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XHW League Pass Rankings 1. BUCKS – Coach Mike Budenholzer’s greatest title run will depend primarily on Giannis’ brilliance, but also, on his stable of XHW assistants and a cadre of XHW players, Kyle Korver, Ersan Ilyasova and newcomer Marvin Williams. The latter joined the club in February, nearly 15 years after Milwuakee, ummmm, ducked him for Andrew Bogut. Can that trio defend, rebound and keep the nets wet enough to allow Coach Bud to exploit the Greek Freak’s gravity? 2. 76ERS – It is Redemption Time for one Mr. Al Horford. The league-wide stoppage could not have come at a better time for the XHW mainstay, slipping and sliding through, maybe not arguably, his worst season as a seasoned NBA vet, failing to come through as the ideal floor mate for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. He’ll need to gain traction, fast, to help Philadelphia gain ground among the NBA East elite. If he proves no more reliable as a playoff-time tool for coach Brett Brown than his XHW teammate Mike Scott, or one-time XHW Summer Leaguer Glenn Robinson III, you can bet Al’s former XHW backup-turned-GM Elton Brand will be working the phones this fall. 3. THUNDER – No one bothers to recall that the former hookah-bar honcho and XHW point guard hopeful was recently trying to beat a felony charge back here in The ATL. The only thing likely to be handed down to Dennis Schröder is not a sentence, but the NBA Sixth Man of the Year trophy. Rejuvenated under the watchful eye of That Guy Drafted After Marvin, along with XHW alums-turned-OKC assistant Mo Cheeks and Mike Wilks, Dennis hopes to remain a menace for whoever is unfortunate enough to draw him and backup big Mike Muscala in the Playoffs’ opening round. 4. NUGGETS – Now that Nikola Jokic took the time off to take the gristle off, resembling a Porzingis-style popsicle stick in the process, is Paul Millsap the biggest, burliest talent in the post at Denver coach Mike Malone’s disposal? For Georgia’s This Is It! restaurant sales rep, when it comes to giving LeBron a better run for his money at playoff time than he could back in 2015, this may indeed be it. 5. KINGS – While many eyes are on Zion and the Pels, Sacramento has the same shot as New Orleans, on paper, to upend Memphis for the final spot in the West. If they manage to sneak in, shattering Sactown’s 15-year playoff drought in the process, then recent arrivals Alex Len, Jabari Parker and Kent Bazemore will have a lot to do with it as valuable reserves for coach Luke Walton. After all, Marvin Bagley isn’t exactly coming through that door. 6. GRIZZLIES – Anthony Tolliver has arrived just in the nick of time. His ten-day contract with XHW coach Taylor Jenkins’ club was on the verge of expiring back when The Rona temporarily pulled the plug on the season. Now he’s back full-time as Memphis seeks to cement its position as the 8-seed in the NBA West. Adequately spacing the floor is essential for Ja Morant’s drives, and Tolly’s up to the task as a stretch-forward and small-ball center. 7. ROCKETS – Houston is going full-steam-ahead on its grand P.J. Tucker At The Five experiment, opening up not just the floor for James Harden and Russell Westbrook’s gameplay, but playing time at the forward spots. A half-decade removed from being vital components of Atlanta’s 60-win campaign, Thabo Sefolosha and DeMarre Carroll will each be out to prove to coach Mike D’Antoni that they are more than emergency stopgaps. 8. LAKERS – Quinn Cook has landed on some pretty nice rosters since being cut by the Hawks in 2017’s preseason. “Quality Control” gets a chance to double up on his ring count as a steadying backup ballhandler. That is, if LeBron “Magic” James and the Lakers can coach Frank Vogel’s crew to The Finals, which would be former Warrior Cook’s third-straight appearance. Having left Orlando for La-La-Land long ago, will Dwight Howard join the party down in his very old stomping grounds? There’ll be no fans booing him in the stands. 