The schedule for the 2016-17 NBA season was released on Thursday, meaning basketball junkies can begin circling certain dates on their respective calendars.
There will be a total of 164 nationally televised games this season. The Warriors, not surprisingly, lead the way with 28 national TV games. The Clippers have 26 games on national TV, the Cavaliers and Bulls each get 25, the Spurs have 23, while the Knicks, Celtics and Thunder are each on national TV 22 times.
Also worth noting: this year, beginning on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, TNT will be airing games on Monday nights in addition to Thursday nights. Here is the full TNT schedule (comprising 64 games), along with ESPN and ABC’s full slate of NBA telecasts (totaling 100 games) this season.
Below are the 10 most intriguing games available for a national TV audience during the 2016-17 NBA regular season. (All times Eastern)
10. Celtics at Raptors, Friday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. ESPN
Will the addition of Al Horford push the Celtics past the Raptors and morph them into the Eastern Conference’s second-best team? Granted, one regular season game won’t answer that question. Also, as long as LeBron James is in Cleveland, it doesn’t really matter who the second-best team in the East is. That said, this should still make for a fun regular season tilt.
9. Pelicans at Timberwolves, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 9:30 p.m. ESPN
You can get your NBA nerd on with this game, which is just loaded with young and fun talent. Minnesota will be one of the more intriguing teams to watch this season. They have the league’s best under-25 core. Karl-Anthony Towns might already be a top-15 player. Andrew Wiggins is on his way to being a two-way stud. Zach LaVine is as electric a guard as there is in the league. The Wolves also have lottery pick Kris Dunn with new coach Tom Thibodeau at the helm. Minnesota could be a playoff team this year; it’s no accident they’re on national TV 11 times.
But don’t sleep on the Pelicans either. Anthony Davis is still one of the five best players in the league and rookie Buddy Hield could quickly turn into a League Pass darling. Regular season national TV games are about watching guys and teams you might not normally see. Be sure to tune in for this one.
8. Knicks at Bulls, Friday, Nov. 4, 8 p.m., ESPN
The Prodigal Son returns. Just a few years ago, Derrick Rose was the most popular athlete in Chicago, the hometown kid who was going to lead the Bulls back to prominence. Yeah, that didn’t exactly go as planned. This will be his first-ever game in Chicago wearing the visiting team’s uniform. You assume he’ll receive a standing ovation, but with fickle fans, you never know. Joakim Noah, also playing his first game in the United Center wearing colors other than Bulls red, should make this game even more fun.
Reminder that the NBA will release its schedule at 4:45 p.m. CT today. My Thunder-Warriors preview: pic.twitter.com/2Xw1WyfPnu
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) August 11, 2016
7. Thunder at Warriors, Thursday, Nov. 3, 10:30 p.m
The first time Kevin Durant faces his former team. The Thunder and Warriors first matchup of the season takes place at Golden State, which takes some of the fun out of the equation. But this will still be the first time we ever get to see Durant take on Russell Westbrook. (That is, assuming you don’t count the myriad late-game possessions they seemed to be fighting for the ball.) I think the tweet above sums up what that might look like best.
6. Knicks at Cavaliers, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m. TNT
This, the first game of the 2016-17 NBA regular season, has nothing to do with the game itself and everything to do with what will happen before it. On Tuesday, Oct. 25, a Cleveland professional sports team will receive championship rings. That’s a moment many thought they’d never see. It should be special to watch.
5. Warriors at Clippers, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 10:30 p.m. ESPN
The first matchup between the new-look Warriors and the Western Conference opponent they have the most bad blood with. The Clippers, if healthy, have enough talent to give Golden State a good run. Here’s hoping they manage to stay healthy, so we can see what that looks like.
4. Bulls at Heat, Thursday, Nov. 10, 8 p.m. TNT
Dwyane Wade returns to Miami in a Heat uniform. Man, that’s going to be a strange sight, and an even stranger atmosphere. He should get a nice video tribute, though. That said, might be a good idea for Pat Riley to stay away that night.
3. Spurs at Warriors, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 10:30 p.m., TNT
Our first look at Kevin Durant in a Warriors uniform. That, of course, will get most of the attention. But don’t sleep on the fact that this will be the Spurs’ first game without Tim Duncan since 1997. At the least, we should get a great Gregg Popovich mid-game interview.
2. Warriors at Cavaliers, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2 p.m., ABC
The NBA is making us wait until Christmas Day to see a rematch of the last two NBA Finals and, if we’re being honest, a likely preview of this year’s championship. This game would easily be No. 1 on this list if not for…
1. Warriors at Thunder, Saturday, Feb 11, 8:30 p.m. ABC
… Kevin Durant returning to Oklahoma City in a Warriors uniform on this Saturday night. The crowd shouldn’t be as hostile as the Cleveland one was when LeBron first returned in a Miami uniform. But they certainly won’t be kind, either. Also, this game will feature Russell Westbrook hyped on all sorts of adrenaline. That could be brilliant to watch or frightening. Either way, if you’re a basketball fan you have to tune in.