By Chris Molicki
The NBA schedule has been revealed, and as USA basketball underwhelms in the Olympics, it’s more exciting to look ahead and dream about regular season matchups. Here are the 25 best matchups to put on your calendar for the upcoming NBA season.
10/25 Knicks @ Cavaliers: We’ll see the Cavs presented with their championship rings, but we’ll also get our first view of the new-look Knicks. New York stunned the Cavs at the start of the season last year; can they do it again and make a statement?
10/28 Cavaliers @ Raptors: There’s been a lot of change in the East but as of now, the Raptors are still the biggest threat to Cleveland in the conference. They’ll have an early chance to prove it.
11/3 Thunder @ Warriors: We don’t have to wait long to see Kevin Durant face his old team. The tension between him and Russell Westbrook will be entertaining to say the least, as will their battle on the court.
11/4 Knicks @ Bulls: Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah make their return to Chicago. Both of these teams are in flux. Jimmy Butler will want to prove he’s better off without Rose, while the Knicks’ new point guard will try to show off his chemistry with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
11/10 Bulls @ Heat: This will be another big return, as Dwyane Wade comes back to Miami. While there was less of a fuss made over this move than Durant joining the Warriors, it was still a bit of a shocker. Nonetheless, D-Wade should get a big ovation.
11/13 Magic @ Thunder: Serge Ibaka’s homecoming might not seem overly exciting, but seeing him return to OKC with a refined Magic team to take on Thunder squad with plenty of athletes is worth your attention.
11/18 Grizzlies @ Mavs: It’s tough to tell what to make of either of these teams, so this will be a good game to gauge where they stack up in the West. It’ll also be the return of Chandler Parsons to Dallas, a place he apparently loved but bolted rather quickly.
12/7 Warriors @ Clippers: The Clippers are probably the third best team in the West, but in this NBA, that isn’t going to get you very far. Los Angeles needs to see how it does against the Warriors to determine their chances of contending.
12/8 Warriors @ Jazz: Everyone is talking about the Jazz as an up-and-coming contender in the West as early as this year. Once again, the best way to see if that’s true is to see how you stack up against Golden State.
12/16 Lakers @ 76ers: This will be the first regular season matchup between Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons. The debate will rage on over who’s better as these young squads attempt to show fans that what they’re building.
12/25 Warriors @ Cavaliers: Stephen Curry. LeBron James. Kevin Durant. Christmas Day. This will be one of the most anticipated matchups of the season and will give us an early insight as to whether King James and company can compete with the Dubs.
12/28 Timberwolves @ Nuggets: These are two young squads on the rise that everyone is excited about. Do one of these teams take the leap this year? That’s up to guys like Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Nikola Jokic, and Emmanuel Mudiay.
12/30 Blazers @ Spurs: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and the Blazers were a pleasant surprise last season, but they weren’t quite contenders yet. A test in San Antonio will tell them a lot about themselves as they approach 2017.
12/30 Bucks @ Timberwolves: Similar to the Timberwolves-Nuggets matchup, the young Bucks are another team on the rise. How unstoppable will Giannis Antetokounmpo be? He’s battling Towns for the title of best young player in the NBA.
1/13 Thunder @ Timberwolves: The Thunder were the Timberwolves not too long ago. They were led by two budding young stars in Russ and KD, and their ascension to the top of the league happened rather fast. This could tell us if Minnesota is ready to take a similar leap.
1/13 Celtics @ Hawks: Al Horford comes back to the ATL. How good will the Celtics be at this point of the season? Will Horford be wishing he stayed with the Hawks? (Hint: Probably not.)
1/16 Cavaliers @ Warriors: James and Kyrie Irving return to the site of winning the Cavaliers’ first NBA title. Every Cavs-Warriors game is a must-watch, even if we wind up getting nine of them this year.
1/29 Warriors @ Blazers: This would be another big test for Portland to prove themselves. If Curry comes down to earth, does Lillard challenge him for the point guard mantle?
2/10 Pelicans @ Timberwolves: I hope these two teams become contenders fast, because high stakes battles between Towns and Anthony Davis would be something amazing to watch. Could we be seeing the next Bill Russell-Wilt Chamberlain rivalry?
2/11 Warriors @ Thunder: Finally, the game of the year. Kevin Durant returns to Oklahoma City. He’ll likely get plenty of boos and the crowd will be crazed all game long. Westbrook has this game circled on his calendar. You should too.
2/27 Heat @ Mavericks: Hassan Whiteside was ready to be the cornerstone of a contender. But then Wade jumped ship to Chicago and left a lot of uncertainty in Miami. Whiteside will see what could’ve been had he signed with Dallas.
3/1 Cavaliers @ Celtics: Boston has the chance to be Cleveland’s biggest competition in the East behind the Horford-Isaiah Thomas duo. By March, we’ll see if that’s come to fruition. This could very well be an Eastern Conference Finals preview.
3/11 Warriors @ Spurs: As the playoffs near, the Warriors and Spurs will be tuning up for their (maybe) inevitable Western Conference Finals matchup. Playing in San Antonio may be one of the only things that can slow down Golden State.
3/25 Wizards @ Cavaliers: I had to throw the Wizards on here because I want to see how a talented team like them bounces back from a down year. But I also can’t wait to see the point guard matchup between John Wall and Irving. Kyrie has probably surpassed Wall after last year, but the former Wildcat will have a chance to prove otherwise.
4/2 Jazz @ Spurs: At this point, we’ll see if the Jazz are firmly entrenched in the top four of the West. And if they are, this will be one of the better matchups as we lick our lips for the postseason.