Summer’s over, and that means it’s time for the 2018-19 NBA season to tip off. After an offseason full of drama, trade demands, superstars changing teams, major shifts from one conference to another, and LeBron James setting up shop in Los Angeles, the players are finally ready to hit the court.
The Golden State Warriors are coming back after a dominant performance in the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, while teams like the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Los Angeles Lakers—yes, LeBron’s Lakers—will be looking to take that next major step against Steph Curry and Kevin Durant’s squad.
Here’s everything you need to know to get ready for the 2018-19 NBA season. Check out the entire NBA season schedule on NBA.com.
The Season Schedule
NBA Tip-Off 2018 begins on TNT with two marquee games on the schedule, with the Boston Celtics facing off against the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Golden State Warriors playing the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 16.
Here are some other important dates to keep an eye on for the season:
Mexico City Games: December 13: Orlando Magic vs. Chicago Bulls
December 15: Orlando Magic vs. Utah Jazz
January 17: NBA London Game 2019 – New York Knicks vs. Washington Wizards (London)
February 7: NBA Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET)
February 15-17: NBA All-Star 2019 Weekend in Charlotte, NC
April 10: Regular Season ends
April 13: NBA Playoffs 2019 start
May 30: NBA Finals 2019 start
The Opening Week
NBA Tip-Off 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics 8 p.m.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors 10:30 p.m.
Following the first slate of games, the national TV schedule for the first week has a number of notable matchups. Here’s a look at the slate for Week 1:
Wed., 10/17: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Houston Rockets – 8 p.m. ESPN
Wed., 10/17: Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns – 10:30 p.m. ESPN
Thu., 10/18: Chicago Bulls – Philadelphia 76ers – 8 p.m. TNT
Thu., 10/18: L.A. Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers – 10:30 p.m. TNT
Fri., 10/19: Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors – 8 p.m. ESPN
Fri., 10/19: Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz – 10:30 p.m. ESPN
Sat., 10/20: Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards – 7 p.m. – NBA TV
Sat., 10/20: Houston Rockets vs. L.A. Lakers – 10:30 p.m. ESPN
Sun., 10/21: Houston Rockets vs. LA Clippers – 9:00 p.m. – NBA TV
LeBron James in Los Angeles
It’s showtime for LeBron James. After returning to Cleveland and fulfilling his promise to bring a championship to the Cavaliers, James took his talents to Los Angeles.
James signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, and he now has the chance to play with a young core that includes talented players like Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram, along with veterans like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee. While James’s streak of going to eight-straight finals might end, things in Los Angeles should be very entertaining.
The Eastern Conference Contenders
Boston Celtics: If the team has Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward healthy after they dealt with injuries last season, it’s likely the Celtics’ conference to lose. The team won 55 games last season and brings back a veteran core that’s ready to make a run with LeBron James now in the West.
Toronto Raptors: After winning the Eastern Conference in 2018, the Raptors made a huge move by trading for Kawhi Leonard. If Leonard is healthy and can play at his All-NBA level, there’s a chance that the Raptors can challenge the Celtics in the East.
Philadelphia 76ers: Even though the Sixers didn’t sign LeBron James, the team has as much talent as anyone in the league. The duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid helped the 76ers win 52 games last season, their most in over a decade, while the development of 2017 No.1-overall pick Markelle Fultz could help put the team over the top.
Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo proved last season that he’s the future of the NBA after averaging a career-best 26.9 points and 10 rebounds per game. If Antetokounmpo continues to take another step forward, the Bucks could breakthrough into the elite part of the East.
The Western Conference Contenders
Golden State Warriors: This roster comes back with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala—and the team also added All-Star DeMarcus Cousins to the squad. This is the team to beat, and unless something crazy happens, it would be a shock to not see the Warriors in the finals.
Houston Rockets: The Rockets were built during the 2017-18 to challenge the Warriors—and they almost beat them. Adding Chris Paul was a huge success, and until his playoff injury, it looked like NBA MVP James Harden and company were going to get past the Warriors. That didn’t happen, and now the team has added Carmelo Anthony to try and get over the top.
Utah Jazz: After making the playoffs and winning 48 games in 2017-18, the Jazz are looking to take one more step towards the Warriors this season. The team has a talented roster with star-in-the-making Donovan Mitchell as well as Rudy Gobert, Ricky Rubio, and rookie Grayson Allen.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Having a trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Steven Adams means you always have a chance. The West is extremely difficult, but the dynamic Westbrook can help the Thunder make some noise in the conference.
Los Angeles Lakers: Sure, it’s going to be a tough hill to climb for LeBron James and his young roster of Lakers to get past the Warriors, but over the last decade, it’s been a fool’s errand to doubt what LeBron can do. If there’s one player that can get a team to the playoffs and lead a run, it’s LeBron.
Players to Watch
Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors: After orchestrating his departure from the San Antonio Spurs, everyone is wondering if Leonard can return healthy from his qad injury last season and play at an All-NBA level again.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: With a new coach in Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks likely will push the tempo more than last season, which could mean more incredible dunks and even more points for All-Star Antetokounmpo.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers: The biggest story of the offseason—and maybe of the last few years in the NBA—is James coming to LA. The team hasn’t been good since Kobe Bryant left, and James will try and add to his legacy by resurrecting the Lakers.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks: After playing pro ball in Europe, Doncic was considered to be one of the safest picks in the NBA Draft. The Mavs tanked last season to get a high pick, and now they have one of the most intriguing prospects in the league.
Vince Carter of the Atlanta Hawks and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks are the elder statesmen of the NBA.
Once the season starts, both Carter and Nowitzki will tie the NBA record with most seasons played in the league at 21 years, alongside names like Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish, and Kevin Willis. On top of that, Nowitzki will set a new record by playing in his 21st season with the same team.
Can the Warriors Three-Peat?
The Warriors have won three of the last four championships, and now will try and complete the “Three-Peat” for the first time since the Los Angeles Lakers did it from 2000-2002. The team added more talent in DeMarcus Cousins, and while every team will be targeting the Warriors, so far no one has been able to knock them off their perch.