Basketball is, as Kurtis Blow once poetically summarized, my favorite sport. Whether I’m tucked away in the nosebleeds for a home game, or couch-surfing while tuned in to whatever’s live, watching basketball is a pastime that I, along with millions of viewers worldwide, thoroughly enjoy.

But alas, dear reader, a dilemma exists. Not all NBA franchises are created equal. I mean that in many ways, of course, but the one I’ll focus on presently is the inequity of enjoyability. Simply put, some teams are entertaining, other teams are not. Or at least, not as entertaining.

This, of course, is due to a multitude of reasons. Is it a big-market team? Are they expected to compete in any capacity? Do they have a compelling narrative to bolster their audiences, or star players to draw in the crowds? Are they packed with fresh, exciting young talent, or do they rely on their sturdy franchise cornerstones to continue to excel? Did they make any moves whatsoever to pique fan curiosity? Whatever the case may be, all of these factors and more determine how strong an NBA team’s grasp is on the eyes of basketball fans worldwide – or lack thereof.

With the 2020-21 NBA season dawning upon us, I’ve decided to compile a list of what I truly believe will be the ten least exciting franchises to watch – along with their most watch-worthy player. Keep in mind that many of these rankings are based purely on prediction or uncertainty, and are solely my opinion.

(Getty Images)

#10: Portland Trail Blazers

Player to Watch: Damian Lillard, PG

Summary: As heartwarming as Dame’s loyalty to his team is, it’s unlikely Portland will do much beyond squander his prime for another season.

Trail Blazers basketball is pretty cut-and-dry at this point. Lillard’s superstardom will command even the most casual of basketball viewers into witnessing his jaw-dropping buzzer beaters and uncanny ability to tear through opposing defenses. C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will provide incredibly valuable yet often overlooked support as his co-stars.

And yet, Portland never quite has what it takes to be a legitimate contender. 2019 aside, their fate is almost always as a mid-to-low playoff seed, usually falling in the first round. Doses of Carmelo Anthony and Robert Covington will be nice, yes, but they’ll hardly serve as the cure to this perpetual limbo the Blazers seem to be stuck in. Because of this, the team struggles to be as exciting as its star player.

(Getty Images)

#9: Orlando Magic

Player to Watch: Markelle Fultz, PG

Summary: In a relatively turbulent offseason, the Magic were one of the few NBA franchises to remain mostly quiet. Not a complete and total surprise, I guess.

There hasn’t been an “excitement” surrounding the Magic so much as a sort of mildness. Over the last few seasons, their bar has firmly been set between the grounds of fringe playoff team and middle-of-the-pack in the lottery. Given how little Orlando did in the offseason, it’s very likely that bar hasn’t budged.

Nikola Vucevic is a criminally underrated center in today’s NBA, but his (admittedly admirable) loyalty to Orlando is a sort of self-inflicted curse in that regard. Aaron Gordon, entering his seventh season in the NBA, probably won’t take that leap we’ve been expecting from him; on the other hand, Markelle Fultz has the opportunity to build upon his first fully-healthy season since being selected first overall back in 2017. This narrative, however, doesn’t captivate the average basketball fan no matter how compelling.

Suffice to say, the Magic are easily one of the safest, most comfortable picks one can make for a list like this.

(, 12/30/19)

#8: Oklahoma City Thunder

Player to Watch: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG

Summary: After the massive facelift their roster went through in the offseason, it’s a complete and total mystery how fun OKC will be to watch this year. They place here since I have no idea what to expect from them.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the one Thunder player to have consistently started last season, is easily the most anticipated piece on the roster, with All-Star potential radiating from his first season in Oklahoma City. Sophomores Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley will most likely receive starting minutes in their second year.

The rest is anyone’s guess. Hamidou Diallo and Terrance Ferguson have very unclear roles in the Thunder’s system. Veteran acquisitions of Al Horford, George Hill and Trevor Ariza coincide with young newcomers like Ty Jerome, T.J. Leaf and Serbian rookie Aleksej Pokusevski.

Though unlikely to be a playoff team, OKC could be a wild card in terms of watchability.

(Unknown 2020; I apologize for the quality)

#7: Sacramento Kings

Player to Watch: De’Aaron Fox, PG

Summary: This team shouldn’t be here. De’Aaron Fox should be a household name as one of the most exciting young talents in the nation. The Kings should be the franchise everyone loves to watch, even if they aren’t a top dog in the Western Conference.

But it’s here. And no, it’s not Fox’s fault, or Buddy Hield’s, or Marvin Bagley or anyone else’s fault. None of the players can be directly blamed for why the Kings wound up on this list.

It’s Luke Walton’s.

In his first season as Kings’ head coach, Walton transformed one of the top fast-break teams in the league into a slow, sloppy batch of molasses. He had one of the fastest point guards in the league at his disposal, as well as a crop of energetic young players, and he slowed the pace of their game down to the point where it became agonizing. Highlight reel-worthy plays became so much harder to find once Walton took the reigns.

Maybe this season he’s learned his lesson. For Sacramento fans’ sakes, I hope so.

(Getty Images; once again, I apologize for the quality)

#6: Indiana Pacers

Player to Watch: T.J. Warren, SF

Summary: (This is speculation, of course. If we get the Disneyland Bubble version of T.J. Warren back to start this season, Indiana is easily off this list.)

