Every NBA season is worth getting excited about, but each new season brings its own share of particular delights. Here are 50 we’re intrigued by in 2019-20.
There’s always plenty of reasons to be excited for the NBA season to begin. For many of us, it’s enough that we can watch our favorite players and teams again after a four-month absence. And while many other reasons are pretty static, like being able to watch some of the best athletes in the world do their thing every night for months on end, there’s also a number of delights particular to that year. Every season brings with it both a number of familiar comforts and new things to anticipate. Here are 50 reasons to get even more excited about the new season tipping off later this month, as if you needed any in the first place.
50. After five consecutive trips to the Finals, no one expects the Golden State Warriors to return for a sixth — meaning we will be seeing a Warriors team as underdogs, with a chip on their shoulder, for the first time in years. While my brain says it’s safe to write them off, my gut just can’t do it. I mean, they still have the three best players from a team that went 73-9, after all.
49. Dwight Howard is joining the Los Angeles Lakers, who are a perpetual soap opera even without him. Seeing what dysfunction he brings to the team may not necessarily be fun, especially if you’re a Lakers fan, but it promises to be, well, interesting.
48. Kristaps Porzingis will be playing for the first time in over a year and a half, and he will be paired with Luka Doncic, which will be one of the best and most fun young duos in the league.
47. Speaking of young duos, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. will make the Memphis Grizzlies a blast to watch even if they fail to win a ton of games in their first season together. Oh yeah, and they also have Brandon Clarke, who is very quickly going to make a lot of teams regret not drafting him when they had the chance.
46. No one expects the Toronto Raptors to make a serious bid to repeat as champions this year, but I expect them to tenaciously try. Watching Pascal Siakam further blossom into a star is also certain to be a treat.
45. Seven years after James Harden was traded to Houston, he and Russell Westbrook have been reunited. While I’m not exactly sure how these two players — the consummate solo artists — will blend together, I’m thrilled to see them try.
44. After missing a full season following an ACL tear, Dejounte Murray, one of the best young defenders in the league, will be returning. He’s sure to strike terror in perimeter players throughout the league all season long.
43. Sunday afternoon games with Hubie Brown telling you what exactly it is that “you like to see there.”
42. The Sacramento Kings were a blast to watch last year and hopefully they — and especially potential-star-in-the-making De’Aaron Fox — can build on that in order to remain a League Pass delight, even if they find themselves outside of the postseason for the 14th consecutive season.
41. Assuming he does not follow through on his promise to Minnesota Timberwolves management to try harder, Andrew Wiggins will not be fun to watch, but he will provide the rest of us with grist for easy jokes throughout the season.
40. R.J. Barrett won’t be able to singlehandedly save the New York Knicks, but it will be fun to watch him try.
39. The New Orleans Pelicans blew everything up and became a much more engaging team in the process. Zion Williamson looks poised to have one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory, and perhaps Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram will finally begin living up to the potential the Lakers saw in them when they drafted them second overall in back-to-back years. Placing them alongside talented veterans like Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick will hopefully put these young players in a position to succeed and make the Pelicans as fun to watch as I imagine they will be.
38. Marcus Smart turning basketball into a full-contact sport and looking smooth as hell while doing it.
37. Seeing the development of young stars such as Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and Ben Simmons as they continue to come into their own and stake their claim as the next generation of greats.
36. If you haven’t been hearing lots of Jock Jams lately and are kind of bummed about that, boy are you in for a treat.
35. LeBron James’ interminable Instagram stories are starting to lose their novelty and now he’ll have something else to do with his time other than document everyone in Los Angeles County shouting about Taco Tuesday. I did find it amusing when he made Anthony Davis do it though; I’m not a total curmudgeon.
34. Doris Burke is very good at calling basketball games, perhaps the best in the business, so getting to listen to her do it again is something worth getting excited for. Also, every game she’s in the booth for is one that Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson aren’t, which is also worth celebrating.
33. I know he’s a bench player who can only be selectively utilized, but I’m very excited for a handful of 5-10 minute bursts where Boban Marjanovic looks like the best, most unstoppable player in the history of the sport.
