With all of the trades and free-agent moves that happened this summer, the NBA looks very different. The league just announced its schedule for the 2019-2020 regular season, so we’ll see a lot of great basketball games starting on October 22. Here are the five most interesting games this year.
October 22: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers
This opening-night game should be one of the best of the season. After last year’s debacle of failed trades, internal problems, and Magic Johnson drama, the Lakers are trying to return to title contention. After making a surprise run to the playoffs, the Clippers convinced Kawhi Leonard to sign on as a free agent. They also swung a surprise trade for Paul George, becoming immediate title contenders.
The teams aren’t just battling for a chance to make it to the finals; they also want supremacy in Los Angeles. The Lakers boast two of the game’s best in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Clippers add Leonard and George. Expect an instant classic on the court.
November 27: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans
The Anthony Davis deal may have been the craziest trade last year. To recap: Davis was unhappy with the Pelicans as they couldn’t contend. During the season, he demanded a trade to the Lakers. The Pelicans refused. However, in June, when David Griffin took over, the Pelicans sent Davis to the Lakers for a monster haul of players and draft picks.
This game has a ton of different plots. How will Pelican fans treat Davis? Will he get booed? How will Davis react? What about first overall draft pick Zion Williamson? Will he and his teammates surprise the Lakers the day before Thanksgiving?
November 27: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics
Another contentious homecoming will also take place on the day before Thanksgiving. The Celtics had a forgettable season last year. Billed as one of the Eastern Conference favorites, Boston drastically underperformed. Their young players regressed, Gordon Haywood struggled after his injury, and Terry Rozier went on national TV to demand a trade.
As bad as those obstacles were, Kyrie Irving may have been their worst problem. He caused locker room issues and left at the end of the year for Brooklyn. Expect a hostile Boston crowd to boo him at every opportunity.
December 11: Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors
With all the free-agent movement, it’s not surprising that players returning to old teams make up many of these games. The biggest one may be Leonard’s return to Toronto. Traded to the Raptors a year ago, Leonard led the perpetually underachieving Raptors to their first championship ever. Even that didn’t convince Leonard to leave for his hometown Clippers.
How will Raptors fans react? In his one season, Leonard erased decades of Raptor playoff futility and brought them to the promised land. However, are fans upset that a championship couldn’t keep Leonard north of the border? Most importantly, will Drake write a song dissing Leonard? The Drake versus Kawhi subplot makes this a must-see game.
Expect a mix of cheers and boos, along with a very awkward pregame ceremony when Leonard receives his championship ring.
December 25: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
While the Western Conference will have double-digit teams contending, the Eastern Conference will focus on two teams: the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams lost in the playoffs to the Raptors.
While the loss of Leonard should clear the way, both teams have something to prove. For the 76ers, Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick are gone, replaced by Al Horford and Jason Richardson. Will these players improve the 76ers? Also, will point guard Ben Simmons finally develop an effective jump shot?
For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo must show he can take the next step. He won the MVP last year over James Harden, but couldn’t lead his team to the finals. In order to become one of the greats, he needs to win championships.
Is this the year the Bucks make it to the NBA Finals? Can the Bucks overcome the loss of Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers? Either way, this game should be a preview for one of the most anticipated playoff series of the season.