The 2019-20 NBA schedule has been released in full, which means we can begin highlighting the biggest games of the year. Most all of those will take place under the spotlight of national television, as TNT and ESPN released their full season schedules (with the caveat that they can flex games in and out as needed).
While many of the national TV games will carry plenty of weight in a regular season that’s expected to be as hotly contested as any we’ve seen in recent memory, there are some games that stand out in particular in terms of the first time we’ll see some highly anticipated matchups.
Below, we highlight a few of the biggest regular season matchups, beginning with the battle of L.A. teams on opening night, as well as the first time some stars will be returning to their old homes after a season that saw an unbelievable amount of player movement at the top of the league.
The Heavyweight Matchups
Lakers vs. Clippers, Oct. 22: One of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season will take place on opening night, when LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers take on Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers at Staples Center. While the Clippers are widely considered the favorites to win the Western Conference because of their depth and defensive versatility, the superstar tandem of James and Davis will have an opportunity to send a message to not just their cross-town rivals, but the rest of the NBA on opening night.
Jazz vs. Nuggets, Jan. 30: While the battle of Los Angeles will be the most broadcasted Western Conference matchup in the NBA, it won’t be the only one worth tuning into. Last season, the Denver Nuggets finished second in the west with 54 wins and with the additions of Jerami Grant and a healthy Michael Porter Jr., they should be able to match improve on that record next season. However, they’ll face some stiff competition for a top-three seed, particularly from their Northwest Division rivals, the Utah Jazz., who added Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay in the offseason. Both teams are expected to enjoy successful seasons, but one will finish ahead of the other. Who will it be?
76ers vs. Bucks, Dec. 25: The Bucks and Sixers won’t face off until about midway through the regular season, but it should be worth the wait. The 76ers stocked up on size in the offseason, bringing in Al Horford to start alongside Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris in the frontcourt. They also acquired 3-and-D wing Josh Richardson from the Miami Heat to pair with Ben Simmons. Meanwhile, the Bucks were able to keep their roster intact with the exception of Malcolm Brogdon, who signed a lucrative deal with the Indiana Pacers. Will Brodgon’s absence be enough for the Sixers to leapfrog the Bucks, or will reigning league MVP Giannis Antentokounmpo lead the Eastern Conference once again? We’ll find out on Christmas Day.
Raptors vs. Pacers, Dec. 23: After losing Kawhi Leonard to the LA Clippers in free agency, it’s unlikely that the Toronto Raptors will repeat as NBA champions, let alone Eastern Conference champions, but with head coach Nick Nurse still at the helm and most of their core players still with the team—including Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet—they could emerge as a darkhorse contender. A good test to see how much they’ve fallen off or not will be their game against the Indiana Pacers in December. The Pacers added some shooting in the offseason with Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren and Jeremy Lamb and should be in the mix for a top-three seed regardless of when Victor Oladipo comes back. If the Raptors still look like a well-oiled machine against a fringe contender like the Pacers, they might need to be re-evaluated before the postseason.