The NBA schedule has finally been released in it’s entirety after the league teased us over the last week with some marquee games. That means that this is a good time to look over the schedule for 10 games that stand out as interesting ones for bettors to keep a close eye on. I don’t want to be painfully predictable, so I’m going to leave most games featuring the Lakers and the Heat off – every game they play is going to be worth watching. Here are ten more slightly lower profile games (okay, one is as high profile as it gets, but you get the point) that stand out at first glance:
October 29, Denver at New Orleans – The future is murky for both Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. They don’t really know where they are going to play next year, but they are very closely linked together, and we keep hearing that they would like to play together in New York. CP3 isn’t happy right now, either, so there are sure to be some strange dynamics surrounding this game.
October 31, Utah at Oklahoma City – Kevin Durant is coming off a massive season, and is unquestionably a superstar. He has a fat new contract now, and I think he’ll be really motivated by what has gone on in the league to prove that you can still build a winner the old-fashioned way. This is a big early test for the Thunder, and I expect Durant to explode.
November 3, Lakers at Sacramento – I’m interested in this one for the Kings. Tyreke Evans is special, and the team had a very strong offseason. They aren’t a contender yet, but they sure took nice steps this summer. They open the season with four very easy games and could very well be 4-0 heading into this contest. Win or lose, the Kings can gain a whole lot of confidence in themselves and their progress if they play the champs tighter than they have been recently.
November 8, Atlanta at Orlando – The Hawks just keep getting better every year, and they avoided a disaster when they convinced Joe Johnson to rejoin them for the long term. There seems to be a sentiment that Atlanta could take a small step back this year, but they obviously aren’t going to want to do that. They start with an easy schedule, but this game – and a home game against Phoenix right before this one – are going to be a good test of whether the team can just keep moving forward, and if the change of coaches from Mike Woodson to Larry Drew is going to be positive and smooth.
November 13, Washington at Chicago – This is the John Calipari Cup, as two of his prized point guards, both one-and-done first overall picks. Derrick Rose is obviously more experienced and has more talent around him, but John Wall has had a very good summer, and won’t be afraid of the competition. The highlight reels could get worn out in this one.
December 2, Miami at Cleveland – I won’t insult you by explaining this one. Sufficed to say, this is going to be a media circus like none other.
December 8, Denver at Charlotte – The Bobcats were one of the very pleasant surprises of last year, and they had a solid offseason. They were as committed to defense as a team can be and it paid off. That commitment might be harder to maintain this year because they have tasted some success. This game is going to be a good test of where Charlotte is at because Denver was a top three offense last year and is going to be able to score again this year. Charlotte’s season up to this point is reasonably soft, so a win here is when I could really start believing in what Larry Brown and company are up to.
December 25, Boston at Orlando – There seems to have already been a coronation atop the Eastern Conference for the Heat, but these are the two teams that have something to say about that. This has turned into a nasty rivalry, and the stakes haven’t been higher than they will be this year. What a great Christmas present from the league.
January 7, New York at Phoenix – Steve Nash may be getting older, and the Suns may not have as much talent around them as they did, but Nash is still one of the most ruthlessly competitive guys in the league. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Canada’s finest basketball player will do absolutely anything it takes to beat not only his old coach but also the star who thought he was too good for Phoenix. Amare Stoudemire will want to have a big game in his old stomping grounds as well. There will be fireworks.
March 4 and 5, Toronto and New Jersey in London – Finally, the Amir Johnson – Brook Lopez battle that everyone has been crying for! I’m kidding of course. What I really want to know is why does the league hate London? If you want to build your brand on another continent why would you spend perhaps the two worst teams in the weaker conference as your ambassadors? It would be like sending Snooki and Lindsay Lohan as U.S. representatives to the U.N. The best part of this game is that it’s one less game that fans in the two cities have to go to and endure.