When I was in middle and high school, I’d typically go to one NBA regular season and watch another on TV. I’d follow the league for sure, but I didn’t set aside time to watch NBA basketball. College has been an entirely different experience, whether because of my friends’ devotion to the league, my fantasy basketball matchups or the resurgent Orlando Magic. I don’t think that trend will change any time soon.
Every league has its advantages and appeals and the NBA is no different. What I love about the NBA is the joy of watching the unique playing styles of the NBA’s best players. There’s a definite fear of missing out when Steph Curry is lighting it up from three, Kyrie Irving is dicing up opponents and breaking ankles, Zion is dunking over defenders and Damian Lillard is nailing game winners.
Instead of a formal 2020-21 NBA Preview, I decided to design my preview as more of an entertainment guide. Like the league pass rankings that a lot of publications post, this guide, the Remote Drop Guide to the NBA Season, ranks teams in tears based on interest, but is certainly personal to my preferences (especially in uniform matchups). Most of the tier list was based on five factors: talent, drama, jerseys, big names, and my personal investment, either for or against the team or certain players. Enjoy!
Tier 1: Remote Droppers- Unless Monsters Inc. is on, I’m not changing the channel
Talent A | Drama A+ | Jerseys A- | Big Names A+ | Investment B
Why They Could Be Good: Kevin Durant will make his debut in the Nets’ black and white threads, and the tandem of Durant and point guard Kyrie Irving is the best duo in the East if healthy. The rest of the roster is filled out by talented role guys like center Jarrett Allen and shooting guard Caris LeVert.
Why I’ll Be Watching: This is the superstar duo that we never got to see last season due to injury. A healthy Durant is must-watch TV, and Irving ensures that drama will ensue.
Los Angeles Lakers
Talent A+ | Drama A | Jerseys B+ | Big Names A+ | Investment A-
Why They Could Be Good: They just won the NBA title, for starters. They also happen to have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, arguably the two best players in basketball. And in the bubble, that star power meshed together marvelously.
Why I’ll Be Watching: The Lakers also have Alex Caruso. But for me, the chief joy in watching them is rooting against them, and they’ll certainly be villains as they look to defend their title.
Talent A- | Drama A- | Jerseys A+ | Big Names A | Investment B+
Why They Could Be Good: The Heat won the East, and it wasn’t a fluke. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are top-15 NBA players and there’s no reason this team should drop off in 2020-21.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Miami mixes flair with grit, lighting it up from the perimeter while also diving for loose balls. I’ll also be transfixed by the tie-die Miami Vice jerseys.
Talent A- | Drama A- | Jerseys A+ | Big Names A- | Investment B
Why They Could Be Good: The undefeated bubble streak didn’t end in the playoffs, but the Suns are looking forward to finally emerging from their rebuilding process this season. DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker are joined by experienced point guard Chris Paul in what should be a competitive Western Conference squad.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Kelly Oubre is gone, but the Suns start three great basketball talents and should be as competitive as they’ve been this decade. Plus, I drafted DeAndre Ayton in fantasy.
Talent B- | Drama B+ | Jerseys A | Big Names B- | Investment A+
Why They Could Be Good: A strong Nik Vucevic season is a given, plus Markelle Fultz, Aaron Gordon and Cole Anthony could take off as they gain NBA experience. At the very least, this is a team that has made the playoffs two years in a row and the core and coaching staff is intact.
Why I’ll Be Watching: They’re my favorite team, and this season will be crucial in the development of Orlando’s young guns.
Talent A | Drama A+ | Jerseys A- | Big Names A+ | Investment B
Why They Could Be Good: Luka Doncic should be an MVP frontrunner and last year is only the start of his reign atop the NBA. If Kristaps Porzingis can stay healthy, this could be a top seed in the West.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Doncic might be the true successor to LeBron James. His games never disappoint.
New Orleans Pelicans
Talent B+ | Drama B+ | Jerseys A- | Big Names A- | Investment B+
Why They Could Be Good: After an abbreviated rookie year due to injury, forward Zion Williamson should be in full force this season. Between Williamson, forward Brandon Ingram and playmaker Lonzo Ball (my fantasy point guard), the future is bright in the Big Easy.
Why I’ll Be Watching: For the highlights. A full season of Williamson will be awesome.
Tier Two: Got Any More of Them ___ Games? – Easily Addicted
Talent B+ | Drama B | Jerseys B | Big Names B+ | Investment B
Why They Could Be Good: The Grizzlies soared up the Western Conference standings in what was thought to be a rebuilding year and very nearly took the eighth seed in the competitive West. Another year should do wonders for a young Memphis squad.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Ja Morant is the Lamar Jackson of the NBA. The wins might not all be there immediately, but the highlights definitely will be.