Sometimes being a good team doesn’t make you an exciting team. That happens to be the case for the Indiana Pacers, who have been a consistent playoff team – as well as a consistent first-round exit – for half a decade now.

Make no mistake, Indy has talent. Victor Oladipo, though shaky as a result of his injuries, is still an elite two-way guard. Domantas Sabonis notched his first All-Star appearance upon emerging as a versatile, multi-dimensional big man. Players like Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner and T.J. Warren flesh out an extremely impressive starting five.

But, whether due to small-market woes, their routine playoff underperformance, or other potential factors, the Pacers aren’t must-watch television. They’re simply a team of very, very good basketball players whose effectiveness comes through making the right moves, and not through an attention-grabbing style of play (save for, again, a surprising eight-game stint from Warren).

(Getty Images)

#5: Chicago Bulls

Player to Watch: Zach LaVine, SG

Summary: I don’t know how to feel about the Bulls this season. On the one hand, Zach LaVine is always fun, if not a little frustrating, to watch. Plus, there’s the possibility that Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, Jr. will take that big step forward we’ve been waiting for.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to predict what we’ll actually be getting. Coby White will light up a game, then disappear for the next. Their top-four draft pick went to Patrick Williams, who lacks the starpower some of his fellow lottery picks have but whose potential is unknown. Otto Porter, over the one-and-a-half seasons he’s spent in Chicago, has played 19 collective games. This team could be an absolute blast to watch, or they could stagnate once more. It’s one hell of a mixed bag.

With Jim Boylen finally gone, a dark cloud has vanished over the Windy City. Billy Donovan is a pretty solid coach – maybe he’ll finally make the Bulls fully worth my attention.

(Eric Schelkun)

#4: New York Knicks

Player to Watch: Obi Toppin, PF

Summary: Last year, I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought about placing New York on a list like this. But between a circus of head coaches, young players falling below expectations, and the worst management in the NBA, I’ve about given up on watching Knicks basketball.

The absolutely palpable hype surrounding R.J. Barrett’s rookie season is wafer-thin barely a year later. Players like Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, who once excited so many New Yorkers as gleams of hope for the future, have been reduced to afterthoughts or even punchlines throughout most of the NBA community. Hardly anybody outside of the Big Apple is going to tune in to a Knicks game to watch Julius Randle or Elfrid Payton. (Which is a shame, since they’re missing out on Mitchell Robinson being pretty damn impressive.)

Whatever excitement I may have had for the Knicks to finally right the ship and push closer to the playoff picture has almost completely dissipated. I wish the best for Obi Toppin, given how poorly so many other coveted draft prospects have fared under James Dolan and company.


#3: Cleveland Cavaliers

Player to Watch: Collin Sexton, SG

Summary: Call it the LeBron Effect. After four straight Eastern Conference crowns and an NBA Finals victory, the Cavaliers immediately plunged to the bottom of the power rankings once King James took his talents to L.A. Naturally, a dip in fan excitement ensued.

It’s not like Cleveland has nothing to watch – Kevin Love is still quite valuable, and a young, dynamic frontcourt of Sexton and Darius Garland holds plenty of potential. The Andre Drummond acquisition was also a decent move; though Drummond isn’t exactly a prime-time talent, he still carries vapors of All-Star ability.

But even with all these names, there’s that nagging in the back of every NBA fan’s brain that knows this team won’t be any good. Somehow, some way, the Cavs will win no more than 25-30 games. It’s this particular brand of nihilism that makes Cleveland basketball such a turn-off for myself and many others.

(Getty Images)

#2: San Antonio Spurs

Player to Watch: DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF

Summary: Even at their absolute best, it was difficult to call the Spurs “exciting” basketball. Good basketball? Yes. Phenomenal basketball, even. But the Spurs weren’t ever the most electric team on the court, even with Duncan, Parker, Kawhi, etc.

And they’re certainly not electric now.

For the first time in over two decades, San Antonio missed out on the playoffs, and it’s unlikely they’ll bounce back anytime soon. LaMarcus Aldridge is aging before our eyes. The young core – Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV – are all good players, but none of them have legitimate star potential. Even DeMar DeRozan’s starpower is dwindling by the day.

With Gregg Popovich’s future as the Spurs’ head coach now questionable, the sports empire he helped build has now crumbled to dust, with no easy way to restore it to its former glory. We’ll just have to hope Devin Vassell wildly exceeds our expectations, I guess.

(NBC Sports Bay Area)

#1: Detroit Pistons

Player to Watch: Killian Hayes, PG/SG

Summary: Earlier this week, a friend of mine asked me what I thought the Pistons’ starting five would look like for their season opener. I named two players, Hayes and Blake Griffin (leaving off presumed sixth man Derrick Rose), before I caved and had to look up their roster.

Needless to say, that’s an enormous red flag. I’m modestly adept at following and memorizing preseason trades, but the Pistons were so under the radar this season that there were several names I’d either completely forgotten, or never even noticed, had landed on their roster. (Did you know they acquired Delon Wright and Josh Jackson?)

As is, this franchise rests squarely in the grounds of tanking. Detroit’s sights are set on lottery success in 2021; unfortunately, this means that fans of Motown basketball must sit through yet another abysmal season. Whatever riches the Pistons haul in the next offseason come at the price of who knows how many games’ worth of grueling, unpleasant losing.

But hey, at least season tickets come cheap this year. Really, really cheap.

By Myst