Another NBA season is, shockingly, right around the corner, which means you don’t have to wait that much longer to watch the Golden State Warriors once more. The season could start as early as Dec. 22, but even if it gets pushed to January or February, that’s not very far away.
The logistics of the season still remain a mystery. We don’t know the start time, the end time, the season length, whether there will be any elements of a bubble, or if teams will have an MLB-style schedule to minimize potential spread of the coronavirus. But just because we know nothing about the season doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.
So let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start). The Warriors will likely have a big Opening Night showdown, as star-studded teams do. But who will they face?
Since winning the title in 2015, the Warriors have had five Opening Nights as a marquee team. And in those years they’ve faced the New Orleans Pelicans (2015), San Antonio Spurs (2016), Houston Rockets (2017), Oklahoma City Thunder (2018), and Los Angeles Clippers (2019).
So who will it be in 2020?
Here are the five best Opening Night matchups, in my estimation.
1. Brooklyn Nets
I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and keep moving the Nets in and out of the top spot. The drama is obvious: it’s the return of Kevin Durant. Were it a normal season, this would be the top option with a red highlighter.
But it won’t be a normal season, and the sad reality is that there are unlikely to be fans at Chase Center when the Warriors start the season. The dynamic between Durant and Warriors fans is as complex as a stereotypical high school relationship, and seeing Durant’s first appearance in front of those fans since leaving in free agency will be fascinating.
Yet even without fans, this is the top matchup for me. There’s still a weird dynamic between Durant and the organization, as well as Durant and Steve Kerr. Then there’s the mini-rivalry with Kyrie Irving, and the coaching debut of Warriors-consultant-turned-Nets-coach Steve Nash.
And then there’s the basketball. The Nets have stars. The Warriors have stars. The Nets have stars coming off injuries that can derail careers. The Warriors have stars coming off injuries that can derail careers. Durant knows the Warriors better than anybody. The Warriors know Durant better than anybody.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
From 2015 to 2019, the Warriors made the NBA Finals five straight times. And four of those times they faced LeBron James when they got there.
That streak ended in 2020, and who replaced the Dubs as champs of the West? James and the Lakers.
There is a tremendous amount of mutual respect — and friendship, for that matter — between the Warriors and James, but make no respect: it’s a rivalry. The Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers were never rivals. It was always the Warriors and James.
Now James and fellow superstar Anthony Davis sit atop the mountain, and the Warriors path back to Finals runs squarely through the purple and gold. I think it’s safe to say that James, Davis, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are all eagerly waiting for this matchup.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
The rivalry between the Warriors and Clippers never quite took off the way so many of us expected, and now the scene is completely different in LA. But there still feels like some tension between the two franchises, and the face of the Clippers is Kawhi Leonard, who was the best player on the Toronto Raptors when they beat the Dubs in the 2019 Finals.
There’s a lot of talent and narratives between these two teams.
4. Houston Rockets
The Rockets don’t feel the same, having lost both Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni in the offseason. But they still have James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and they’re still the Rockets which means Warriors fans still hate them.
There’s not much else to say here; this game would just be fun.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks and Warriors have perhaps the two most lovable superstars in the league in Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Both teams have championship aspirations but need to bounce back after disappointing campaigns. And then, of course, there’s the swirling rumors that Antetokounmpo might force his way off the Bucks, and that all parties are interested in getting him in a Warriors jersey.
The Warriors, fresh off a 15-60 season, might not get one of these top matchups, so here are five others that would be fun.
Dallas Mavericks: Curry vs. Luka Doncic? Yep, sign me up for that.
New Orleans Pelicans: Are there two players that are more must-see TV than Curry and Zion Williamson?
Toronto Raptors: Not only did these teams meet in the 2019 Finals, but they’re in similar positions entering the season: overlooked in favor of teams with more recent success, but still with everything needed to win a title.
Denver Nuggets: Prediction for the final score: 188-170.
Miami Heat: The Heat might not be the marquee team in the East, but they are the defending Eastern Conference champs, and they have Andre Iguodala.
Who should the Warriors play on Opening Night?
This poll is closed