Ranking the 2012-13 NBA Season's Most Thrilling Teams
"I thought I would never, ever see Showtime again. And I was the architect of Showtime. The Clippers? That's Showtime." —Magic Johnson
Magic made this proclamation back on Christmas Day, and it's hard to fault him for giving it up to the Lakers' cross-town rivals.
There is an obvious correlation between exciting teams and good teams. Connected to that correlation is a parallel between good teams and Western Conference squads.
Of the five most exciting NBA franchises, we're only naming one from the lesser conference. Somehow, the conference that will likely produce playoff teams such as the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls has an entertainment deficit.
Who could have thunk it?
We're seeing some of the best basketball the league has offered in quite some time. As I type, five Western Conference teams are on pace for 55-win seasons. That, my friends, is some well-distributed quality.
Not to mention thrills.
5. Houston Rockets: Team Moneyball
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
This is the newest-feeling team, but it's also a fun one to chart for nerds like myself. Daryl Morey is practicing a new Moneyball technique in Houston, snatching players who were producing in lesser roles elsewhere.
James Harden was a sixth man, and Morey bet that he could make it as a franchise player. So far, so good.
Omer Asik's contract was scoffed at because people generally pay more for offense than defense. Well, Omer has been crucial to making Houston a playoff contender.
Jeremy Lin was dismissed as a flash in the pan. Well, on that last one, the jury's still out. Still, Lin's involvement makes this unconventional, stat-rebellious squad all the more entertaining.
Among merely above-average teams, this one is a treat.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: From Russia with Love
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The Timberwolves have been ravaged by injuries in the early going, but at full capacity, this team would rank higher than fourth in the entertainment division.
Ricky Rubio is a wizard with the ball, perceiving angles that physics has yet to discover. Kevin Love has become a stretch 4, meaning that he can do dirty work inside and drain three pointers like an offguard.
The entertainment factor doesn't stop with the two best-known players, though.
Alexey Shved has come over from Europe, toting an AND1 mixtape style that would fit better in Rucker Park than in his native Russia. Andrei Kirilenko, who share's Shved's homeland, has reclaimed his NBA career from the death grip of Jerry Sloan's hands. Also, Nikola Pekovic wields his post-up in the most violent manner possible.
Other than that, I can't think of anything unusual about how this team looks. Nothing, at all.
3. New York Knicks: Spreading the Wealth
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
There was a time when whatever J.R. Smith just tweeted might account for the most interesting Knicks development. Now, this team entertains legitimately, without irony.
Credit coach Mike Woodson for implementing an effective spread pick-and-roll system. Under Woodson, Carmelo Anthony has moved to power forward, where he's playing the best basketball of his career.
If watching Melo finally realize his talent isn't enough for you, the Knicks also boast an array of three-point assassins. New York loves the long ball, ranking first in the league in made threes per contest.
For those who love bigs, the Knicks trot out the league's best center. That's right, Tyson Chandler is No. 1 in the center rankings right now. Should Dwight Howard ever return to form, that could change. Today, it's Tyson.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: The Offensive Juggernaut
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
The best offensive team has to be included, right?
The Thunder are first in offensive efficiency (via ESPN) and it's no wonder as to why. Kevin Durant might be the best offensive player in basketball, or at the very least, top-three. Russell Westbrook is a dynamo—a basket-seeking missile who boasts more quick-twitch leaping and agility than anyone else in the sport.
Though James Harden is off the squad, his absence has been compensated for. Kevin Martin has less of a role than Harden did, but serves his purpose to a hilt, hitting 45.5 percent of his threes. Serge Ibaka has also improved on the offensive end, swishing the pick-and-pop jumper with increasing ease.
If it weren't for their insistence on playing Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder would be the No. 1 team in these rankings. Perhaps that change will come soon, though.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Harry How/Getty Images
For the Clippers, this season has been about transitioning from "Lob City" to "Showtime: The Sequel."
The former implies quality in the one, fun area of dunking. The latter implies a total, crushing offense—one that actually results in championship-level play.
The Clippers have that, but their defense has helped them win more games this season, thus allowing fans to appreciate their offense as more than a gimmick. The team was entertaining since its construction, thanks to the gravity-defying play of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul's maestro puppeteering.
The bench has also upped the entertainment quotient this season. Eric Bledsoe is a brutally athletic force on both ends of the floor. Jamal Crawford has the game's best crossover and deep shooting for miles. Finally, Lamar Odom is slimming down into the unique offensive force that we remember from his Laker days.