Television network executives, the people who matter most, consider the Thunder, the Bulls and the Cavaliers the most popular NBA teams for the 2014-15 season. And if you have to pick between that trio, the Thunder would win the tiebreaker.
The NBA schedule was released last week, and only the Thunder, Chicago and Cleveland drew the maximum 25 national television appearances. But of that group, the Thunder has six games on ABC, which is considered the marquee time slot for regular-season NBA basketball, with either its Christmas Day or Sunday afternoon telecasts. The Cavs and the Bulls have five ABC showings each.
Here are the rankings:
1. Thunder: 9 TNT, 10 ESPN, 6 ABC. The testimony of star power. People want to see Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
2. Chicago: 10 TNT, 10 ESPN, 5 ABC. Networks are banking on Derrick Rose’s health.
3. Cleveland: 10 TNT, 10 ESPN, 5 ABC. The only difference from the Bulls is that Chicago has six games on NBATV. Cleveland has five.
4. LA Clippers: 9 TNT, 10 ESPN, 4 ABC. The new showtime.
5. LA Lakers: 9 TNT, 9 ESPN, 2 ABC. If Kobe gets hurt again, the ratings will be abysmal.
6. San Antonio: 7 TNT, 10 ESPN, 2 ABC. Why aren’t the Spurs No. 1? Heck, why aren’t the Spurs ahead of the Lakers? When it comes to marketing, star power trumps beautiful basketball.
7. Golden State: 9 TNT, 9 ESPN, 1 ABC. The Warriors have the same number of national TV games as the Spurs.
8. Houston: 6 TNT, 9 ESPN, 2 ABC. You’ve got to admit, Rockets are fun to watch.
9. Miami: 5 TNT, 9 ESPN 2, ABC 2. Only four teams have more ABC appearances.
10. New York: 6 TNT, 9 ESPN, 1 ABC. Lakers East.
11. Portland: 6 TNT, 10 ESPN. Bet you didn’t expect the Blazers to be this high.
12. Dallas: 4 TNT, 7 ESPN. Mavericks’ roster more solid than spectacular.
13. Phoenix: 6 TNT, 4 ESPN. It will be fun to be able to watch the Suns, for a change.
14. Washington: 1 TNT, 9 ESPN. I would have guessed the Wizards would have been higher.
15. Indiana: 2 TNT, 3 ESPN. Probably some scrambling in the scheduling room after Paul George’s injury.
16. Denver: 1 TNT, 4 ESPN. It helps to be out West. Sometimes, networks have to fill the late time slot with whatever.
17. Brooklyn: 2 TNT, 2 ESPN. No one really wants to watch old men play basketball.
18. Toronto: 1 TNT, 3 ESPN. This is actually a big step up for the Raptors. Mostly, they’re ignored.
19. Sacramento: 2 TNT, 1 ESPN. The Kings stink — and still they have three times the number of national-TV games as the Boston Celtics.
20. New Orleans: 1 TNT, 1 ESPN. You would have thought Anthony Davis would garner a couple more appearances.
21. Charlotte: 2 ESPN. Hornets win a tiebreaker with five NBATV games.
22. Minnesota: 2 ESPN. Timberwolves win a tiebreaker with Atlanta because they have an early-season ESPN game, which will have some relevancy.
23. Atlanta: 2 ESPN. Hawks’ only two ESPN games are five days apart in January.
24. Detroit: 2 ESPN. Just one NBATV game.
25. Memphis: 1 ESPN. A total abomination that the Grizzlies are on national television just once. An absolute disgrace. The Griz are good.
26. Boston: 1 ESPN. How the mighty have fallen.
27. Utah: 1 ESPN. This three-way tie was broken by NBATV. Memphis eight, Boston three, Utah two.
28. Milwaukee: squat. The Bucks get two NBATV games; Dec. 29 and Jan. 15.
29. Orlando: squat. The Magic’s two NBATV games are over a 12-day span, Dec. 21-Jan. 2.
30. Philadelphia: squat. The 76ers’ two NBATV games are Nov. 29 and Dec. 21.