32. This is the best team that Patrick Beverley has ever been a member of and he’s going to be absolutely insufferable in the best way. It’s going to be awesome.
31. At the end of last season, Magic Johnson resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in the most bizarre way possible, and in the press conference he gave before the Lakers played their last game, he literally said that missing tweeting played a role in his decision. Folks, this means we’re about to get a lot of tweets from Magic that read like the ledes to heavily sanitized Associated Press recaps. Occasionally, there will be an opinion so bad that it will make you wonder if he’s ever seen a basketball game before, even though he’s perhaps the greatest point guard ever. It’s an odd juxtaposition, really, but that’s what makes the whole thing intriguing.
30. Another season, another year trying to figure out what makes Kawhi Leonard tick, if anything.
29. Literal twin towers Robin and Brook Lopez are NBA teammates for the first time, which should lead to lots of hijinks from two of the most engaging and humorous players in the NBA.
28. Finding out which random player will earn a piece of immortality by putting together a completely inexplicable 40- or 50-point game. Who will earn their place among such luminaries as Mo Williams, Corey Brewer, Brandon Jennings, Terrence Ross and Tony Delk?
27. After the top three picks, the NBA Draft was a complete crapshoot this year. Apart from everyone wanting Zion at No. 1, there was no consensus about who should be taken where, so several players went far higher than expected while several others freefell. It will be intriguing to see how this rookie class performs this year in light of this. Which players will make teams rue their passing of them? Who will immediately make teams wish they had gone with the next player on their draft board instead of them?
26. Seeing shots of Jusuf Nurkic’s dad in the stands.
25. I’m skeptical that it will work, but I’m intrigued by the Collin Sexton/Darius Garland pairing. Two undersized guards playing together, trying to claim their spot in the NBA even though their skill-sets overlap and they’re likely to be porous defensively? What could go wrong?
24. Lou Williams coming off the bench and doing his thing.
23. It’s been a few seasons since the Slam Dunk Contest was good, so we’re due for a memorable one this year, right?
22. With D’Angelo Russell joining the Warriors, the Splash Brothers just added a new member. Seeing how he fits alongside Steph Curry while filling in for the injured Klay Thompson will be one of the more intriguing subplots of an NBA season full of them.
21. Victor Oladipo will also be returning from injury early this year, helping ensure the Indiana Pacers will yet again be an under-the-radar team in the East worth watching on a nightly basis.
20. The Chicago Bulls have been a mess for a few years, but have now managed to build a young team full of promising players, seemingly in spite of themselves. I don’t expect them to be good, but I do expect there to be nights where they are the most fun team to watch on League Pass. Of course, I also expect several others where the opposite is true.
19. Giannis Antetokounmpo may have won MVP last season while leading the team with the league’s best record, but he still is only 24 years old, and presumably remains far from his peak. Seeing what he will be able to do for an encore is sure to be a delight.
18. Chris Paul has been exiled to Oklahoma City, which is kind of a bummer, but it will be fun to watch him try to recapture some of the magic he displayed when he was a younger player in New Orleans nearly a decade ago, fighting to make the Thunder relevant in a stacked Western Conference.
17. Ricky Rubio will not fix the Phoenix Suns, but he will help youngsters Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker fulfill more of their potential than they’ve been able to so far without any competent point guards assisting them. The Suns are still probably a few years away from competing for a playoff spot, but they should be closer to that point this season than they were last year — and not just because that’s how the passage of time works.
16. Kyrie Irving cast a bit of a palpable funk over the Boston Celtics last year, appearing to stifle the development of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Now, with the more agreeable Kemba Walker taking Irving’s spot, perhaps these young talents can more fully showcase what made them such high draft picks a few years back and why everyone was so high on them following the 2018 postseason.
15. He hasn’t played in nearly a full year, but Markelle Fultz is now on a team with few expectations and he will be able to play without a team’s championship hopes rising or falling with each awkward free throw he shoots. I still own tons of real estate on Markelle Fultz Island and am both thrilled and nervous to watch him return to action, whenever that happens.
