NBA Fun and Gun: Are the New York Knicks the Coolest Team in the League?
With the prize acquisitions of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, the New York Knicks are no longer just a fun team. They are a competitive team.
We're not hear to talk about their new-found contender status, though.
We want to talk about the NBA's most fun teams to watch.
The NBA is an entertainment based league. It's not all about the game; its about who is in the crowd, it's about rare feats of athleticism, it's about fun contests and promos and music in the arena.
When the team that occupies the building is compelling to watch, that's just a bonus. Once a franchise gets you in your seat at the arena, they don't really care what the score is, they just need to keep you coming back.
With the huge influx of special talent in today's NBA, the quality of product is improving across the league. Some teams still stink, but a good number are good or getting better. Good, however, is not the same as entertaining or fun.
In terms of fun and entertainment value, these are the top nine teams that the NBA has to offer.
9. San Antonio Spurs
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The Spurs are perennially boring, and Tim Duncan deserves credit for a lot of that.
Duncan, frankly, has always been a boring player. His consistency and fundamentals are not flashy, neither is his athletic ability. He's arguably the best power forward of all-time, but no one will mistake him for an entertainer.
This year, the Spurs have overcome Duncan's monotony in an incredible deviation from their identity. Their 103.4 points per game ranks fifth in the Western Conference, and more than they've averaged in the last 14 years. More telling is their points allowed, which is also their highest in the Duncan Era.
The Spurs possess the vibrant styles of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, two of the most exciting players at their position, and definitely worth the price of admission.
The philosophical shift by Gregg Popovich to open up the offense and relax a little on defense is curious, but it's working.
The Spurs are 50-11, best in the league, and are a lot more fun to watch than they have been.
8. Boston Celtics
Point guard Rajon Rondo is the primary reason for the Celtics making this list. His athletic ability, creativity with the ball and passing vision make him unlike any other point guard in the league. Rondo has his fair share of "Wow!" moments.
Kevin Garnett's intensity, Ray Allen's three-point shooting and Shaquille O'Neal's presence are secondary reasons.
The way Garnett infuses his team with the energy to play team defense is great to watch, as the five players on the floor actually like each other enough to cover each other's mistakes on defense.
Ray Allen, the all-time leader in three-pointers made, is shooting the ball as well in 2011 as he did anytime in the last 15 years. His dedication to staying on top, and arguably improving at shooting late in his career, is dazzling as he swishes three after three.
Shaq's personality is larger than life, no matter what his effect is on the court. By virtue of his presence on the bench or court, the Celtics are always intriguing.
7. Phoenix Suns
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Robert Sarver, the infamously cheap owner of the Suns, blew up the team and signaled the rebuilding phase by letting Amare Stoudemire go in the offseason.
He stopped before he jettisoned his golden goose, though, and he was smart to do so.
The roster is not of quality like it has been recently, but as long as Steve Nash is running the show and Alvin Gentry is coaching, the desert will be a wildly fun place to watch basketball.
Just two to four years ago, the Suns would have topped this list. However, the losses of Jason Richardson, Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa have dropped the fun quotient quite a bit. Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Grant Hill and Hakim Warrick are fun, but its just not the same as it used to be.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
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Here's a fun reference point on the entertainment value of Blake Griffin's explosive talent. When typing "Blake Griffin dunk" into this slideshow's Getty Images search, I was overwhelmed with 11 pages of Blake Griffin dunks as a Clipper. He's only played in 62 career games. Staggering.
You almost can't say enough about Blake Griffin. His presence alone is enough to get the Clippers on this list. They do have exciting young studs in Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan, but this is all about Blake.
Let's just re-live some of Blake's best plays.
Also, here's Bill Simmons, at the 0:10 mark, celebrating one of Blake's dunks.
5. Chicago Bulls
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Derrick Rose has made the leap to superstardom this year and is a top candidate for league MVP.
His quickness and playmaking skills are breathtaking, especially as he matures and learns how to harness his game.