Golden State Warriors
Talent B+ | Drama B+ | Jerseys B+ | Big Names A- | Investment A-
Why They Could Be Good: Steph Curry returns, and while Klay Thompson will be out for the season, morale should be up in San Francisco. A healthy Curry plus promising young players could mean a return to the playoffs, or at least the play-in games.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Curry is my fantasy team’s first round draft pick and is obviously a Hall of Fame talent with no shortage of long threes. Kelly Oubre’s on the team, too.
Talent A | Drama A | Jerseys B+ | Big Names A | Investment B
Why They Could Be Good: Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is staying in Milwaukee for the long term. The Bucks made a win-now move by trading for Jrue Holiday, who will form a Big Three along with Giannis and Khris Middleton. They’re the favorites in the East.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I want to know what all NBA fans are waiting for – Giannis and the Bucks to turn it on in the playoffs.
Talent C+ | Drama C+ | Jerseys A+ | Big Names B | Investment C+
Why They Could Be Good: Charlotte added two players, LaMelo Ball via the draft and Gordon Hayward from Boston. Those two are instantly their best two players, meaning improvement could be imminent in Buzz City.
Why I’ll Be Watching: LaMelo Ball has been lighting it up in the preseason with unbelievable passes. I’d expect no different the next couple months.
Portland Trail Blazers
Talent A- | Drama B+ | Jerseys B | Big Names A- | Investment B
Why They Could Be Good: The Trail Blazers slipped out of the playoff picture before capturing the eight seed at the last moment. Damian Lillard returns along with a couple of intriguing additions, including Robert Covington and Derrick Jones.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I want to see Dame Time live, instead of in a highlight reel.
Talent B | Drama B+ | Jerseys B- | Big Names A- | Investment A-
Why They Could Be Good: The offense will be booming. Russell Westbrook comes to town to replace the previously injured John Wall, and the Westbrook-Bradley Beal will be something to behold.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I’m watching Beal for fantasy purposes, but I’m hoping the Magic can stave off the Wizards’ efforts to take the eight seed.
Talent A | Drama A+ | Jerseys B | Big Names A- | Investment B-
Why They Could Be Good: The Sixers return Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, along with an interesting chocolate box of pieces including newcomer Seth Curry and the inconsistent Tobias Harris. Doc Rivers brings his established coaching record to a team with plenty of potential.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Daryl Morey (the three-point-centric mind behind Houston’s last couple years) plus Ben Simmons (who is notoriously averse to the 3) should be interesting to watch. I’m also not a big fan of “The Process” and would love nothing more than to see First Take-worthy drama in Philly.
Talent A- | Drama B+ | Jerseys A | Big Names A- | Investment B+
Why They Could Be Good: Jayson Tatum’s leap to stardom made Boston serious title contenders, and though the Celtics lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, this young roster should have every opportunity to contend again this season.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Kemba Walker is one of my favorite players. I also enjoy watching Jayson Tatum emerge as a superstar, and who could resist the Celtics’ classic green threads.
Tier Three: I Could Watch A Few – It’s Good NBA Basketball, After All
Los Angeles Clippers
Talent A | Drama A+ | Jerseys B- | Big Names A+ | Investment B
Why They Could Be Good: Forget about last year’s playoff debacle. The Clippers return Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and still have championship potential.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Will it all combust gloriously again? Or can Kawhi Leonard, one of my favorite players to watch back when he was a college player, rise to an MVP level in the playoffs? We will see.
Talent B+ | Drama A+ | Jerseys B+ | Big Names A | Investment B-
Why They Could Be Good: James Harden is still in Houston for now, and as long as he’s there the Rockets are in the mix to make the playoffs. With GM Daryl Morey and his edicts now out of town, the Rockets’ style of play could be one of the more interesting changes of the season.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I’m morbidly curious to see John Wall’s second act in Houston. Him, and Bougie Cousins.
Tampa Bay Raptors
Talent A- | Drama B- | Jerseys B | Big Names A- | Investment B+
Why They Could Be Good: A trip down to Florida instead of Toronto should not drop the Raptors off the Eastern Conference’s list of contenders. Pascal Siakam could make the jump to full-time superstar with greater efficiency and O.G. Anunoby is a candidate to make a leap of his own.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Siakam is a fantastic young player for appointment viewing. Kyle Lowry’s hustle always makes for a good time, too.
