NBA schedule: 10 national TV games to circle on your calendar next season, including plenty of new faces visiting old places

The NBA national television schedule can get a bit homogeneous. Over the past several years, a few teams hoarded so much of the league's best talent that it was rare to get a truly great game outside of a handful of rivalries. 

That won't be the case this season as we learned when the league unveiled the 2019-20 regular-season schedule on Monday. With the league's superstar talent dispersed more evenly than it has been in years and a number of new rivalries forming seemingly overnight, there will be a great game on television almost every night. Below, we'll list the best 10 games on the nationally-televised schedule. You'll notice that no single team appears more than three times, and that 12 teams in total appear. These games stand out, but virtually any combination of these teams will produce matchups to remember. 

1. Clippers vs. Lakers: Battle of Los Angeles

  • Date: Tuesday, Oct. 22
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Staples Center -- Los Angeles
  • TV: TNT
  • Streaming: fuboTV (Try for free)

No, the Clippers probably won't be at full strength in this matchup. Paul George will likely still be recovering from shoulder surgery. But there will be three more chances to see these teams play each other healthy, and potentially seven more in the postseason. The atmosphere of this first game, even if George doesn't play, is going to be the star of the show. For the first time in NBA history, the Clippers and Lakers are contending for the same championship. The fans at Staples Center, which will be adorned in Clippers colors for this matchup, will go a long way in showing the world just how fierce this rivalry is going to be. 

2. Celtics vs. Nets: Irving returns to Boston

  • Date: Wednesday, Nov. 27
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • Location: TD Garden -- Boston
  • TV: ESPN

There are no questions about how fierce this rivalry will be. The Nets have hated the Celtics for years thanks to their infamous 2013 trade. Now the Celtics can reciprocate that animosity with Kyrie Irving making his grand return to Boston. He will not find a welcoming crowd there, and if things do get heated, neither side will have a chance to cool down. They play one another again two nights later in Brooklyn. 

3. Lakers vs. Pelicans: Davis returns to NOLA

  • Date: Wednesday, Nov. 27
  • Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Smoothie King Center -- New Orleans
  • TV: ESPN

The NBA has turned Nov. 27 into its unofficial jilted ex-team night. Irving kicks off the night with his return to Boston, but Anthony Davis closes it with his first game in New Orleans since being traded to the Lakers. The angry crowd will be a sight to behold, of course, but the real action will take place on the court. Zion Williamson has been dubbed the best prospect since Davis and LeBron James, and in one night, he'll have a chance to prove his worth against both. The same is true for the hoard of ex-Lakers on this Pelicans roster that were included in the Davis trade. There are too many storylines to count in this one. 

4. Heat vs. 76ers: Butler back in Philly again

  • Date: Wednesday, Dec. 18
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Wells Fargo Center -- Philadelphia
  • TV: ESPN

The Western Conference might be wide open this season, but the East is still dominated by two superpowers. Barring a trade, we will know fairly quickly if any team is suited to threatening the 76ers or Bucks. The Heat, with Jimmy Butler in tow, have a chance to be that challenger. Butler returns to Philadelphia for the first time in November, but at this point, he will have two months with his new team under his belt. If the Miami can hang with Philadelphia, Butler can not only prove that he made the right decision in leaving, but that his Heat team can make some serious noise in the postseason. 

5. Bucks vs. 76ers: Potential Eastern Conference finals preview

  • Date: Wednesday, Dec. 25
  • Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Wells Fargo Center -- Philadelphia
  • TV: ABC

As entertaining as a third contender in the East would be, these two teams are the stars of the show. They are on a collision course for the Eastern Conference finals, and this game will be a Milwaukee's first look at the supersized roster that gave the Toronto Raptors so much trouble in the playoffs last season. The Bucks have plenty of size of their own, and neither team has a traditional perimeter superstar. Enjoy these games while they last, because you may never again see two superpowers with such unusual roster constructions. 

6. Thunder vs. Rockets: Russ returns to OKC

  • Date: Thursday, Jan. 9
  • Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena -- Oklahoma City
  • TV: TNT
  • Streaming: fuboTV (Try for free)

Most of the returns on this list are based in anger and disappointment. That won't be the case in this matchup. Russell Westbrook will be welcomed back to Oklahoma City as a conquering hero. The preexisting enmity between these teams makes that hard to fathom, but Westbrook is so popular with his original NBA city that many fans in the region are rooting for the Rockets to win a championship. True feel-good returns are a rarity, and should be enjoyed during a season in which there will be so many bitter ones. 

7. Bucks vs. Pelicans: Greek Freak meets Zion

  • Date: Tuesday, Feb. 4
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Smoothie King Center -- New Orleans
  • TV: TNT
  • Streaming: fuboTV (Try for free)

The NBA had never seen an athlete like Giannis Antetokounmpo when he entered the league in 2013. It has never seen one like Zion Williamson either. This season, it will see them take the same floor for the first time. The possibilities with these two playing in the same game are endless. The greatest dunks, blocks and defensive highlights in league history are all on the table, and their battles moving forward should be considered appointment television. 

8. Warriors vs. Lakers: Possible new faces after trade deadline

  • Date: Saturday, Feb. 8
  • Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Chase Center -- San Francisco
  • TV: TNT
  • Streaming: fuboTV (Try for free)

Though overshadowed by the Clippers, the Lakers and Warriors should still have a strong rivalry this season. After all, Golden State did face James in the NBA Finals twice before Kevin Durant signed there, but this game in particular features another level of intrigue. The NBA trade deadline is on Feb. 6. If either of these teams make a big move, their new players will likely suit up for the first time in this game. 

9. Warriors vs. Clippers: Battle of championship favorites

  • Date: Saturday, April 11
  • Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Staples Center -- Los Angeles
  • TV: ABC

Neither the Clippers nor the Warriors will enter the season at full strength, but by this point, George and Klay Thompson should both be fully recovered from the injuries currently plaguing them. Their early-season absences may affect seeding, but so long as these teams remain in the top eight, both will be serious threats to win the whole thing. This matchup will serve as a chance for both sides to establish themselves as potential favorites heading into the postseason. 

10. Nuggets vs. Jazz: Regular-season finale

  • Date: Tuesday, April 14
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena -- Salt Lake City
  • TV: TNT
  • Streaming: fuboTV (Try for free)

The Nuggets and Jazz have both drawn a degree of skepticism when it comes to their chances in the playoffs, but given their depth and continuity at the top of their rosters, both figure to be excellent regular-season teams. There is a chance that this game, which is the regular-season finale for both teams, determines home-court advantage in the Western Conference. These teams might not look particularly intimidating at the moment, but a No. 1 seed would change that very quickly. 

Sam Quinn joined CBS sports as a basketball writer in 2019. Prior to that, he wrote for 247Sports and Bleacher Report. He is a New York native and NYU graduate who also has roots in Florida and Califo... Full Bio

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