Skip to main content

NBA schedule release: Five most interesting takeaways  

Even without any games or even major transactions happening, the NBA found a way to keep itself in the conversation during the relatively quiet days of the offseason.

That’s because the NBA released its schedule for the 2023-24 season. As with every season, there are several things to unpack.

Which are the best matchups? Which teams will play during marquee dates on opening night and Christmas Day? Which games could feature potential reunions with players facing their former teams? Which games could become ratings gold and possibly serve as legitimate playoff previews?

All 30 NBA franchises have several things to dissect. But here are the five most interesting takeaways through the entire NBA.

Related: Top 50 NBA players of 2023-24

Which potential reunion game will be more interesting?

nba schedule release: james harden, philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers have not provided clarity on if or when they will trade Damian Lillard. ESPN recently reported that the Philadelphia 76ers decided against dealing James Harden, prompting the Sixers’ star to call general manager Daryl Morey “a liar” during a promotional tour in China.

Nonetheless, the NBA showcased potential reunion games in case either franchise eventually decides to trade its star player. The Philadelphia 76ers will host Harden’s desired team (LA Clippers) on Feb. 9, 2024 (7 pm ET, NBA TV). The Portland Trail Blazers will host Lillard’s desired team (Miami Heat) on Feb. 27, 2024 (10 pm ET, TNT).

Though it currently appears more likely the Blazers will deal Lillard to Miami than Philadelphia would trade Harden to the Clippers, which reunion game would be more riveting if both moves happen? Would it be more compelling to see Lillard face his franchise that he previously hoped would play for in his entire NBA career? Or would it be more entertaining for Harden to face an angry Sixers fanbase that never welcomes disgruntled former players kindly?

Those that want the drama would choose Sixers-Clippers because of the cold reception Harden would face. Those that like the emotional tributes would choose Blazers-Heat because Lillard would most likely still be greeted warmly even if the divorce ended badly. I’d choose Lillard/Blazers, and hope both parties can use that moment to be more amicable than in recent months.

Related: NBA power rankings heading into 2023-24 season

NBA is showcasing compelling games to open the inaugural In-Season tournament

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Denver Nuggets
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA will soon find out whether the In-Season tournament becomes successful. That mostly depends on the participating teams’ health and how seriously the respective front offices, coaching staffs and players treat the games. The NBA will at least have compelling pool play before the single-elimination games in the quarterfinals (Dec. 4-5) as well as the semifinals (Dec. 7) and championship games (Dec. 9) that will take place in Las Vegas.

A team hoping to become a championship contender (New York Knicks) will face a team eager to return to the big stage (Milwaukee Bucks) (Nov. 3, 7:30 pm ET, ESPN). The Lakers’ LeBron James will potentially square off against Phoenix’s Durant (Nov. 10, 10 pm ET, ESPN). And the Warriors will revisit their competitive first-round matchup against the Sacramento Kings (Nov. 28, 10 pm ET, TNT).

There are other compelling games. Two international stars with Dallas (Luka Donic) and Denver (Nikola Jokic) will begin the tournament with a head-to-head matchup (Nov. 3, 10 pm ET, ESPN). The Miami Heat and New York Knicks will revisit last season’s physical second-round playoff series (Nov. 24, 7:30 pm ET, ESPN). And the Warriors will welcome San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama for the first time (Nov. 24, 10 pm ET, TNT).

Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors still dominate national TV landscape

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA has anointed new champions and has overseen new rising stars. But one dominant theme has stayed the same.

NBA fans still want to watch the Warriors and Lakers play on a big stage. Those fans also clamor to see Curry and James.

The Warriors will be on either ABC, ESPN or TNT for a league-high 29 games. The Lakers trail shortly behind with 28. The Celtics (25), Nuggets (22) and Knicks (20) will also receive plenty of national TV exposure. The Spurs will have 11 national television games undoubtedly because of strong interest in Wembanyama. But as long as Curry and James remain dominant and healthy, television executives will still cast their eye on those two generational stars as well as two global franchises.

Related: NBA Christmas Day schedule

Lakers-Celtics will be most interesting Christmas Day game

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Technically, you can’t go wrong with watching any of the NBA’s Christmas Day Games. The television executives chose Bucks-Knicks (noon ET, ESPN), Warriors-Nuggets (2:30 pm ET, ABC/ESPN), Celtics-Lakers (5 pm ET, ABC/ESPN), Sixers-Heat (8 pm ET, ESPN) and Mavericks-Suns (10:30 pm ET, ESPN) because they all would generate ratings. But it’s a no brainer to showcase Lakers-Celtics in the Christmas Day primetime slot.

Just like the NBA’s greatest rivalry played out in the 1960s through 80s, any Lakers-Celtics game could become an NBA Finals preview. The Lakers hope they can build off of last season’s Western Conference Finals appearance by maintaining James’ championship window with extending Anthony Davis and retaining key incumbent role players (Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell).

After the Celtics failed to return to the NBA Finals last season, they treated the offseason differently. Though the Celtics also extended their second star player (Jaylen Brown), they also dealt their third star/defensive specialist/locker room leader (Marcus Smart) for an offensively dynamic player that already has injury issues (Kristaps Porzingis).

Assuming Porzingis enters training camp fully healthy and beyond as the Celtics expect, the Lakers-Celtics game will be the best Christmas Day game. Both teams have a combination of two complementary stars, lots of depth and young coaches. Both teams will also feel some freshness injected into the rivalry since they haven’t played each other on Christmas since 2008, six months after the Celtics dispatched the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals in six games.

The NBA executed opening night perfectly

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Brooklyn Nets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA undoubtedly showcases marquee games on opening night every season. This time, though, the NBA chose the two perfect options.

After squaring off against each other in the Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets will receive their championship rings in front of the Lakers (7:30 pm ET, TNT). Not only should the matchup be tantalizing. But the ring ceremony could produce more juice after Nuggets coach Michael Malone talked trash about the Lakers in various fashion following the team’s title run.

Though the Warriors and Suns don’t have that same history (10 pm ET, TNT, they are two teams that have interconnected relationships. Following various injuries and COVID-related restrictions, the Warriors will finally present Durant a video tribute in front of fans for helping them to two NBA titles out of three Finals appearances (2017-19) before leaving for Brooklyn. Warriors guard Chris Paul will face the Suns less than three months after dealing him to Washington as part of a deal to land another star point guard (Bradley Beal).

That backdrop should ensure both quality basketball and high-stakes drama in both contests.

Follow NBA writer Mark Medina on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Threads.