The 2018-19 NBA regular season will begin on October 16th. It used to be on one of the last Tuesdays in October. Last year, the players, owners and Commissioner Adam Silver agreed to push back the start date to mid-October. The reason was to reduce the number of back to backs, four games in five nights and to reduce the load on the players.
This upcoming season will be intriguing with many storylines. There are big time primetime games that fans won’t take their eyes off of. There are familiar faces in new places. For example, you got LeBron James to the Lakers, Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs, Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets and DeMarcus Cousins to the defending champion Warriors.
Additionally, there are many teams that will be trying to take down mighty Golden State Warriors. Dub Nation will be looking to be the first team since the 2000-02 Lakers to win three consecutive titles. They have an All-Star starting five of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and the addition of DeMarcus Cousins that will be tough to stop.
With that be said, here are the top 10 games to watch this upcoming season.
October 16th: 76ers vs. Celtics
The old school rivalry will be renewed on opening night. Both teams played each other in last season’s in the Eastern Conference Semifinals which Boston won 4-1 in a fairly competitive series. With LeBron out of the East, both Philly and Boston are the teams to beat. The Sixers still have the 2018 Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons entering his second season in the league, Joel Embiid who’s arguably the best center in the game, Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz.
The Celtics had a remarkable season going 55-27 and advancing to the Conference Finals, losing to LeBron’s Cavs in seven. They’ll get back Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back from season ending injuries. In addition, they have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who are rising young players along with Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes. The expectation that they are the team to beat in the East for years to come.
October 16th: Thunder vs. Warriors
The road for Dub Nation’s quest for a third straight title begins on opening night. The defending NBA champions will be getting their banner and rings before they play the Thunder. It’s another meeting of the back to back NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant against his old team and Russell Westbrook. KD has averaged 32.7 points on 54.7 percent shooting versus his old squad. Golden State also struck gold by getting DeMarcus Cousins on a discount but he’s expected to miss a good portion of the season as he recovers from a torn Achilles. But the Warriors still got Steph, Klay, Draymond and KD so Boogie won’t have to rush the process.
For OKC, Russell Westbrook is coming off his sceond straight season averaging a triple double and always gets hyped playing against his ex-teammate. Also, they kept Paul George in the fold as he developed a great relationship with Westbrook on and off the court. Andre Roberson (OKC’s top wing defender) will be back from a season ending torn patella tendon so that will help. The Thunder will try to build off from last season when they lost in the first round last against the Jazz. They are projected to be a top four team in the West.
October 18th: Lakers vs. Trail Blazers
The King will make his long awaited debut wearing the Purple and Gold jersey. LeBron signed with the Lakers after spending 15 seasons with the Cavs (two stints) and Heat. He will bring his greatness to the long and storied Laker franchise. The four time MVP says that he likes the challenge of leading a young team to the promiseland. Luckily, he will have young stars in Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball that will help him along the way. In addition, LA added veterans in Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley to help the youngsters.
On the other hand, Portland finished third in the West behind the Rockets and Warriors. However, they got swept in the first round by the Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. They still got one of the best backcourts in the league in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Lillard averaged 26.9 points but struggled in the postseason averaging only 18.5 on 35.3 percent shooting. McCollum, Lillard’s backcourt mate, averaged 21.4 points but upped his playoff average to 25.3 on 51.9 percent from the floor.
October 27th: Jazz vs. Pelicans
Both of these squads are legitimate contenders to compete in the West. Anthony Davis, who people say that he will surpass King James as the best player in the league, is a superstar. This guy has an all-around offensive game, a great rebounder, defender and shot blocker. Last season, the five time All-Star averaged a career high in points (28.1), 11.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Davis along with Jrue Holiday led the sixth seed Pelicans to a first round sweep over the Trail Blazers. They would lose to the champion Warriors in the semifinals 4-1.
For the Jazz, they’re led by rising star Donovan Mitchell and the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. Utah was a top five defensive team when Gobert was on the court defending the paint and blocking shots. Mitchell was the runner up in the Rookie of the Year and has a knack for performing well in big time games. Last year in the series clinching win against the Thunder in the first round, he scored 22 of his 38 points in the third quarter going at Russell Westbrook fearlessly. Don’t sleep on Utah, they can be a darkhorse team in the crowded Western Conference.
November 15th: Rockets vs. Warriors
The top two teams in the Western Conference will face off for the first time this season in mid-November. Last season, the Rockets played the Warriors tough and pushed them to the brink in a seven game series. They were potentially one Chris Paul injury away from going to the NBA Finals. Well they’ll be motivated once again to derail the defending champs led by reigning MVP James Harden and CP3. Altough, they lost two great defenders in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency. But, they signed Carmelo Anthony to be the third option and re-signed Clint Capela on a five year, 90 million dollar contract.
