Welcome back to Non-National Games of the Week! This should be another strong season of games not played on TNT, ESPN, ABC or NBATV. You can also read my League Pass team column. As much fun as the offseason has become, real games are so much better.
Orlando Magic @ New Orleans Pelicans: The first non-national game of the season features Anthony Davis and his new muscle Omer Asik. Orlando made a series of changes this summer and Jrue Holiday will provide a challenge on both ends for Elfrid Payton’s first game. Plus, any minutes of Aaron Gordon vs. Anthony Davis should be captivating.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Charlotte Hornets: A combination of the first game for the newly rechristened Charlotte franchise and Jabari Parker’s first regular season game. The Giannis / Jabari / Larry Sanders (not all caps…for now) front court will be worth checking in on the first few weeks and Lance Stephenson making his debut should be fun as well.
Washington Wizards @ Miami Heat: A nice opening week game featuring two teams that had some notable turnover this summer. Miami has to learn how to play without LeBron while Paul Pierce works to make his imprint on a Wizards team ready for more success. Since Washington has players suspended due to a strange brawln in the pre-season, Chris Bosh will have an opportunity to show what he can do against shakier opponents.
Atlanta Hawks @ Toronto Raptors: While other games on this list make it for storylines or debuts, this one should be a fun game to watch. Toronto was one of the NBA’s best surprises last season and Atlanta played well before Al Horford’s injury. These teams actually made a trade in the off-season that sent Louis Williams and rookie Lucas Nogueira to the Raps in exchange for cap flexibility so we could see Lou try for some fireworks against his former team.
Houston Rockets @ Utah Jazz: Dante Exum’s debut, Trevor Ariza’s return and Dwight Howard vs. Derrick Favors. Sounds good to me.
Detroit Pistons @ Minnesota Timberwolves: There may not be two teams outside of Cleveland with more questions we need answered. Will Stan Van Gundy lay down the law and only play two of Drummond, Smith and Monroe at a time? Can Andrew Wiggins start his career strong? Will Gorgui Dieng and Zach LaVine get minutes? How many bad shots can Josh Smith take before SVG goes ballistic?
Philadelphia 76ers @ Milwaukee Bucks: After missing all of last season, Nerlens Noel should get a showcase here against the only team that ended last season with a worse record than the Sixers. We might get to see second round pick KJ McDaniels defend Jabari Parker at some point, which happened most recently in a thrilling ACC Tournament game.
San Antonio Spurs @ Phoenix Suns (Game of the Week): The Champs get Game of the Week honors and deservedly so with such a compelling week one matchup. The Suns added Isaiah Thomas to an already fun core and know how important each win will be. I also want to see how the Spurs handle Patty Mills’ extended absence and whether rookie steal Kyle Anderson gets any minutes.
Dallas Mavericks @ New Orleans Pelicans: Two teams with substantial changes who should be right in the middle of the battle for playoff spots in the Western Conference. Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler make Dallas a more complete team but Omer Asik provides a defensive identity that New Orleans sorely lacked last season. Plus, Anthony Davis guarding Dirk Nowitzki will be thrilling each and every time down the court.
Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook gets the reins of the Thunder in what should be a fast-paced game. Ty Lawson and the Nuggets added veteran depth in Arron Afflalo and young talent in Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris while the Thunder will have to survive without Kevin Durant and new addition Anthony Morrow.
Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz: This game has five Point Guards I want to see, six if you count Tyler Ennis who likely will not see much time. I also like it when coaches face teams they played on and Jeff Hornacek had great success in Salt Lake City.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Houston Rockets: This will likely only be worth watching for a quarter but Nerlens Noel manning up Dwight Howard should illustrate just how far the rookie’s body needs to develop if he wants to play center in the best league in the world. Plus, Harden could go for 40 or more.
Golden State Warriors @ Portland Trail Blazers: Must-watch NBA basketball on the first Sunday of the season. Just excellent. Damian Lillard has already had some big games against his hometown team and both franchises have making and winning playoff series in their sights already. This game also should be an early test of Steve Kerr’s defensive ethos since David Lee has lots of trouble defending LaMarcus Aldridge.