After a relatively quick offseason that began in mid-October, the NBA unveiled the first half of its 2020-21 regular season schedule. As expected within the first 37 games, teams such as the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers (30), Golden State Warriors (30), and Houston Rockets (26) will be featured often on a multitude of national TV broadcasts.
But on the other end of the spectrum, the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Charlotte Hornets only have one nationally televised game. Meanwhile, the reigning Eastern champion, Miami Heat are on national tv six times, while the Memphis Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks only have two games.
That being said, we are going to take a deep look at the first half schedule and pick out a few games, which have intriguing matchups and are League Pass-worthy.
Hawks vs. Bulls (Dec. 23)
To open up the regular season, the revamped and improved Atlanta Hawks will travel to the Windy City to play the Chicago Bulls. This will be the first time we see the Hawks, who added Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari, and Bogdan Bogdanovic in free-agency last month. And not to mention, dynamic point guard Trae Young is back looking to build off of his All-Star appearance from last season.
On the other sideline, Billy Donovan will be making his head coaching debut for the Bulls. Donovan spent the last few seasons in Oklahoma City and surprisingly got the Thunder into the playoffs. Bulls fans are hoping that Donovan can help take Coby White’s game to another level, just like he did with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander last season.
Grizzlies vs. Hornets (Jan. 1)
To begin the New Year, we get a fun matchup between the upstart Memphis Grizzlies, who are led by reigning Rookie of the Year award winner Ja Morant and the Charlotte Hornets, who are turning the keys of the franchise to rookie LaMelo Ball.
The Grizzlies made a lot of noise last season and just missed out on the playoffs, losing in the play-in game against the Portland Trail Blazers in the bubble. Morant vs. Ball makes this an easy league pass game because both are dynamic playmakers. The Hornets made a splash this offseason, acquiring Gordon Hayward in a sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics. Hayward now joins a Hornets team that boasts Devonte Graham, Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington and Ball.
Heat vs. Mavericks (Jan. 1)
Unlike Memphis-Charlotte, it is actually surprising to see Heat-Mavericks not on national TV. Anytime, you have the NBA Finals runner-up going up against one of the best young players in the world in Luka Doncic, you would think that’s must see TV?
It should be fun to see Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Bam Adebayo try to get back to the finals now as the hunted in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile for Dallas, this could be a great litmus test to see where they stand at with the contenders. Doncic will have to take his game to greater heights as Dallas is without Kristaps Porzingis.
Warriors vs. Hornets (Feb. 20)
When you think about this game on paper, it should be a blowout in the direction of the Golden State Warriors. However, we get a matchup between the No. 2 overall pick in James Wiseman and No. 3 pick in LaMelo Ball. Throughout the draft process, many mock drafts had Wiseman landing in Charlotte and Ball ending up in the Bay Area. But obviously that wasn't the case as both players landed in perfect situations for their growth and development.
At that point in the season, it should be interesting to see how both rookies are assimilating theirselves on their respective teams. Also, we get to see Ball go against Stephen Curry, which will be fun to watch play out.
Bulls at Thunder (Jan. 15)
This may not be a premier game on paper considering how ugly the Thunder roster is in the middle of a rebuild, but it’s got a bit of narrative to it. Billy Donovan coached the Thunder for five seasons and reached the playoffs in every year. He left OKC after being ousted in the first round again in 2020, taking up shop in Chicago as the leader of a young Bulls squad looking for an identity. The Bulls have enough talent in Zach LaVine, Coby White, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and the No. 4 pick this past draft Patrick Williams. The Thunder at least have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who will be fun to watch as the guy in OKC.
Hawks at Suns (Jan. 13)
For some odd reason, when the NBA was making the schedule they completely ignored the fact that the Hawks and the Suns got infinitely better this offseason. Both teams should be in the playoffs when May rolls around after massive improvements. I mean, just from a fantasy perspective I can already tell you this will be the most popular game stack on the Jan. 13 slate, easily. The pace of this game is going to be nuts and we’ve got Trae Young and Devin Booker going at it, plus a slew of other names — CP3, Deandre Ayton, John Collins, Clint Capela, two top 10 picks in Onyeka Okongwu and Jalen Smith. This game is what you get League pass for, quite frankly. It is quintessential League Pass.
There’s a collective around the League that believes the Knicks will be competitive this season and I’m among them. Tom Thibodeau is a very good coach and should have the Knicks ready to go for the season after such a long layoff. Obi Toppin is in town, so we’ve got some hype surrounding him and RJ Barrett playing at MSG. Not a ton of hype, but hype none the less. Basketball might be back in the Big Apple. The Sixers also have a new coach in Doc Rivers, so we’ve got a marquee bench boss matchup on top of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson going at it. I’m buying the Knicks early on (at least I’m hopeful they can hang this season). Also the Philly vs. New York rivalry needs to come back, the football one isn’t cutting it currently.
Kings at Nuggets (Dec. 23)
Sacramento lost Bogdan Bogdanovic in free agency but has a rising star in De’Aaron Fox who is capable of leading the Kings with his game-changing speed. Buddy Hield should take a step forward as a scorer with less competition and Marvin Bagley will look to break out in his third season with Hassan Whiteside as his frontcourt partner. Denver, on the other hand, could look to move forward with Michael Porter Jr. as as the third option on offense alongside Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Seeing a shootout between these two Western Conference teams could be an interesting in the Mile High City.
Grizzlies at Timberwolves (Jan. 15)
The Timberwolves have the youngest roster in the NBA and the Grizzlies are the third-youngest roster. While neither team is a title contender at this point there’s a ton of talent to get excited about. While Jaren Jackson and Justise Winslow might not be back because of injuries, Ja Morant will get to lead his squad against an up-and-coming Minnesota squad that’s added 2020 top pick Anthony Edwards to a to a group that’s anchored by D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. I’m interested to see how the Timberwolves match up against a team that nearly made playoffs last season.