No matter what any pessimistic NBA fan will tell you, the League has not be ruined. The NBA has entered into an era of prosperity, partly due to an overabundance of talent, and partly due to the rampant levels of pettiness by the players in the League. Last year, we were treated to a season full of intriguing matchups due to the embarrassment of riches that the NBA has in terms of talent and entertainment. We were locked into every matchup, from the biggest collisions between the Rockets and the Warriors, to the meaningless games between Clippers and the Suns. It didn’t matter, the NBA was and is still fun.
Now finally, we were given a sneak peek into the new season. On Wednesday, the NBA released their national TV schedule, complete with the opening week games, the Christmas Day games, and the games on Martin Luther King Day. Thank goodness. With the bevy of moves that occurred during the offseason so far, the NBA franchises have underwent more facelifts than all of the Kardashians of the combined. So now, we can finally see how the new teams will shape up against each other. The matchups on opening night, October 16th, are the Sixers vs. Celtics, and Warriors vs. Thunder. A couple of days later, we get our first glimpse of LeBron on the Lakers, when they matchup against the Trailblazers. On Christmas Day, we get a five game slate: Bucks vs. Knicks, Thunder vs. Rockets, Sixers vs. Celtics, Lakers vs. Warriors, and Blazers vs. Jazz. Martin Luther King Day will feature the Pelicans vs. Grizzlies, Rockets vs. Sixers, and Warriors vs. Lakers again.
To top it all off, yesterday the NBA released the FULL schedule, giving us many more matchups to look ahead to. Here are a few of the biggest takeaways from the national TV matchups, and the most intriguing matchups from the full schedule:
An Early Look at the East’s Top Contenders
Right out of the gate we are treated to a matchup of epic proportions. When the Sixers visit the Celtics on opening night, we will get to see a rematch of last postseason’s second round matchup, with a twist: a fully healthy Celtics team. That’s right. By the time August 16 rolls around, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward should be fully healthy and prepared for the new season. What’s interesting is that even without their biggest offseason pickups of last season, the Celtics rather easily dispatched off the young Sixers in five games. If they couldn’t handle Scary Terry, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford, the addition of two All-Stars could prove to be trouble for Philadelphia.
That doesn’t mean that a result is guaranteed. Both teams are going to be at the top of the Conference for sure. With Philly’s young guns Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid growing at an exponential level, it will be interesting to see how they counteract a team full of bonafide stars. A considerable amount of growth will be necessary from the Sixers, who displayed a stifled offense due to bad shot selection and a lack of 3 point prowess. The Celtics will look to fully integrate their returning players, which is easier said than done. With Tatum and Jaylen Brown on the verge of becoming superstars, it will be difficult to give each player a sufficient amount of attention on offense.
Does The NBA Hate LeBron?
I understand that Christmas Day is supposed to be full of marquee matchups. Trust me, there is nothing I’d rather do than sit on the couch and watch LeBron ball after spending Christmas morning with my family. But why does it have to be against the Warriors? This will be fourth year in a row that LeBron is tasked with facing Golden State on Christmas, as the Lakers will travel to Oakland on the 25th. The Warriors have won 2 out of 3 of these matchups, and all signs point to them widening their margin of victory this time. I understand that the NBA wants all eyes on them on Christmas Day, but leave LeBron out of it.
Is It the Knicks Year?
Okay, hear me out. This may sound like a New York man’s fever dream, but it is definitely plausible. With David Fizdale at the helm, the Knicks are shaping up to buck the failures of the past couple of years. Fizdale is a basketball analytics savant and also serves as a personable coach who can connect well with his players. His time under the tutelage of Erik Spolestra in Miami has set him up on how to deal with stars and role players alike. He even travelled all the way to Latvia to meet up with Kristaps Porzingis and build up a relationship now. It’s a relationship that I can’t wait to see develop.
The coaching change aside, the Knicks picked up a couple of draft picks that will without a doubt help to change the falling trend of the franchise. Draft picks Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson have the potential to be game changers. Knox is an über aggressive offensive weapon with the ability to stretch the floor with outside shots. Robinson fits the mold of the athletic big that can play both ends of the floor, much like Clint Capela or Andre Drummond. Add these guys with the already improving Frank Ntilikina and the eventual return of Porzingis, the Knicks could be slated to surprise a lot of people. Their Christmas Day matchup agains the Bucks, who made the playoffs last year, should be a showcase of their growth and eventual success. Lay out that Knicks coke line.
The Blazers Window May Be Closed
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum always warn us to stop sleeping on the Blazers. Rightfully so. Lillard was first team All-NBA, McCollum is a talented scorer in his own right, and Portland finished 3rd in the stacked Western Conference last season. But after an anemic performance against the Pelicans which resulted in them getting swept, the Blazers were knocked right back to square one. They earned the title of being a “good regular season, bad postseason” team, which is a moniker that no one wants on them. They had a quiet offseason, with their biggest addition being Seth Curry to replace Shabazz Napier. The team is full of young players, but with most of its core on the last year of their deals, it may be time to think about sending to two-headed dragon of Lillard and McCollum away for a treasure trove of draft picks.
The King Returns Home…Sort of
I’ll admit, I will probably watch every Lakers game this entire season. But the one that I am most intrigued about is the one on November 21. That day marks the first time LeBron will return back to Cleveland as a Laker, armed with his merry band of misfits. He should be welcomed back with open arms, a stark difference to how he was treated when he came back with the Miami Heat for the first time. He delivered them a championship, and made them relevant again. His former supporting cast will look to prove themselves to be a worthy opponent, as they were often regarded as not even being worthy teammates.
Trading Spouses: NBA Edition
Easily the most intriguing NBA breakup since that time Kris Humphries dated Kim Kardashian (remember that?), Kawhi Leonard backed out of San Antonio holding a gun to the Spurs season’s head. Subsequently, he was sent to the Great White North. It will be interesting to see if Kawhi even plays the full season, and how he’ll mold into the Raptors offensive scheme as their new offensive leader. On the other side, DeMar DeRozan was betrayed, sent down to San Antonio after giving his all to the franchise that drafted him. When the two teams meet up January 3rd, it will be weird to see the two superstars in different jerseys. It will also be intriguing to see how Kawhi gets treated by the Spurs fans. Will he be booed, cheered, or treated with cold indifference? Your guess is as good as mine.
Hawks Legend Carmelo Anthony Returns Home
Let us not forget, Carmelo is one of the most talented offensive players in the history of the game. His entire body of work should not be overshadowed by the lackluster past couple of years. Interestingly enough, Melo is also ridiculously talented at securing the bag. He opted into his last year with the Thunder, was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, was there for about 5 days, and was bought out for $27.1 million. Every star should take a page out of his playbook. These franchises don’t care about you. Get your money as you can. Anyway on March 19, the Rockets will visit the Hawks, giving Melo the homecoming that he so well deserves.