14. Maybe we’ll get to see the guy who balances ladders on his chin during one of the halftime shows again.
13. Every play-by-play announcer has to do ad-reads. It’s just part of the job. Most go about this task perfunctorily, with no conviction at all. Kevin Harlan, though, takes this very seriously. He absolutely never phones it in, and I’m not sure if he genuinely loves Wendy’s and Burger King or if it’s only that he’s the truest of professionals. But I do know that few things enliven some third quarter free throws like Kevin Harlan talking about the “new pretzel Bacon King…. Only at Burger King!”
12. Watching those crazy inflatable mascots do their thing.
11. The Death Lineup may be no more, but whatever the Philadelphia 76ers are going to be rolling out is sure to be something to watch. The presumptive starting lineup of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid is big on talent and also literally huge. Though short on shooting, arguably no other team is capable of rolling out a group as good as this one. Watching them try to figure it out will likely be frustrating at times, but may also pay off for Philadelphia in a big way.
10. Look, the Charlotte Hornets are going to be depressing, but remember, there was a reason so many of us fell in love with Terry Rozier for a few weeks during the 2018 NBA Playoffs. While he may struggle to shoot 40 percent on the season, there’s going to be some great nights where he looks like the best point guard in the league and we’ll all be tempted to eat disgusting spaghetti, ranch and sugar sandwiches to celebrate. If you’re going to be a terrible team, well, there are worse ways to liven up the whole experience than signing a player whose outsized confidence is occasionally well-placed.
9. If you’re real into mid-range jumpers, year two of the DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge pairing in San Antonio is worth getting hyped for.
8. NBA fashion reaches more and more towards the avant-garde with each passing season and I cannot wait to see what players wear this season, especially with James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and P.J. Tucker all on the same team. Will they try to one-up each other every night? Will they occasionally coordinate outfits? Will they threaten to break the boundaries of what constitutes fashion itself?
7. Getting to watch how Coby White’s hair moves in the midst of NBA action.
6. I love NBA League Pass for the obvious reason that it lets me watch as much basketball as I want, but I also truly love watching local broadcasts with all their odd particularities. You get to hear Quinn Buckner yell about smothered chicken whenever Myles Turner stuffs an opponent; there’s Austin Carr talking about throwing the hammer down and how dunkers have no regard for human life; and there’s the perpetual indignation of Bob Fitzgerald, which isn’t exactly fun, but comfortably reliable in its own way. These announcing teams aren’t always as polished as their nationally aired counterparts, but that’s exactly what makes them so much better and more enjoyable so much of the time.
5. Crazy passes by Nikola Jokic and Ben Simmons that don’t even make sense after watching the replay eight times in a row.
4. After three generally successful but also kind of awkward years sharing top billing with Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry is the undisputed best player on the Warriors again, and I think we can all remember what he did last time that was the case. Expecting a repeat of something so thrilling and brilliant is akin to hoping Halley’s comet will show up twice in a decade, but watching Steph run the show again promises to be one of the most thrilling things in the NBA this year, transforming the Warriors from a team you’ve felt kind of obligated to watch the last few years into a team you genuinely want to again.
3. Over the last few months, I’m sure there have been several nights where you’ve come home from work and desultorily turned on the TV, unsure what to watch or do with your free evening while not particularly desiring to do much at all. Well, there’s about to be multiple games on League Pass practically every night for the next eight months, so your decision-making process just got a lot easier and your evenings more enjoyable.
2. With the Lakers poised to make the playoffs for the first time since Dwight Howard was on the team, the Battle for Los Angeles will be hard-fought, with each game between the Clippers and Lakers poised to be a gritty game, full of star power, and both teams trying to prove they deserve the title of best team in the City of Angels.
1. The league appears to be as open as it’s been in years. Seeing who rises to the challenge in order to win the championship will be an intriguing and captivating journey to witness. For all those who have spent the last few years complaining about the NBA’s lack of parity, this season is for you.