With the start of the 2012-13 NBA regular season nearing, You Only Blog Once is previewing the season with a series of "countdown" posts.
Tuesday: 7 storylines to watch for this season.
Wednesday: 6 players on a ring-quest.
Today: 5 League Pass Choice teams
Let's flash back to a time a few years ago, when I had awful cable service. My cable company didn't offer NBATV, and therefore obviously didn't have the option for NBA League Pass. Fortunately, the NBA invented a product to meet the needs of customers like me: League Pass Broadband. You could watch every non-national TV game on your computer. But the broadband product -- with its broadband quality streaming -- cost the same price as the full League Pass option. As a low-cost option, the league offered "League Pass Choice." It was about 60% the cost of the full product, and you got every non-national game for seven teams of your choosing.
The league has since lowered the number of teams available via League Pass Choice (to five) and raised the price (LP Choice is now $119.99, 67% of the cost of full LP Broadband), but there are those out there that need to save every dollar they can, and League Pass Choice helps. It's also worth noting that if you're just looking to watch every game for one team, your favorite team, then League Pass Choice isn't a bad option. Even if your team is on national TV 30 times, you're still only paying $2.31 per game for the rest of the games, and you'd get the games of four other teams thrown in at no additional charge. (Sorry, I didn't mean for that to sound as much like an ad for LPBB Choice as it did. My bad.)
So which teams should you pick as your League Pass Choice teams? Well, ideally you want teams that are fun to watch and aren't on national TV too often (and it goes without saying you want OUT OF MARKET teams, since games available in your local area -- whether you have cable or not -- are going to be blacked out). Here are five that I think will fit the bill this season. All of them are on national TV 15 or fewer times, including NBATV games which are also blacked out on LPBB, and none of them appear on ABC, the league's only over-the-air network affiliate.
National TV Games: 14 (8 NBATV, 3 TNT, 3 ESPN)
The Wolves spent all summer being everyone's presumptive League Pass darling, then Kevin Love went down with a broken hand, keeping him out at least for the first week of the season, and potentially up to the first month. Still, if you're picking League Pass teams, you have to have Minnesota on your list.
Once healthy, the combination of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love will be one of the most enjoyable in the league. Plus, Minnesota has enough pieces around those two that if things break right (or at least stop breaking wrong), they could be in contention for the 8th seed. And none of their 14 national TV appearances comes after March 15, meaning their most meaningful basketball (potentially) will be League Pass-friendly.
National TV Games: 12 (5 NBATV, 5 ESPN, 2 TNT)
How are the Pacers not on national TV more? Yes, they play at a bit of a slow pace (19th out of 30 teams last season) and yes, they don't have a true "superstar", but this is the team that put a serious scare into the Miami Heat in the second round of last year's playoffs and has a decent young core.
Danny Granger never quite made that leap beyond All-Star to superstar, but that doesn't mean he's useless. Paul George is still fully capable of making that leap, and very well could do so this season. David West is no longer the player he was when he was teamed with Chris Paul in New Orleans, but he's probably only a level below that, and Roy Hibbert is one of the league's few legit centers, and a social media superstar to boot.
I think it's entirely possible the Pacers will be the second-best team in the East, and they're going to be more fun to watch than their pace would suggest. Plus they don't play a national TV game until January, so they can easily be your go-to team while you're skipping Wolves games waiting for Rubio and Love to come back.
National TV Games: 6 (4 NBATV, 2 ESPN)
Toney Douglas: Starting Point Guard".
Beyond Jeremy Lin-fueled excitement, the Rockets are a fascinating experiment in team-building. Essentially they're a collection of assets put together in hopes of landing a superstar that now has to function as a basketball team. They've got approximately 73 forwards on the roster and the majority of their rotation is made up of guys still on their rookie contracts (or in that experience range).
Houston also has perhaps the most fascinating personal story in the NBA in Royce White, who will be trying to adjust to the NBA while battling an anxiety disorder. White has been incredibly open about his issues, shining a light on mental illness and how it affects him in hopes of helping others. I know I'll be rooting for him.
Lastly, Houston plays in one of the most competitive divisions in the NBA. It has 12 games against Dallas, San Antonio and Memphis, none of which are on national TV (ditto for their three games against OKC).
National TV Games: 15 (8 ESPN, 4 TNT, 3 NBATV)
I was going to skip the Nuggets because they appeared to have a heavier national TV schedule than would normally be considered "League Pass-friendly", but they only have one more appearance than the Timberwolves (the difference: 12 of Denver's 15 games are "true" national TV games, while just 6 of Minnesota's 14 are).
But there are two reasons why Denver HAS to be on this list:
1. The Nuggets could easily be one of the best regular season teams in the West, and by extension the entire league.
They've got incredible talent and depth, and probably the best homecourt advantage in the league. They may not end up being a title contender come playoff time, but they're going to be very good and very watchable from November to April, which is all that matters for League Pass purposes.
2. JaVale McGee.
I'm not quite as sold on JaVale's potential as other people -- I doubt he'll ever quite grasp the game enough to become anything more than a supporting player -- but there's always the chance in any game that he'll do something you've never seen before.
He's really a one-man #LeaguePassAlert.
National TV Games: 4 (3 NBATV, 1 ESPN)
I've already extolled the virtues of Kyrie Irving in this countdown series, and this won't be the last time I do so. He was one of the most exciting players in the league last season and is going to inject himself in the discussion of best point guards in the league this year. And yet if you don't have League Pass, you'll only see him four times -- and potentially only once unless you have the special tier of cable/satellite service on which NBATV resides. Sure, you could catch the highlights, but some of what makes Irving great doesn't show up in highlights.
(Also, quickly, if you're a fan of pure hatred, all four of Cleveland's games against the Heat will be League Pass games.)
But one man does not a League Pass team make. Cleveland also has rookie Dion Waiters, whose progress will be fascinating to track. He was one of the more shocking picks on draft day, having shut down his workouts early despite not being a starter at Syracuse, but advanced stats actually project him to be really good. Personality-wise, C.J. Miles is an underrated social media star (he's a fan of "Community", which makes him awesome in my book) and not a bad player either.
Are there going to be stretches where Cleveland is tough to watch? Sure, but that's why you get five teams, not one.