The NBA released the 2016-17 regular season schedule on Thursday afternoon, which gives us plenty of time to prepare for the whirlwind year that's ahead of us. Kevin Durant will head back to Oklahoma City for the first time; ditto for Derrick Rose and New York, and Dwyane Wade and Miami. We'll also learn which teams have what it takes to challenge the Cavaliers and Warriors in their respective conferences. But before all that, we'll crown a King. Here are the 10 must-see games of next season.
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Oct. 25: Knicks at Cavaliers (TNT)
The defending champion Cavs (what a thing to be able to type) open the season at home against a new-look New York squad featuring Derrick Rose alongside Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah and Carmelo Anthony. This might not be a coronation for King James; two years ago, the Knicks defeated LeBron in his first game back in Cleveland. After the ring ceremony and the game, stick around and watch Mike D'Antoni return to Los Angeles, as the Rockets take on the Lakers in the first game of the post-Kobe era.
NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew D. Bernstein
Nov. 4: Knicks @ Bulls (ESPN)
Early November brings the first of many NBA reunions this year, as Rose returns to his hometown of Chicago as a member of the Knicks. As if that weren't enough, this also will be one of our first glimpses of Dwyane Wade with the Bulls on national television. Can Wade make it work with Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo, or will Chicago be a disjointed mess early in the season?
NBAE/Getty ImagesNathaniel S. Butler
Nov. 10: Bulls @ Heat (TNT)
Speaking of Wade, less than a week after Rose returns to Chicago, Wade will bring the house down in Miami. Expect the Heat crowd to rain adoration upon the former Heat Lifer.
Nov. 23: Wolves @ Pelicans (ESPN)
With new coach Tom Thibodeau and the addition of Kris Dunn, the Wolves are going to be one of the most fun young teams in the league next season — and we can't wait to watch Karl-Anthony Towns go up against Anthony Davis, whose ascent to superstardom has been superceded by our love affair with Towns. If Davis wants to remind people that he's still the prototype for future NBA bigs, this will be his chance.
Getty ImagesAdam Bettcher
Dec. 16: Lakers @ 76ers (ESPN)
It seems unfair to put any of the Christmas Day games on this list, since that day is basically an NBA holiday. Consider them all must-see events. But a few days before Christmas, No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons and his Sixers will host No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram's Lakers in a little winter get-together. It's always fun to watch the top two picks go at it for the first time — and with a date in December, we avoid the risk of either running into the rookie wall and laying an egg.
APFrank Franklin II
Jan. 16, 2017: Cavaliers @ Warriors (TNT)
Cleveland and Golden State meet for the first time since the NBA Finals on Christmas Day, but that one's in Cleveland. I'm more excited to watch LeBron & Co. march into Oracle Arena, where the ridiculously raucous home crowd will do their best to show Kevin Durant why he made the right choice this offseason — and where the King's men took the championship that belonged to the Warriors this past June.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Feb. 11, 2017: Warriors @ Thunder (ABC)
This is the one we're all waiting for: KD's first game back in Oklahoma City. Will they cheer? Will they boo? Will the reception be mixed? It's probably going to be the latter, but I have no idea — and neither do you. Just six more months until we find out, however.
NBAE/Getty ImagesGarrett Ellwood
Feb. 24, 2017: Celtics @ Raptors (League Pass)
This one's for the basketball nerds, admittedly. If you have any interest in whether an Eastern Conference team can compete with the Cavs this year, Boston vs. Toronto should serve as a solid litmus test. Barring something truly strange happening, one of these teams is going to face Cleveland in the Eastern finals. The Celtics will have had time to acclimate Al Horford to a new system, and the Raptors should have settled into their new rotation without Bismack Biyombo.
Getty ImagesMike Lawrie
April 8, 2017: Clippers @ Spurs (ABC)
The West is fairly wide open behind the Warriors, but the Clippers and Spurs seem like two safe bets as potential Western Conference finalists. In fact, L.A. might be the second best team in the West next year. After a year without Tim Duncan, this late-season matchup should tell us just how much of a threat San Antonio will be in the playoffs. Could this finally be the year the Spurs take a step back as they adjust to a new era?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
April 12, 2017: Spurs @ Jazz (League Pass)
The final day of the regular season is kind of weak, but there are three very good reasons to tune in to the Spurs once again. Between Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol, someone's going to retire after this season for San Antonio. Either way, you'll want to catch their last NBA game ever. The Jazz, meanwhile, are a sneaky candidate to claim home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs next season. A win over the Spurs would send quite a message.