9. PELICANS – Remember when Zion patted our logo on Lottery Night? Fun times. If New Orleans falls out of the running early, look for Alvin Gentry to pass the time by giving 2019 Draft Night trade recipients Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker some burn. 10. CLIPPERS – Doc Rivers isn’t the only coach on LA’s sideline with XHW playing credentials. Ty Lue and Armond Hill serve as trusty assistants. Barring some goofy age-based-restrictions by the league, they’ll all get front-row seats to see if Kawhi Leonard can be a spoilsport for opponents’ championship dreams once again. The Klaw will have to do it this time around with Paul George and, maybe, Gwinnett-area legend Lou Williams at his side. 11. MAGIC – Can you even call it homecourt advantage? With another playoff chase on the line, Orlando went and grabbed 2013 Hawks Draft Night trade bait James Ennis from Philly at 2020’s Trade Deadline, knowing defensive lynchpin Jonathan Isaac and fellow forward Al-Farouq Aminu would remain on-ice like Disney. What they could not have anticipated is getting an all-expenses-paid trip to the Yacht Club, as the host city for the NBA’s cautious return. With Magic assistant and 90’s XHW swingman Ty Corbin bending his ear, Ennis hopes to help Orlando firm up the depth chart and a playoff spot, while also avoiding Giannis as a first-round foe. 12. JAZZ – XHW evil-genius assistant-turned-head coach Quin Snyder has his work cut out. Joe Ingles is returning after a brief threat not to return, but Bojan Bogdanovic will remain out with a wrist injury. Mike Conley has been Al Horford, backcourt edition. And, but for social distancing, Donovan Mitchell would be at Rudy Gobert’s neck. Keep ample supplies of hair product inside the Bubble, though, and Coach Quin will be good. 13. NETS – What a weird little outfit this cast of characters has become. XHW alum Jacque Vaughn has his work cut out, too, especially if he hopes to be at the helm this winter, when koo-koo komrades Kyrie and KD return to the fold. Fending off the Wizards for a final postseason slot ought not be too tall of an order. But Vaughn’s best options to steal some playoff victories are Caris LeVert, crypto-maniac Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, and our old friend Taurean Prince. Hmm. 14. SPURS – With LaMarcus Aldridge out of the picture due to rehab, Marco Belinelli becomes the team’s senior citizen in the Bubble. The more Belly plays for the vet-happy Coach Pop, in what ought to be meaningless minutes, the more that preemie first-rounders Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson will be glued to the sidelines and scratching their heads. 15. RAPTORS – Were it not for Gabe Vincent of the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Paul Watson would likely have been awarded as the G-League’s Most Improved Player this season. Despite going Bagel-for-6 from the field, Watson’s 10-day run with the Hawks in January was highlighted by an entertaining fourth-quarter during an otherwise forgettable washout loss in Brooklyn. Now a two-way player for the Raptors, he can hope for the same fate Jeremy Lin had in 2019, perhaps with a few garbage-time stints by coach Nick Nurse thrown his way. 16. SUNS – There goes the Suns. That is, there goes any real chances at a late charge for the 9-seed play-in position. Former XHW Draft Night trade chip Kelly Oubre could not be medically cleared to enhance their shot at a move up the standings, leaving Devin Booker to snipe away without the benefit of a playoff-experienced swingman. Say, can Monty Williams’ assistant and XHW alum Willie Green still suit up? 17. TRAIL BLAZERS – Knowing in advance that Trevor Ariza would bow out before playoff time, and that Rodney Hood would still be no good health-wise, might Terry Stotts’ team have parted ways with Baze so quickly? Yeah, probably. Say, y’all remember that minute we had Melo? Yeah, me neither. 18. heat – Solomon Hill, everybody. 19. WIZARDS – I’m just wasting this space to tell Orlando’s Evan Fournier to fermes ta bouche (“shut yer piehole”) and mind your own business when it comes to telling My Main Man, Davis Bertans, what he can and can’t do with his career. Let that man Get His Bag and get stuck somewhere like you did back in 2016. 20. CELTICS – Never heard of ‘em. 21. PACERS – What? 22. MAVERICKS – Who? Somebody from a Hawks Draft Night deal stars for these guys? Oh, yeah, of course. It’s Tim Hardaway, Jr.’s team! Go get ‘em, Timmy! ~lw3