From top to bottom, this should be an excellent week of non-national games featuring matchups of elite teams as well as some with compelling young talent.
- Bulls @ Hawks: Even as we close in on the 25 game threshold, I am still not sure where the Hawks fit in a strange Eastern Conference playoff picture. Hosting the Bulls could help resolve that. It will also be a test of if Tom Thibodeau will react to Golden State exploiting his defense (and talent) with a stretch four since Atlanta’s system can force similar decisions.
- Bucks @ Suns: Two teams that have produced some fun games so far this season. Milwaukee’s unusual length allows them to play pick and rolls aggressively while the Suns may have the best collection of ballhandlers in the league.
- Spurs @ Trail Blazers: In other weeks, an argument could be made for this being the most anticipated NNGW matchup. After all, Portland’s improved defense has fueled their 18-6 record and the Blazers have been a strong home team. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge both pose problems for the champs but San Antonio’s depth will make Terry Stotts lament his comparatively meager bench.
- Heat @ Nets: Chris Bosh’s strained calf means Miami will need to get contributions from new places and facing a Brooklyn team still finding themselves despite having a top-eight record in the East.
- Mavericks @ Knicks: On the list to see if Tyson Chandler injures his back laughing at the sinking ship he was lucky enough to be traded away from.
- Hawks @ Cavaliers: Another test for Atlanta and a potential showcase for LeBron James considering Atlanta’s lack of an elite perimeter defender. It also features Kevin Love battling Paul Millsap which has been worth watching for years.
- Magic @ Celtics: Both teams have outperformed their talent so far and this continues an incredible home/road disparity for the Magic who as of this writing have played seventeen games on the road and only nine in Orlando.
- Grizzlies @ Spurs (Game of the Week): No sales pitch needed as these are two incredibly good basketball teams that have plenty of battles on larger stages over the years.
- Pelicans @ Rockets: Assuming Anthony Davis returns by this point, we could see a fun game featuring teams with dramatically different strengths. Houston has played well without Dwight Howard but could struggle to contain one of the league’s best players while New Orleans’ best perimeter defender has been their Point Guard who they might be reticent to put on James Harden.
- Bucks @ Kings: Sacramento’s first League Pass game after they shockingly fired Mike Malone. Also, Giannis!
- Bulls @ Grizzlies: An old school battle between two teams with elite front lines. Memphis has a few opportunities this week to make statements against top teams and I hope we get to see some quality time with Mike Conley and Derrick Rose going at it.
- Trail Blazers @ Pelicans An easy inclusion if Anthony Davis can suit up. Lillard and Aldridge have played well this year but Davis and Holiday have the potential to be solid defensive counterpoints.
- Hawks @ Rockets: This game features teams unafraid to try new things in the NBA with the talent to compete with the best. James Harden and Al Horford are All-Stars without logical stoppers on the other side.
- Spurs @ Mavericks: Another game of the week option in another week even though we see these teams play so often. Dallas continues to lead the league in Offensive Efficiency while the Spurs quietly sit in third for Defensive Efficiency despite using their starters so much less than other franchises.
- Bucks @ Clippers: Even though they have fallen to tenth in defense, watching Jason Kidd’s tactics for defending Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers will be a fascinating exercise. I am especially intrigued to see where Kidd puts Jabari Parker and Giannis because Larry Sanders may be the most logical defender on Blake.
- Grizzlies @ Cavaliers: Another day, another huge game for the Grizzlies. While Kevin Love has some battles with Memphis in his past, we sadly have not seen much of Kyrie vs. Conley or Tony Allen on LeBron (in recent years, at least). Just seeing these teams share the court should be worth the price of admission.
- Suns @ Wizards: Marcin Gortat revenge game! Also, college teammates John Wall and Eric Bledsoe throw down with one of the few guys in the league that can hang with them athletically.
- Pelicans @ Thunder: The game I am most looking forward to this week hands down. New Orleans has played some feisty games recently and the Thunder have been winning while continuing to get their groove back. Almost college teammates Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday will not get the headlines over their forward counterparts but could end up deciding the outcome unless Durant goes wild against a team without a wing defender.