Zach Lowe

Sixers are No. 1 in Zach Lowe's NBA League Pass Rankings for second year in a row

Sixers are No. 1 in Zach Lowe's NBA League Pass Rankings for second year in a row

The upcoming NBA season promises to be an entertaining one. Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are among the new arrivals in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook is teaming up with James Harden in Houston and Zion Williamson is poised to rock rims.

And, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe, the most watchable team in the league this season is the Sixers. They're No. 1 in his NBA League Pass Rankings for the second consecutive season. The Lakers, Bucks, Clippers and Nuggets round out the top-five teams. 

Lowe's rankings grade each team in five categories: Zeitgeist, highlight potential, style, League Pass minutiae and unintentional comedy.

What makes the Sixers deserving of the No. 1 spot?

The Sixers are so weird, big, goofy and loaded with personality -- well, one mega-personality -- they repeat as League Pass champions despite losing the high-wattage curiosity factor of Markelle Fultz," Lowe writes. "I didn't think it was possible.

Lowe goes on to call Joel Embiid "the best trash-talker in the league," raise some interesting questions about how the team's gargantuan starting lineup will play together and highlight "exciting prospects" Matisse Thybulle and Zhaire Smith.

He doesn't even mention Mike Scott, who's hit a game-winning shot during the playoffs, taken a sip of a fan's beverage during a live game and said at media day that, while he's "not trying to be an enforcer ... when the bulls---- happens, I just react on that." There's also James "Ennis the Menace" Ennis, who savors attacking the offensive glass and said this summer the Sixers "can walk to the Finals in the East," and Kyle O'Quinn, who throws delicate bounce passes and enjoys attending Bar Mitzvahs.

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Say it ain't so! Joel Embiid vows to never talk trash ever again

Say it ain't so! Joel Embiid vows to never talk trash ever again

The fun and games of having the Sixers back in our lives may be a little less fun this season if Joel Embiid is to be believed. And can actually follow his own word.

I wouldn't bet on this one.

Embiid was a guest on Zach Lowe's podcast during Sixers media day on Monday over in Camden and the two had some fun during their chat.

The pod begins with Lowe asking Embiid about what he remembers from the locker room in Toronto after The Shot when the Raptors ended the Sixers' season.

"I was just staring at nothing," Embiid said. "In that situation, I wanted to be consoled and it was by my girlfriend. She was there for me. That helped a lot, I guess. I remember talking to Jimmy [Butler]. We just talked a bit. He was trying to make me feel better."

Lowe also asked about the story that Landy Shamet brought Embiid four milkshakes on the team plane.

“It’s a real story, but I’ve never eaten none of that. As a rookie, you got to make them work. Nobody else on the team wanted to have him do stuff. I was like, ‘gotta make them work.’”

“I don’t drink milkshakes,” Embiid added.

This echoes what JJ Redick said about the milkshakes.

Embiid mentioned he hasn’t been on social media all summer, which is kind of a bummer for Sixers fans but probably just fine for Embiid. Lowe asked some interesting questions about how different players react to Embiid's trash talking. That's when Jojo makes a promise he almost assuredly won't keep. Not entirely, at least.

“I’m not talking trash ever again. Allegedly. Maybe,” Embiid said. “I’m done with all that. That’s what I’m saying now, but we’re going to see if I can hold up to it.”

“The best way to talk trash is to dominate. When you dominate them and you talk some more and go on social media after the game and talk some more, that’s really hurtful. Sometimes I feel bad for them. That’s why I had to stop."

So plenty of dominating from Embiid in 2019-2020. Not as much trash talking. Allegedly. Maybe.

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Sixers take No. 1 spot in Zach Lowe's NBA League Pass Rankings

Sixers take No. 1 spot in Zach Lowe's NBA League Pass Rankings

You don’t have to tell Sixers fans that trash-talking, bully-balling Joel Embiid, a virtuoso passer and reigning Rookie of the Year in Ben Simmons, and a Markelle Fultz with the confidence to take (and make) open jumpers is must-watch television.

In his annual NBA League Pass Rankings, ESPN’s Zach Lowe ranks the Sixers at No. 1. Well, sort of. He removed the Warriors from consideration from the top spot this season, and he has the Sixers even with the Celtics.

Lowe rates all 30 teams in five categories. It’s a thorough system, but one that essentially boils down to which team is best to watch. 

He cites everything from Embiid’s power and showmanship to the Sixers’ stellar starting five last season to Brett Brown’s motion-heavy, pick-and-roll sparse offense as reasons for the Sixers being at the top.

All solid points, although the Sixers’ starting five this season could be even more intriguing than last season’s version, with Fultz taking JJ Redick’s spot in the first two preseason games as the team experiments with playing Simmons more as a power forward and looking to Redick for offense off the bench in a Manu Ginobili-like role.

And the offense should be even more entertaining to watch this season, as the Sixers explore the possibilities of Fultz-Simmons pick-and-rolls, Simmons-Embiid high-lows, creative wrinkles to their motion staples with the help of new lead assistant coach Monty Williams, and so much more. Outside of X’s and O’s, watching Simmons fly down the floor or Embiid deftly Euro step around a defender is incredible to watch, even for neutrals. It makes sense that the Sixers have 27 games on national television this season.

For Lowe, there’s one big factor that gives the Sixers the edge over the Celtics. 

But I kept coming back to one thing that separates Philly: Markelle Fultz. 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. Philly wins.

Fultz’s jumper deteriorating again doesn't seem like a great reason to watch the Sixers, but Lowe’s general sentiment is fair. While the early signs are positive with Fultz, nobody truly knows what he’s capable of this season. Fourteen regular-season games last season (with a broken jumper) is not a helpful sample size. Everybody who loves basketball (besides Celtics fans, maybe) wants to see why he was the No. 1 pick.

Fultz, Embiid, Simmons and a fist-pumping, relentlessly hustling Dario Saric are certainly an upgrade over Evan Turner, Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes. Those were the headliners for the Sixers heading into the 2013-14 season, when they finished dead last in Lowe’s rankings. 

Check out Part One of this season's rankings here, Part Two (featuring the Sixers) here.

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