This upcoming season, maybe more than ever, fun matchups can slip through the cracks. The reasons for this phenomenon of underrated games are twofold.
First and foremost, the NBA has been blessed with its highest level of parity in recent memory, with at least a dozen teams that could conceivably make a run toward a title if they click and remain healthy. Secondly, the NBA also added a new in-season tournament that has shifted each team’s typical schedule a bit. The tournament has also added a week of “TBD” games to each team’s calendar.
With this information in mind, it’s reasonable for a few legit games to have flown under the radar. That’s why we pulled a handful (and then some) of our most underrated games on the schedule and highlighted each below to make sure they, too, are circled on your calendar.
November 10 vs. Brooklyn Nets
A Friday night game that’s extra meaningful because it’s the first-ever In-Season Tournament game for either team. Don’t overlook the Nets, particularly at the defensive end. They can deploy a lineup that consists of Ben Simmons, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Nic Claxton, which might just be one of the best and most versatile defensive lineups in all of the NBA. This team is gonna be a pain to play against, especially if Simmons has a resurgence to his old form.
December 15 and 17 vs. Orlando Magic
BUY TICKETS (Dec. 15)
BUY TICKETS (Dec. 17)
Boston went 1-3 against the Magic last season and now faces Orlando twice in three days, first on a Friday night, and then on a Sunday afternoon. Many people forget that Orlando played above the .500 mark over the final four-plus months of last season. They have the reigning Rookie of the Year in Paolo Banchero and a ton of young talent around him with the likes of Markelle Fultz, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Cole Anthony and rookie Anthony Black.
December 28 vs. Detroit Pistons
This game will be Boston’s first at home in 11 days. Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in 2021, will be back from injury after missing the final five months of last season. He played well for the USA Select Team in preparation for the World Cup, and he’s going to be surrounded by four other lottery picks in Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, James Wiseman and Ausar Thompson, as well as effective big man Isaiah Stewart. With Monty Williams on board as the new head coach, Detroit is primed to return to relevance.
January 17 vs. San Antonio Spurs
One word: Wemby. The No. 1 overall pick who is touted to be the best prospect since LeBron James, Victor Wembanyama, makes his TD Garden debut on this night. He is going to be must-see TV, and very well may push the Spurs back into competitive territory. If Wembanyama is even half the player he’s expected to be, the Spurs should be a team that everyone wants to see play.
January 30 vs. Indiana Pacers
Indiana has an All-Star and Team USA member in Tyrese Haliburton who, when paired with second-year guard Bennedict Mathurin, creates one of the more intriguing young backcourt combos in the league. Indiana was five games over the .500 mark on Jan. 10 of last season before losing 16 of 18 to slide into the abyss. It would not be a shocker if they rediscover their first-half success from last season and compete for a playoff spot this season.
April 3 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City is building something special. They finished with 40 wins and won a play-in game last season thanks to their all-world guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who averaged 31.4 points per game last season (context: that’s more than Jayson Tatum). They have other established, young pieces like Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort and Jalen Williams, and they’re adding the 2022 No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren, plus 2023 No. 10 pick Cason Wallace into the fold this season. The Thunder might be the early favorite for League Pass darlings, and no one should miss out on their lone trip to the Garden on April 3.
April 5 vs. Sacramento Kings
These guys forced a Game 7 against the defending champs last season after winning 48 games and finishing No. 3 in West. De’Aaron Fox was an All-NBA Third Team selection, Domantas Sabonis made his third All-Star team, Mike Brown won Coach of the Year, second-year forward Keegan Murray looks like a stud, and yet somehow the Kings are flying under the radar. This team is incredibly entertaining to watch, and they’re absolutely in the discussion for potential Western Conference champions. Who wouldn’t want to see that in action against the odds-on favorite to win the East?