of those super deep teams with a lot of solid players. Rudy Gay’s athleticism and scoring ability are quite attractive. Zach Randolph is another one of those tough low post players and he always makes you wonder how he gets it done. Also, I would like to ask Marc Gasol when he last shaved.
14. Denver Nuggets: I should probably have this team higher so that the in-laws don’t hold it against me and leave me behind while they take a trip to see their beloved Nuggets. I do love the up-tempo pace they have led by another Tar Heel Ty Lawson. This is another team, like the Jazz who have been better off since the trade of their superstar. This team has a ton of energy coming from guys like Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Nene, and Kenneth Faried. Also, they have the Bird Man who is one of the craziest guys in the league
13. Los Angeles Lakers: I really can’t stand the Lakers, the whole time at the game I would probably be complaining about how much I loathe them. But Kobe is one of the all-time greats and still has the ability to drop forty on you. Pau Gasol is one of the most skilled big guys in the NBA. You never know when Andrew Bynum is going to storm off the court without his jersey or when Ron Ar… I mean Metta World Peace will bring that whole player-fan interaction element into it.
12. Orlando Magic: The Magic’s big draw is obviously their big man, superstar Dwight Howard but they lose big points with contributing Blue Devils, JJ Reddick and Chris Duhon. Howard’s energy and personality make him fun to watch even if he weren’t to have a big game. But seeing how he can make grown men as professional athletes look like children, it is something I would love to see in person, unless it was a 45 point 23 rebound drubbing he laid on my Warriors last night.
11. Phoenix Suns: I won’t lie, this ranking is strictly due to the essentially perfect point guard play of Steve Nash. I am a sucker for great point guard play and Steve Nash does it better than anyone. I don’t understand how a six foot Canadian can do the things he does on a basketball court. He makes everyone better, he gets passes in places where they shouldn’t be able to go and he makes shots that he has no business making. Steve Nash, enough said.
10. Washington Wizards: Yes, this is the worst team in the league. While that may be true, they have some nice, exciting players. John Wall is so fast and explosive, and he may be learning to play in the NBA still, but his skills are undeniably exciting. He has a nice wing man by the name of JaVale McGee. McGee is tall, long and athletic. He probably should have won the Dunk Contest last year but the fan vote messed him over. McGee’s dunking ability and shot blocking ability make him and the Wizards a must see.
9. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls have the reigning MVP and perhaps the most explosive point guard in the game right now. Derrick Rose is so shifty once he gets in the lane and can also just jump right over you. As his jump shot is improving, I don’t know how anyone is supposed to guard him. This year he is passing better as well, he is growing into a true point guard and one of the most complete guards in the league. I would pay just to see him. The team also plays some good ball relying on their strengths and playing some of the best defense in the league(minus points for starters Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng).
8. Sacramento Kings: This is also one of those teams that isnn’t too successful in the wins column yet, but they sure would be fun to see. They lack some pure point guard play, and a point guard would help out the big time scorers in DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, and Jimmer Fredette. I would love to see these guys running in a high scoring game, although there wouldn’t be much defense, or passing for that matter.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: I did not ever think Ricky Rubio would hack it in the NBA. He wasn’t getting it done in Spain, so how could he possibly do it in America against the best. But he is certainly proving all of his doubters wrong so far. His vision is already near the tops of the league and he is making the T’Wolves a very exciting team. Their best player however, is Kevin Love, the rebounding machine. The Timberwolves are one of the fun teams to watch this year because of all the athletes they have and a whiff of some success brooding in the near future.
6. Golden State Warriors: This ranking might be slightly inflated because they are my team, but don’t get me wrong, the Warriors are a fun team to watch. They have one of the most exciting backcourts in the league. Stephen Curry can shoot it as well as anyone, and Monta Ellis can fill it up. They can run and score with the best of them and this year they are finally trying to play some defense.
5. New York Knicks: Madison Square Gardenis home to one of the top tandems in the league right now; Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. It is also one of those arenas/places that I have to visit at some point which also makes the Knicks’ appeal that much greater. As soon as Baron Davis is back, this team is really going to get rolling. Davis lives for situations like this.
4. Boston Celtics: The Celtics, like the Spurs appear to be aging quickly, but when you have the chance to see a team with such great chemistry and players with such special skills, you gotta do it. Ray Allen is the best three point shooter the game has ever seen. Kevin Garnett is as intense a player as they come, and his defense is one of the best. Rajon Rondo, with his athleticism, body and vision makes him such a special player. They are growing older, but remain one of the top teams in the league due do their unselfishness and love for the game.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder have very quickly become one of the best and most exciting teams in the league. Kevin Durrant is as smooth as they come and is the best scorer in the league. Russell Westbrook, with all his weaknesses is one of the top scoring point guards and is so explosive. They have seven footers who can dunk from the free throw line (Serge Ibaka), and explosive beards coming off the bench (James Harden). Basketball can’t be more fun to watch when you watch the Thunder, unless you are living in LA or Miami.
2. Los Angeles Clippers: I have sat here for five minutes now trying to decide who I would rather see. We know that I love point guard play and watching Chris Paul’s masterful play at the position makes me giddy. Blake Griffin is the second best athlete in the league and is the best in game dunker since Vince Carter’s glory days. They have veterans like Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler who have been part of title run’s before. DeAndre Jordan is also an outstanding athlete who blocks shots and also benefits from living in Lob City. While Blake may be the second best athlete out there, number one resides in Miami.
1. Miami Heat: Say what you will, he has been choking in big games, he has some psychological issues, whatever. LeBron James is the best player in the league and the most athletic player in the world. He is leading the league in scoring right now, and is close to double figures in rebounds and assists. Anytime he steps on the court, he is a triple double waiting to happen. Dwyane Wade is not far behind him and when either one gets on the break, its almost an automatic two points. When they are on the break together? Just get out of the way before you end up on a poster that you don’t want to be on. Add in another All-Star in Chris Bosh and hard nosed players like Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier and they really have something going in Miami.
So I won’t really be suffering going to see the Clippers in a couple of weeks. The game these two teams played this week was awesome with a number of highlights. While I will only be seeing the Clippers and the in-laws will only be seeing the Heat, hopefully the basketball world is treated to a big time series come summer time.
Poll Question: Which teams would you most want to see? Who did I rank too high? And too low?