The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip-off on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
After a truncated offseason period, the NBA is back on its normal schedule, returning to the standard 82-game format, which all begins with opening night.
Traditionally, opening night consists of two games, one of which features the defending NBA champions, who receive their championship rings and raise their banner against a notable foe. Based on that premise, our NBA.com staff dishes out their picks for who they'd like to see face off on the first night of the NBA season.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Honestly, there are quite a few intriguing options for the defending champions, but on opening night, a Milwaukee Bucks-Brooklyn Nets Eastern Conference Semifinals rematch just feels right.
Last year's series was marred by injury, but with the Nets back at full health and the Bucks looking to build upon a historic title, we'll waste no time seeing the East's two best teams go at it.
Not only will it be emotional for Milwaukee to see its historic banner raised in the rafters of Fiserv Forum, but it will also add an extra edge for a Brooklyn team with big title aspirations each year. With Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving and Khris Middleton all taking the floor, there will be no shortage of star power.
MORE: How Lakers' additions complement LeBron, AD
With Milwaukee located in the Central Time zone, its game would likely be the first of two games, meaning the second should be our first glimpse at a new-look team on the West Coast. Give me a Play-In rematch between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors.
We'd get our first look at the Lakers' new Big 3 of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, while the Warriors see Klay Thompson return to the lineup to play alongside Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. It would also be the NBA debuts of lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
LeBron is entering his fourth year in the West, and the Lakers-Warriors rivalry hasn't gotten a chance to be what it's supposed to be just yet. An opening-night meeting would be the first step.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): No arguments from me. Bucks vs. Nets as the Eastern Conference matchup would be an absolute blast.
As for the Western Conference, the possibility that Klay Thompson won't be available to start the season has me going in a different direction: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns.
The Lakers are self-explanatory. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are two of the biggest stars in the league and Los Angeles has undergone a big transformation this offseason, adding Russell Westbrook via trade and the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk and Wayne Ellington in free agency. It's always fun to see new-look teams on opening night.
As for the Suns, they were arguably the biggest surprise in the league last season, finishing the regular season with the second-best record in the league and making it to the Finals. The defending Western Conference champions deserve the spotlight.
It helps that these two teams met in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, with the Suns advancing in six games. I'm sure both sides feel like they'd have something to prove - the Suns that their run last season was no fluke, the Lakers that they're still the team to beat in the West.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I'm going to triple down on what Scott and Gil said in picking Bucks vs. Nets as the first game of the 2021-22 season. After Durant was just a toe on the line away from sending the eventual NBA champions home, I'm very much looking forward to their first battle of the new season.
I like the sound of both Lakers-Warriors or Lakers-Suns for the night game, but just to get another team in the mix, I'd love to see Suns vs. Mavericks. Two of the brightest young talents in the NBA in Devin Booker and Luka Doncic going head-to-head. You also have the storyline of the 2018 NBA Draft class, with Deandre Ayton being selected over Doncic at No. 1.
MORE: Doncic among NBA players with $200 million contract
It makes a ton of sense to feature the Warriors or Lakers alongside the 2021 Western Conference champions, but if there's a third team to consider, I like Dallas as a fun matchup for Opening Night.
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): I think we can all agree that there's no better way to tip off the season than Bucks vs. Nets. The two best teams in the East and perhaps even the league going head-to-head to open the season is guaranteed fireworks.
Out West is where things get interesting.
I'm keeping with the theme of star power, so I'm going to put together two of the biggest stars in the Conference and pitch the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks.
LeBron James and the Lakers will be must-watch TV for obvious reasons and a matchup against the best young player in the league in Luka Doncic has box office written all over it. The Mavericks will be in the mix again this season and what better way to open the season against the Lakers.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): Like the rest of the guys, I'm all in for a Bucks vs. Nets season tip-off.
And similar to Scott, for the opening-night game in the West, I see no better option than the reigning Western Conference Champions in the Phoenix Suns hosting the revamped Los Angeles Lakers, led by their new Big 3.
There are plenty of storylines from each of these matchups. For the East contest, it could possibly be a continuation of the incredible Bucks-Nets Conference Semifinal series but hopefully, this one would be without the injuries. There will be an assembly of stars, some gold medalists, all facing off on the home court of the defending champions.
In the West, in addition to it being a re-match of the first-round series from the 2021 playoffs as Scott mentioned, this would be a contest between a roster with continuity in the Suns - who have more or less brought back their entire squad that competed in the 2021 NBA Finals - and the Lakers, a squad with close to seven-eight new rotation players.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.