Zach Lowe has released his seventh annual League Pass Rankings, and the Philadelphia 76ers are number one. As Lowe emphasizes, these are *not* power rankings, but there are plenty of reasons to be pleased with the Sixers’ placement.
First off, if you haven’t yet, check out both part one and part two of Zach Lowe’s League Pass Rankings. If you only have time to read half, part two includes the Philadelphia 76ers. If you only have time to read about one team, scroll all the way down to number one.
Yes, that’s right, bask in that non-power ranking number one spot. The Sixers finished ahead of the Golden State Warriors. They finished ahead of the Boston Celtics. They finished ahead of LeBron James and the media circus that is the Los Angeles Lakers.
Immediately, my thoughts were, “are you proud yet, Sam?” and, “suck it, Boston!” and the genuinely curious, “why?”
If you want to know why, read Lowe’s column. If you want to know why he’s right, well, you could try to FaceTime the god upon whose altar Zach Lowe places blood sacrifices in order to receive the holy tablets inscribed with each year’s League Pass Rankings, or you could, oh, I don’t know, keep reading.
Since we don’t possess a specific breakdown of how the 76ers scored in each of Lowe’s five rankings categories (although I have tweeted him for that breakdown, so we shall see how much sway I hold…), it’s safe to say the Sixers scored well in the Zeitgeist category. If talking about the Sixers won’t get you anywhere at a party, then look inward, make sure you’re not in Boston, and find a better party.
As for Highlight Probability, the Sixers have Joel Embiid, who Lowe rated as a better “highlight machine” than Kyrie Irving. That basically means that for every quarter you place in either Embiid’s or Irving’s mouth, chances are that Embiid will more often than not deliver a better highlight play. Statistically speaking.
In terms of Style, the Sixers are an incredibly fun team with unique players. If this wasn’t their best category, their score here stands to improve as the year progresses and Brett Brown figures out how to best leverage the new pieces.
League Pass Minutia is my favorite category, as it begs the question, “Will you be excited to watch this team play the Orlando Magic on a Monday night in late March?” This category requires a team to not just be both good and fun to watch, but to possess the added amenities that make watching any basketball game more pleasing: uniforms, court design, on-air commentary, etc.
Lowe loves the Sixers’ overall team art, especially the subtly improved home court.
As for his feelings about Marc Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby, I can only hope he appreciates them as much as I do (although, and chase me with torches for this if you must, so far Serena Winters feels like a downgrade from Molly Sullivan).
Lowe’s final category is called Unintentional Comedy. It’s impossible to know exactly what that means. It very well could be the category Lowe uses to give and take points as needed in order for teams to slot into their proper places, but I’m also inclined to believe that the mere existence of Joel Embiid helped the Sixers quite a bit here.
In related news, Mo Bamba is very, very skinny.
All that said, at the end of the day there’s only one reason why the Sixers topped Lowe’s rankings: Markelle “Glass About to be Overflowing Because It’s” Fultz.
About Fultz, Lowe writes:
He is the biggest unknown in the league. Every scenario is on the table. He could can enough jumpers, work as the speedster pick-and-roll playmaker Philly badly needs, and solidify his spot in the starting lineup. (His first two preseason games have been encouraging. He made a 3-pointer on Monday!) He could redevelop the yips and crater. No matter what, I want to see every second of it.
Lowe is spot on. As much as you love Joel Embiid, as much as you drool over Ben Simmons, as much as Robert Covington‘s defense inspires you to invest in a new home security system or Dario Saric’s hustle provides a necessary second wind during an excessively long work week, this season we’re all interested in watching the progress of one player more than anyone else. That player is Markelle Fultz.
I mean, the guy hit a mid-range jumper against a professional team from Australia and the home crowd treated it like Andre Iguodala had just nailed the biggest free throws of his life against the Chicago Bulls. Okay, perhaps I’m embellishing, but you get my point.
Fultz is the piece that could either bottom out and leave the Sixers no better than last year, or he could excel, defy the odds, win Most Improved Player, and the Sixers could strike legitimate fear into the Boston Celtics.
Either way, you can thank Fultz for this appreciated League Pass title. Now, before your very eyes, and the eyes of many non-Sixers fans too, we all get to watch him do his part to deliver a title of much greater importance.