The full schedule for the 2023-24 #NBA regular season will be released next week, but the opening night two-game slate for Oct. 24 has been unveiled, and the first game features the defending NBA champion Nuggets raising their first title banner to the rafters at Ball Arena in the Mile High City before taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in a rematch of the 2023 West Finals. Opening lines have Denver at -5.
The defending NBA champion always opens at home on the first night of the season; it’s the NBA’s version of the NFL’s Kickoff Game, which features the defending Super Bowl champion at home to begin each football campaign (Chiefs hosting Lions on Sept. 7 this year). That the Lakers are Denver’s opponent is really no surprise as they remain the league’s biggest TV attraction in the twilight of LeBron James’ career.
#bRINGItIn swept the #LakeShow out of the 2023 West Finals to earn its first conference title in its 47 NBA seasons. LA simply could not stop Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic in that series, not that many can. Denver both eliminated the Lakers for the first time in eight playoff meetings and swept a playoff series for the first time. Then Jokic led the NBA Finals win over Miami.
The Nuggets are +500 favorites to repeat next summer but did take a bit of a hit this offseason in losing Bruce Brown to free agency as he signed for two years and $45 million with Indiana.
Brown is far from a star but one of those intangibles/hustle/glue guys that all championship teams need. He averaged 12 points and four rebounds per game in a postseason, and his biggest game was probably Game 4 of the Finals against the Heat. Brown scored 21 points off the bench to give Denver a 3-1 series lead in a game where Jokic exited early in the fourth quarter due to foul trouble. If Miami wins that at home to even the series at 2-2, the series may have ended very differently.
Veteran Jeff Green was also an important rotation guy last season but is now in Houston.
To make matters worse, Nuggets forward Vlatko Cancar suffered a torn ACL in his left knee while playing for Slovenia in a World Cup preparation game Friday. The 26-year-old averaged 5.0 points and 2.1 rebounds as a reserve last season but was likely to see a bigger role this year.
The Lakers were able to re-sign two of their key free agents in breakout star Austin Reaves and trade acquisition Rui Hachimura. LA’s biggest weakness last season was three-point shooting, and they may have addressed that in signing former Heat guard Gabe Vincent. Miami doesn’t beat Boston in the East Finals without Vincent, who averaged 15.8 points on 51.6% shooting from deep in the series.
Including playoffs, Denver was 56-45-1 against the spread last season and the Lakers 50-48-1 ATS. Lakers-Nuggets will be the early game on Oct. 24 (presumably tipping at 7:30 or 8 p.m. ET on TNT).
Phoenix at Golden State is the late game and features Chris Paul playing against his former Suns mates for the first time since his surprising landing spot with the Warriors, who used to be his bitter enemies. It will also be the Suns debut of former Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal (Paul was part of the package to get Beal from Washington but then flipped to Golden State for Jordan Poole). The #DubNation are currently -1.5. Phoenix lost in the 2023 West semis to Denver and Phoenix lost that round to the Lakers.
What is rather strange about the opening night schedule it that it doesn’t feature any teams from the Eastern Conference.