On a team that isn't overly athletic, explosive or fast-paced, Rose creates fun where there otherwise would not be any. He sets teammates up to succeed, initiates fast breaks by kicking into a higher gear and finishes with surprising leaping ability at the rim. He does these things better than any other point guard in the league.
Joakim Noah's motor and energy make the Bulls entertaining as well. Opinions as they may be, Noah's perpetual motion is impressive and magnetic.
Together with Carlos Boozer, Noah and Rose help make the young Bulls one of the up and coming most fun teams to watch.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
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Oklahoma City Arena isn't called "Loud City" for nothing.
The Thunder gives its crowd plenty to cheer about, from Kevin Durant's length and shooting skill, to Russell Westbrook's dribbling and explosive jumping, to Serge Ibaka's defense and shot-blocking.
Together, this young collection of players forms one of the most cohesive teams in the league, and plays off each of its members better than any other.
The fact that most of its core, which also includes James Harden and the newly-acquired Kendrick Perkins, is still developing, means that this machine and its individual parts still have a lot of room to improve.
In three to five years, the Thunder will easily top this list, provided that the roster remains untouched.
3. New York Knicks
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The Knicks were among the most exciting before they had Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
In trading Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov for Billups and Anthony, the Knicks just replaced their former excitement with new.
Anthony is the best pure scorer in the league, which is to say that when you absolutely need two points, Carmelo is the one you'd most trust to get it. He gets to the free throw line, extends out to the three-point line and gets to the basket equally well, and better than anyone in the league. His excitement is caught up in that, as well as his superstar image.
Stoudemire's explosiveness, versatility and recaptured work ethic make him a treat to watch. He does things that no big man this side of Chris Bosh can do.
The Knicks still bring the hype and energy of Ronny Turiaf, Landry Fields and Toney Douglas as players who can score in bunches and make a few "wow" plays themselves.
Of course, Mike D'Antoni's offensive system could make a team full of 90 year-old grandmas exciting to watch play basketball.
With world class scorers like Stoudemire, Anthony and Chauncey Billups, the Knicks deserve this high of a spot on this list.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
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You were wondering when we'd get to the Champs, weren't you?
Minimal elaboration is necessary to explain why the Lakers are arguably the most fun NBA team to watch. Kobe Bryant is one of the best eight players in basketball history, and is nothing short of captivating, even in the twilight of his career.
The versatility of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom is mindboggling. The notion of Odom's ball-handling, penetration and shooting at 6'11" is just stupid. The league has seen few players with more versatility, which dictates his unpredictability; you never know how we might impress you next.
Gasol's polished guard skills are unmatched in today's league. His shooting touch, ball-handling and passing vision are better than 60% of the league's guards, and he's a 7-footer.
Shannon Brown's exploits off the bench are ridiculous. I'm not sure five players in the league can jump higher or dunk fancier than he does.
Ron Artest is a crazy person. He is equally likely to take off his shoe, take a bite out of it, then throw it into the lower bowl of the Staples Center as he is to make a jump shot these days. The prospect of watching a certifiably insane person on a basketball court in an emotionally-charged atmosphere is enough fun without all the other Lakers, isn't it?
Put it all together, and you have the NBA's preeminent collection of talent and excitement.
1. Miami Heat
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Simply put, the alliance of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh trumps everything else in the fun category.
Separately, they are all top 20 NBA players. Collectively, they form a trio at a level the league has never seen.
Dominance is something to behold in the NBA. When a special player holds so much sway and power over how the game goes, it is exceptional to watch and impossible to forget. Talent comes and goes in the NBA, but dominance never fades. We don't talk about the talented players from the 1960s, only the dominant ones.
James, Bosh and Wade are all capable of dominance on the court. The opportunity to watch them play together, no matter how infamous, is rare.
The Heat as a whole are not the best team in the NBA, and are just one of several contenders for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
However, they are the most fun team, and it's all because of a dominant trio of superstars.