Golden State shouldn’t have a hard time because Houston took a step back defensively. KD, Steph and Klay had great series against them in last year’s WCF and will do it again. Both squads can face each other again in the Western Conference Finals again. For Houston, hopefully this time they can get over the hump and compete for a title, which would be their first since 1995.
November 21st: Lakers vs. Cavaliers
From St. Vincent St. Mary’s High School number 23, LEBRON JAMES. The King will return to his stomping grounds for the first time since he left Cleveland again. His second stint with the Cavs was memorable. When he came back home 2014, he had a goal to bring a championship to Northeast Ohio. With the chasedown block on Andre Iguodala in Game 7 in the 2016 NBA Finals and his clutch free throw, LeBron brought the title home. It was the city’s first championship since 1964 when the Browns won the NFL championship. It was something that Ohioans will never forget and thank LeBron for that moment.
Well, he left behind a team that will never be the same without him. However, Kevin Love decided to stay put by signing a four year, 120 million dollar contract extension to be the number one option. They drafted Collin Sexton with the eighth pick that they got from Boston in the Kyrie Irving trade who they hope to be a star. Also, they got some young fondational pieces in Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Cedi Osman along with vets Tristan Thompson, JR Smith and George Hill.
Christmas Day: Thunder vs. Rockets
It’s going to be a special Christmas gift for NBA fans between the inner conference foes. Also, there are All-Stars on both sides with Russell Westbrook and Paul George on OKC and the reigning MVP James Harden, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony on Houston. Speaking of Melo, he spent last season with the Thunder and had the worst season of his career. He averaged only 16.2 points on 40.4 percent from the floor playing as the third wheel to Westbrook and George.
Harden has averaged 26.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 8.4 assists in 21 contests versus the team that drafted him. This could be a potential playoff preview in the Wild Wild West so fans shouldn’t miss it.
Christmas Day: Lakers vs. Warriors
This is it the game that everybody is wanting to see and it’s happening on Christmas Day. It will be LeBron James’ first game going up against his kryptonite. He has faced them in the last four Finals as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and lost three of four. Despite his battles against Dub Nation, he has averaged 33.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 9.3 assists in the 22 Finals games versus Golden State.
Also, he has a 8-4 record and has averages of 26.7 points and has scored 321 total points on Christmas. He trails Lakers great Kobe Bryant (395) on the all time Christmas scoring list.
Well, Golden State isn’t losing much sleep because they already know how to beat LeBron-led teams. Dub Nation is the class of the league for the past four seasons. As people already know, the road to the Finals goes through the Bay Area. This will be a test for the Lake Show if they want to contend in the West. Starting in 1998, the Purple and Gold have played on Christmas Day that included the Shaq and Kobe years.
January 3rd: Raptors vs. Spurs
It is Kawhi Leonard’s first game in San Antonio since he requested to be traded from the Lone Star State. The best two-play player spent his first seven seasons with the Spurs after acquiring him in a draft day trade from the Pacers in 2011. At first, he was a great defender but wasn’t a good jump shooter. But the Spurs worked with him on his shot and developed into one of the best players in the league. Also, he became a two time Defensive Player of the Year, two time All-Star, NBA Champion and Finals MVP. Leonard was the guy that was the franchise player after Tim Duncan retired. The end wasn’t pretty as he wanted out of San Antonio because he felt they betrayed him on his quad injury. He’ll be motivated being on a new team to play well against his old squad
On the other hand, DeMar DeRozan will face against his old team. But he won’t return to Toronto as a visitor until February 22nd. He was the face of the franchise for nine years through the good and bad. The four time All-Star was blindsided by the trade and will like to put a payback on them. But, he’s in a good situation playing for the best coach in the NBA (Gregg Popovich) that will help him become a better player.
February 7th: Lakers vs. Celtics
This is arguably the greatest rivalry in sports. Both franchises have the most titles in NBA history (Boston with 17 and LA with 16). They have produced Hall of Famers like Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant.
Also, it’s a matchup between two former teammates, LeBron James vs. Kyrie Irving. These guys spent three seasons together on the Cavs and were instrumental in delivering the franchise’s only championship in 2016. LeBron has owned the Celtics when he was on the Heat and Cavs five of the last seven seasons in the East. This could be a potential NBA Finals preview and boy the rivalry will be renewed again.