Talent B- | Drama A- | Jerseys A- | Big Names B | Investment B+
Why They Could Be Good: New coach Billy Donovan has plenty to work with, from talented but inconsistent starters Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen to electric second-year point guard Coby White. A playoff/play-in bid is not out of the picture for this young squad.
Why I’ll Be Watching: They’re going to be on the local channels for me, and there’s enough exciting young talent to make up for the consistent malaise of the Chicago Bulls organization.
Talent B | Drama B+ | Jerseys D+ | Big Names B | Investment B+
Why They Could Be Good: The Hawks are stacked with above-average talents surrounding the electric Trae Young. That could be enough to push Atlanta out of rebuilding mode and into the playoffs.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I want them to lose. Big-time. I also want John Collins to stuff the stats columns. Maybe a couple Trae Young between-the-legs passes too.
Talent B+ | Drama B+ | Jerseys B- | Big Names A- | Investment C
Why They Could Be Good: There are some big names on this roster, from big man Karl-Anthony Towns to point guard D’Angelo Russell to first overall pick Anthony Edwards. We saw the Grizzlies and Thunder emerge as surprise contenders in the West last year, so the T-Wolves could be next in line.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I need to check out Towns, a transcendent big man who is as prolific from the perimeter as the post. Ricky Rubio and his flashy passing are also back in town.
Talent A- | Drama B+ | Jerseys D+ | Big Names A- | Investment C+
Why They Could Be Good: Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are as elite a backcourt-frontcourt couple as it gets in the West. Michael Porter Jr. is capable of making the jump to make that duo a Big Three and push the Nuggets into the Los Angeles stratosphere of title contenders.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I’ll stomach the awful jerseys to watch the Murray-Jokic duo.
San Antonio Spurs
Talent B | Drama C- | Jerseys A | Big Names B | Investment B+
Why They Could Be Good: There’s a mix of the old (DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge) and the new (Lonnie Walker, Dejounte Murray) on this San Antonio roster. The Spurs also have some guy named Gregg Popovich as their coach, so you can only count them out to a certain extent.
Why I’ll Be Watching: The fiesta jerseys.
Tier Four: Sickos Only – When does baseball start?
Talent A- | Drama A+ | Jerseys D- | Big Names A- | Investment B-
Why They Could Be Good: Donovan Mitchell is one of the best guards in the game. Utah is one of the Western Conference playoff regulars and there’s no reason, barring a fistfight between their two stars, that the Jazz shouldn’t return.
Why I’ll Be Watching: If they wear their 1997 throwbacks, I might tune in to see Mitchell light up defenses and occasionally lose it on Rudy Gobert.
Talent B+ | Drama B | Jerseys B+ | Big Names B | Investment C-
Why They Could Be Good: The Pacers have made the playoffs the last couple seasons and are hoping a coaching change can spark a turnaround and boost Indiana to the next level of contention. Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis are underrated but All Star-worthy if healthy.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I’ll be interested to see whether the curious firing of Nate McMillan will help or hurt the Pacers, who seemed to have one of the best cultures in the sport.
Talent C+ | Drama C | Jerseys B+ | Big Names B- | Investment C-
Why They Could Be Good: DeAndre Fox should be healthier, and between Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley, there’s young talent on this Kings team. And it was only a couple seasons ago that we saw Sacramento seriously contend for a playoff spot.
Why I’ll Be Watching: Buddy Hield is on my fantasy team, and DeAndre Fox is so speedy that I don’t know if I’ll be able to look away from woeful Sacramento.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Talent C+ | Drama D+ | Jerseys C- | Big Names C- | Investment C-
Why They Could Be Good: The expectations were as low as it could get heading into 2019-20 and the Thunder almost won a playoff series. I expect Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to make a massive jump and emerge as the face of Oklahoma City’s future.
Why I’ll Be Watching: SGA, and not much else.
Talent C | Drama D | Jerseys C+ | Big Names C | Investment D-
Why They Could Be Good: I’ll be honest, I can’t think of a strong argument. Maybe Blake Griffin will have a resurgent season?
Why I’ll Be Watching: Blake Griffin.
New York Knicks
Talent C- | Drama D | Jerseys C+ | Big Names D | Investment D
Why They Could Be Good: Thom Thibodeau is the coach, and while the championship pieces are not on the roster quite yet, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and R.J. Barrett are players I’d want on the Magic.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I probably won’t be. Maybe to check on Elfrid Payton?
Talent D+ | Drama D | Jerseys D+ | Big Names B- | Investment B-
Why They Could Be Good: They won’t.
Why I’ll Be Watching: I won’t.