Glimpse of NBA games to mark on your calendar

by
Noah Graham / National Basketball Association / Getty

The full NBA schedule is expected to come out next week, but the league gave a tease Thursday with their season-opening slate and signature Christmas Day lineup.

Here are the contests, ranked by watchability:

Rockets vs. Warriors, Oct. 17

It's hard to say if the Houston Rockets are done adding to their new-look squad, but even as is, Houston is one of the most intriguing Western Conference challengers to the Golden State Warriors this coming season. Can the James Harden-Chris Paul backcourt truly co-exist with just one ball? Their first test comes against the very best.

Cavaliers vs. Warriors, Dec. 25

Will Kyrie Irving still be a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day? Only time will tell. Meeting in the NBA Finals the last three seasons also means the Cavs and Warriors will be spending the holiday together for the third straight year.

Much is made of the fact that LeBron James has reached seven straight Finals. The last time he wasn't involved in a Christmas game was 2006.

Rockets vs. Thunder, Dec. 25

If the Rockets aren't the most intriguing West challenger to Golden State, then it's the Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook has a sidekick now in Paul George, that, on paper, is a perfect complement for his habits. By Christmas, they'll have had two months together before Harden and Paul come to town.

Celtics vs. Cavs, Oct. 17

Are the Boston Celtics still the second-best team in the Eastern Conference after the addition of Gordon Hayward? Heck, if Irving is traded, can the Cavs recoup enough value to hang on to their mantle of best in the East? It'll obviously be early on opening night, but Boston and Cleveland face off in a rematch of last spring's conference finals.

Wizards vs. Celtics, Dec. 25

Remember how mostly flat last spring's playoffs were? The Washington Wizards and the Celtics played the most competitive series of all four rounds, with Boston winning in seven. There may be no Kelly Olynyk on the C's anymore to provide subplots, but enough bad blood existed during that series to make this game must-see TV.

Timberwolves vs. Lakers, Dec. 25

Youth is served in the Christmas nightcap this year, showcasing Lonzo Ball and Karl-Anthony Towns as the Minnesota Timberwolves visit the Los Angeles Lakers. Throw in veterans Jimmy Butler and Brook Lopez, and both squads have new-look feels some believe will lead them to the playoffs.

76ers vs. Knicks, Dec. 25

This is like the fruit as stocking stuffer of the holiday slate, although the Philadelphia 76ers are up-and-coming. The New York Knicks are the Knicks, but they at least have history going for them: The Christmas Day game tradition began in New York, and they've played more yuletide games (51) than any other NBA franchise.