The NBA released the official regular season schedule Monday night. With the full season now available, let’s look at 10 must see match ups for Philadelphia.
Oct. 18th – @ Washington Wizards
The Sixers will open their season in the nation’s capital. It will mark the NBA debut’s for both Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons. The Wizards won 49 games last season and lost a hard fought seven game second round series versus Boston. John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter represent a challenge for the young Sixers. It should be a terrific opener.
Oct. 20th – vs. Boston Celtics
Two days later, the home season kicks off with rivalry night against Boston. Last year’s home opener was highlighted by the long awaited debut of Joel Embiid. This year the Sixers will trot out two #1 overall picks in Simmons and Fultz. If either can provide a spark similar to what Embiid provided last year, the team could win their home opener for the first time since 2013-14.
Nov. 11th and 18th – @/vs. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors, for better or worse parity, are the standard to which every team in the NBA compares itself. If you can’t beat the Warriors, you aren’t competing for a title any time soon. The Sixers will get the Dubs twice in the span of a week this year. Despite their porous record for the past four seasons, Philadelphia has actually played the Warriors close in both of the match ups last season. The closest game was their Mar. 14th. contest, a two point Golden State victory. Dario Saric had one of his best games of the year in the second matchup; the Croatian collected 25 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr was impressed from what he saw that night.
“I do know that Saric is a hell of a player,” Kerr said. “He fits the modern NBA game. He can step out and make threes. He can pass and can put it on the floor. He’s a good-looking young player.”
And Kerr didn’t just praise Saric.
“I love the way they play,” Kerr said of Philadelphia. “I think they play a lot like we do actually with the ball movement, cutting and spacing.”
It’s also worth noting that the Sixers didn’t have Embiid in either of the two games last year. With the addition of Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz, we’ll be able to see just how close Philadelphia is to the Golden standard.
Nov. 27th – vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The worst kept secret of the NBA offseason is Ben Simmons apparently recruiting LeBron James to Philadelphia. LeBron is a free agent after next season, and many around the league feel that he’s already halfway out the door.
Beyond this game being a measuring stick for the Sixers in the Eastern Conference, the hype surrounding the game itself could be the story. Will the crowd join in and try to recruit LeBron? What sort of comments will Simmons or LeBron make about one another, both before and after the game? If there is the slightest hint or recognition of LeBron even entertaining Philadelphia as a landing spot, this city might go insane.
Get your popcorn ready.
Nov. 30th – @ Boston Celtics
These teams will play four times total, but I have my eye on the first meeting in Boston. The Celtics famously traded away the #1 pick in this year’s draft to Philadelphia. The Sixers were glad to give up assets for the highly touted Fultz. But Boston, and their #3 selection Jayson Tatum, weren’t as high on Fultz as the rest of the league. In fact, Tatum claims that Boston would have taken him at #1 instead of Fultz. Every match up with Boston is worth watching, but the first game in Boston might be special for Fultz as he tries to prove them wrong for passing up a chance to draft him.
Dec. 7th – vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have a new rookie you may have heard of. Lonzo may be the one on the court, but his father Lavar is just as good, if not better, at grabbing headlines. His brash, sometimes problematic behavior attracts all sorts of criticism. Joel Embiid, never afraid of the spotlight, jumped at the chance to offer his opinion on Lavar, even though it cost him a fair chunk of change.
It’s unclear how much Lavar will travel to see his son play. I don’t get the sense that he would come all the way to Philadelphia, but on the off chance that he does, it could turn into a circus. Even if it’s just Lonzo, I’d expect a heavy chorus of boos for the #2 overall pick.
Dec. 25th – @ New York Knicks
The annual slate of Christmas games might be my favorite part of the NBA schedule. After opening gifts in the morning, I can sit back and watch basketball for the last 12 hours of the day. The Sixers will tip off this year’s slate of games against the Knicks in New York. These two teams have played each other very closely in recent years. Last season all of their games were decided by three points or less. Some NBA fans may scoff at two teams lower in the standings getting national tv spots, but this has all of the makings of an exciting game.
Also, it’s a bonus gift for Philly fans, as the Eagles will host the Oakland Raiders that day.
Jan 20th – vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Ten years from now, do you think we’ll remember who won the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year? It wasn’t exactly a great rookie class. Embiid was clearly the best when he played, but he had been drafted two years earlier and only played 31 games. Dario Saric was fun but didn’t garner much national attention. Malcolm Brogdon actually took home the award on a Bucks team that made the playoffs.
I think Embiid and Saric will both remember that when the Bucks come to town. They both had an argument for the award of Brogdon and might be on a mission to prove themselves. Plus, as Milwaukee continues to grow and become a power in the East, we could see the beginnings of a rivalry between these two.
Mar. 24th – vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
A late season meeting with the Wolves gives everyone a chance to see two of the best young rosters go head to head. Minnesota will be pushing for a playoff appearance after trading for Jimmy Butler this summer. Embiid will match up with Karl Anthony Towns, who put up 25 and 12 last year and was promptly left off the All-NBA teams. Big men just don’t get respect now a days.
With Towns, Butler and Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves can score from anywhere and will be downright unpleasant to play against with their athleticism. If their defense improves from last year (18th in opponents points per game last year, a far cry from a Tom Thibedau coched squad), the Wolves have the makings of a legit team out west and could provided one of the toughest challenges all season for Philadelphia.
The remainder of the Sixers’ schedule can be found here.