With the release of the NBA’s 2016-17 schedule this afternoon, we now know when exactly the Los Angeles Lakers will play all 82 of their games this year. Unfortunately, with the Lakers projecting to be at least a year away from having a competitive team, there may be quite a few less than exciting nights contained within that schedule.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom, however. There is still plenty to be excited about this season, and we picked out the five Lakers games that should be the most thrilling.
Lakers vs. Timberwolves on April 9th:
In an ongoing theme for this piece, this is a game featuring the Lakers young grouping of D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Jr., and Brandon Ingram against another team undergoing a promising youth movement. In this case, it’s the Timberwolves tantalizing tandem of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, flanked by Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, among others.
So why this match-up between the two teams specifically? It comes later in the year when both of these team’s players will have truly figured out how to play together, meaning we can compare the two youth movements at full strength. This could result in a blowout if the Timberwolves are the fringe playoff team many expect Tom Thibodeau to make them, but if not, this could be a really fun game featuring a showdown between the two comparable cores in the second third to last game of the Lakers’ season.
Lakers at Celtics on February 3rd:
Even if the rivalry isn’t what it once was, Lakers-Celtics is always a must watch. This game has the slight edge over the one in Los Angeles on March 3rd as Brandon Ingram’s first visit to the Garden. If Ingram is to become as important of a player in Lakers lore as most hope, it could be looked back upon as a seminal moment in his purple and gold story.
Last year, the Lakers’ trip to Boston stood as one of D’Angelo Russell’s better games of the first half of the year. While the Celtics project to be much better than the Lakers, it could be interesting to see if Russell can cook the Celtics’ endless capable perimeter defenders in a repeat performance.
Lakers vs. Clippers on December 25th:
Ah, a hallowed Lakers’ tradition. No matter one’s religious beliefs, a holiday featuring a day full of NBA games is always cause for celebration. This year, the Lakers are the present at the bottom of the pile, with their showdown against the Clippers putting a bow on the day.
So pull-up and roast some chestnuts while Randle tries to roast Blake Griffin and the Clippers. Lakers-Clippers games have mostly been blowouts in favor of the latter over the last few years, but maybe the Lakers can fare better in this rematch of last year’s game.
Lakers at Sixers on December 16th:
Brandon Ingram vs. Ben Simmons, aka the player Philadelphia picked over him. That would be a tantalizing enough matchup, but as a bonus we get Russell vs. Jahlil Okafor, aka the player a bunch of people think the Lakers should have taken second overall a year ago.
Why the earliest showdown between the two teams? Simple. As we get further and further along in the year (and the further and further the Lakers get from playoff contention) the more obvious the lottery implications of such a match-up are going to be. Both the Lakers and Sixers project to be among the three worst teams in the league, and the Sixers get the Lakers’ draft pick should it fall outside of the top three.
Instead of worrying about draft odds, let’s just enjoy this one earlier in the year when we can focus on making far too quick decisions on which team took the better young player in the lottery during last two drafts.
Lakers at Suns on March 9th:
Nothing too complicated about this one. Just a winnable home game against another team with a few young foundational pieces. Devin Booker and Russell likely won’t match-up a ton, and neither will Ingram and Dragan Bender/Marquese Chriss, but it will still be fun to evaluate these two team’s youth movements against one another as the year winds down.
Other notable dates include the Lakers opening the season against the Houston Rockets on October 26th, and closing out the year against the Golden State Warriors on April 12th. You can check out the full schedule here.
What games are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below!
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.