All-League Pass Team: 5 must-watch teams in 2021-22
Michael C. Wright shares his list of teams to catch on NBA League Pass during the 2021-22 season.
The smorgasbord of nationally-televised games for fans of the four teams in the Los Angeles (69 games) and New York (66 games) markets dwarf the combined 62 contests this season featuring the 12 teams with fewer than 10 such outings.
Thankfully, we’ve got NBA League Pass to save the day.
So, hoops heads looking to find all the exciting and fun matchups not available on national television should check out the free seven-day trial of NBA League Pass here.
From there, let’s quickly rewind for a look at last season’s All-League Pass Team, which also featured our “Sixth Team of the Year.”
Keep in mind, the main requirement for the All-League Pass Team is that each club featured here plays in fewer than 10 nationally-televised games this season. Of the teams listed in this space headed into last season, two (Atlanta and Phoenix) advanced to the conference finals, with the Suns rolling all the way to The Finals. Washington and Portland made brief playoff appearances, too, resulting in first-round exits, as Charlotte — which entered 2020-21 as our “Sixth Team of the Year” — generated enough momentum in the middle of the season behind 19-year-old rookie LaMelo Ball to advance to the Play-In Tournament.
Will similar surprises emerge from this year’s All-League Pass Team?
Here’s a look at five teams with fewer than 10 nationally-televised games that are worth peeking in on through NBA League Pass, along with our “Sixth Team of the Year.”
Six months later, Kevin Porter Jr. is likely still smoldering after this incredible 50-piece from late April, when the then-20 year old became the youngest player in NBA history to amass 50 points and 10 assists in a contest. This Rockets squad should transition quickly from the James Harden era, given all the young talent packed on the roster. We’re not sure what will become of John Wall. But we’re certainly excited to watch No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green alongside Porter, as well as 16th pick Alperen Sengun, 24th pick Josh Christopher and steady veterans Christian Wood and Daniel Theis. Remember, Wood was flat-out balling before a sprained right ankle knocked him out of action for an extended period. And to think, we’ve gone this far without even mentioning promising youngsters Kenyon Martin Jr. and Jae’Sean Tate. Youth and inexperience will lead to plenty of mistakes, but you can expect plenty of fun and eye-popping highlights from this collection of top-notch talent.
Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported that Miles Bridges will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season after failing to reach agreement on a rookie-scale extension before Monday’s deadline. So, somebody’s getting dunked on this season by Bridges on multiple occasions, with the ultra-confident and exciting Ball tossing the lobs. Bridges’ game continues to blossom in all facets. In fact, he’s coming off a 2020-21 season in which he posted 11 double-doubles, including eight coming off the bench. In August, the Hornets added Kelly Oubre Jr., who is known to put on a show after big plays. And we’d be remiss to not mention the playmaking Gordon Hayward, who recently recovered from COVID-19 (but will be available for the opener against Indiana). Rookie James Bouknight, the No. 11 pick in 2021, looks promising, too. Stay tuned.
There are plenty of young, promising players on this squad. Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are both working to return from knee injuries, while the recently re-signed Wendell Carter Jr. and Jalen Suggs — the fifth pick of the 2021 NBA Draft — round out a talented core. Orlando boasts a nice collection of guards in Fultz, Suggs, Cole Anthony, Gary Harris and Michael Carter-Williams for new coach Jamahl Mosley to play alongside veteran swingman Terrence Ross. Few expected Suggs, a likely candidate for Kia NBA Rookie of the Year, to fall all the way to No. 5. But the Magic, which also landed Franz Wagner at No. 8, certainly aren’t complaining. Did we mention RJ Hampton, Mo Bamba and Chuma Okeke, who finished his rookie season ranked No. 3 among his class in deflections per 36 minutes (3.1)? Talent galore.
Get your NBA League Pass fix right here in this matchup with Minnesota hosting another member of the All-League Pass Team in the Rockets to open the season. Colleague Steven Aschburner chronicled last month’s wild front-office shakeup in Minnesota a week before the opening of training camp, but don’t sleep on the talent. We didn’t get to see it last season. That’s because the team’s best players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell — started a grand total last season of just eight games together in 2020-21, and Malik Beasley played in just 37 games. So, we haven’t really seen what this foursome can do on the floor together. Throw in Jaden McDaniels, the 28th pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, and this starting lineup just might be cooking with grease this season.
We get it, the roster lacks star power and starters such as Caris LeVert (back) and T.J. Warren (foot) are dealing with injuries. But from this vantage point, we’re talking about what appears to be at least a 40-win team with just five nationally-televised games. Really? Justifiably, Indiana gets dinged for its porous defense. The Pacers allowed 53.8 points per game in the paint last season, which registered as the highest opponent mark for any team in 25 years for which points in the paint have been tracked, per John Schuhmann. But the return of coach Rick Carlisle for his second stint in Indiana brings optimism the Pacers can fix what ails them defensively, all while maintaining their offensive prowess. Two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis averaged a career-high 20.3 points and 6.7 assists per game last season.
Sixth Team of the Year
Oklahoma City Thunder
This young team will be super fun to watch, but you can expect mistakes and inconsistency. Oklahoma City’s two oldest players (Mike Muscala and Derrick Favors) are 30 years old. They’ve got two teenagers (Josh Giddey and Aleksej Pokusevski) and a bunch of players in their early 20s, including budding stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (23) and Lu Dort (22). The sixth pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, Giddey is already flashing signs of star power. You’ll see even more as this exciting player continues to grow alongside Gilgeous-Alexander. You can also expect plenty of diversity with the lineups and combinations, as coach Mark Daigneault (who is known for his player-development acumen) and general manager Sam Presti continue to work to build a perennial contender reflective of the city’s values. The franchise won’t rush the slow process of returning to contention, but OKC has amassed enough promising young players to make it all interesting to watch.
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