The first thing everyone does when the NBA schedule comes out is look for the spiciest games on the schedule. That’s great, but sometimes what’s missed are the fun matchups that fly under the radar.
Don’t worry: we’ve got you covered on this front. We perused the schedule and pulled our 10 most underrated games of the season, which you can find below in chronological order, along with a capsule on the opponent’s storylines.
October 24 at Chicago
We’re starting off with an early-season matchup against a team that was arguably the best in the league last season through the first week of January, before injuries ravaged the roster. Chicago, with newcomers DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Lonzo Ball flanking All-Star Zach LaVine, jumped out to a 26-10 record last season before losing Ball to a season-ending injury. Chicago’s rough second half of the season likely has people forgetting just how talented of a team it is, and why this game is one that deserves attention.
October 28 vs Cleveland
Much like Chicago, the Cavaliers came out of the gates hot and maintained their strong play through mid-February, when they were at one point 35-21. They’ve got budding stars in Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, and may also have Collin Sexton coming back from a torn meniscus. This young and talented team is only going to improve, and it could very well challenge the East’s top contenders for a top-five seed in the conference.
November 14 vs Oklahoma City
Speaking of young and talented, Oklahoma City has been stocking up on young talent for a couple of years now. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has already emerged as a budding star, and Josh Giddey is right behind him. Throw in 7-foot-1, do-it-all rookie Chet Holmgren, and you’ve got an opponent that will certainly be fun to watch this season as it takes on the Celtics.
December 16 and 18 vs Orlando
Two straight home games against the same team? It’s happening in mid-December against an Orlando team that’s patiently waiting to break through for a solid season. Orlando finished with the East’s worst record last season but then landed the No. 1 overall pick and selected Paolo Banchero. The Magic think he can be a franchise cornerstone, and we’re all about to find out if they’re correct on that belief.
December 27 vs Houston
Keep your eyes on the Rockets this season. They’re going to surprise people with some big games. That’s much ado to the arrival of Jabari Smith Jr., who many believed was the top prospect in the Draft but fell to Houston at No. 3. Smith Jr. joins a fun, athletic core that includes Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr. and Jae’Sean Tate. This team might not win 40 or 50 games, but it’s going to have some blockbuster highlights and will consistently challenge opponents like the Celtics.
January 11 vs New Orleans
The Pelicans were one of the better teams in the league over the final two-plus months of last season, going 18-14 over their final 32 games. And that was without superstar talent Zion Williamson, who returns to the lineup this season alongside Brandon Ingram and newcomer CJ McCollum. This team is long, athletic and skilled, and it’s primed to make noise in the Western Conference.
January 14 and 16 at Charlotte
January 14 and 16 at Charlotte
From two straight home games against Orlando, to two straight away games in Charlotte. The C’s will take on LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and the Hornets two out of three nights in mid-January, and these matchups are always fun. Charlotte is a good team that many will overlook. With all of those former Celtics on the other side, it’s safe to assume Boston will not make that mistake.
February 15 vs Detroit
The Pistons are coming off of a 23-win season, but they’ve got to feel good about the foundation they are building. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Cade Cunningham, was fantastic during his first season and they just added Jaden Ivey via the No. 5 overall pick in the Draft. Those youngsters are surrounded by a bunch of capable veterans such as Saddiq Bey (third year), Kelly Olynyk, Nerlens Noel and Cory Joseph. This team isn’t ready to win a ton of games, but it is ready to show growth and to climb out of the NBA’s cellar.
March 8 vs Portland
Portland doesn’t usually fly under the radar, but following a season during which superstar Damian Lillard missed the final 47 games, some might forget just how entertaining and dangerous a team can be when it has the electric scoring guard leading the way. Lillard now has veterans Jerami Grant, Joe Ingles, Josh Hart and Jusuf Nurkic surrounding him, along with Gary Payton II, who just won a title in Golden State. This team will be a challenging opponent each and every night.