With the new NBA schedule out, our writers weigh in on the teams, players and games they're most excited to watch.
1. Which team will be the most fun to watch in 2015-16?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Golden State Warriors. Just because they won the championship doesn't mean they have to stop being fun. They were the highest-scoring, best-shooting team in the league last season and have all the key components back plus the knowledge that this style works. They'll still be worth the lost sleep for East Coasters.
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Hard to go wrong with the defending champs, the Golden State Warriors. Between their up-tempo style of play and the magical improvisational play of the reigning MVP Stephen Curry, Warriors games will still be must-see TV.
Israel Gutierrez, ESPN.com: At this time of year, "intriguing" and "fun" are kind of synonymous. I'll have plenty of fun seeing how much better the Jazz, Pelicans and Bucks are. And it'll be just as fun to watch how the Thunder adjust to their new coach and a (knock on wood) healthy lineup again. But from start to finish, the Warriors and the Cavaliers still are the two teams that'll consistently provide us with the most entertaining moments.
Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony Davis might be as fun to watch as anyone in the league, and now he's going to be unleashed in a faster-paced offense with Alvin Gentry as coach. Sign me up.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Why do I have to pick just one? Why are you guys always so strict? New Orleans is up there because I, like zillions out there, am most curious to see what an unleashed Davis can do playing for the freewheeling Gentry. But I'm also fascinated by the Spurs. Winning the LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes, and now having to work him and David West in with the Spurs' returners, have made them as intriguing as they've ever been -- which is saying something after nearly two decades of Tim Duncan-fueled success.
2. Which team will be the hardest to watch in 2015-16?
Adande: The Philadelphia 76ers. Jahlil Okafor will be a rookie of the year candidate, and we can track Nerlens Noel's progress, but until the 76ers demonstrate that they are more interested in winning games than positioning themselves for the draft, they won't compel us to watch on a nightly basis.
Elhassan: The reigning "champs" of this category are still the 76ers, This remains a roster bereft of talent for the most part (though they're certainly better off than they were last season), but the bigger issue is the roster incongruency. Beyond questions like "Can Noel and Okafor play together?" and "Who's the point guard?", the Sixers were a top-10 team in pace, but their best player is a slowdown, half-court talent. Thank God the schedule makers are similarly uninterested, giving them zero national TV dates.
Gutierrez: This seems unnecessarily mean, but let's go with the Brooklyn Nets. Brook Lopez isn't exactly dominating highlight packages. There are no especially intriguing rookies. Joe Johnson continues to waste away there. And, you know, there's Andrea Bargnani.
Pelton: Brooklyn Nets. At best, the Nets are a methodical, half-court team built around Lopez's skills in the post. And without Deron Williams, Brooklyn might have the league's weakest point guard rotation.
Stein: We watch basketball for a living. Nobody's hard to watch. I suppose you want me to nominate Philly here. But the Sixers manage to play hard enough to be compelling pretty much every time I catch them. The other two teams that landed zero national TV games when the new schedule came out -- Denver and Detroit -- are likewise far more watchable than advertised. Sorry to disappoint.
3. Which player will be the most interesting to watch in 2015-16?
Adande: Kevin Durant. He's the story of the season. He's never been surrounded by this much uncertainty. How has he recovered from the right foot problems that wrecked last season? How did Russell Westbrook's breakout year shift the dynamics of the Thunder? And ultimately, where will Durant sign next summer?
Elhassan: Davis! The heir apparent to the throne of "Best Player on the Planet" continues to improve and evolve into the sort of predator that renders other species extinct, and he gets a nice boost from a coaching upgrade in Gentry, who'll put him in a better position to be successful.
Gutierrez: Too many options here, but have to stick with Durant -- not just because he's entering free agency next offseason, not just because he's playing for Billy Donovan now, not just because he and Westbrook could legitimately battle it out for MVP. It's all of those things, plus the biggest factor of them all: his foot. If Durant's surgically repaired right foot continues to be an issue, we could all miss out on an immense talent.
Pelton: Durant. Not only is the 2013-14 MVP coming back from injuries that kept us from seeing his unique skills last season, all eyes will be on him in advance of his free agency next summer.
Stein: Durant. His comeback and his looming free agency are an irresistible mix, if we're talking purely about individuals.
4. Which matchup are you most excited about in 2015-16?
Adande: Spurs at Trail Blazers, Nov. 11. Portland fans are used to losing their cherished players to injury, not free agency. How will the crowd treat Aldridge in his first game back? How fired up will Damian Lillard be to face him?
Elhassan: I can't lie, I did look up when the Clippers visit Dallas for the first time (Nov. 11). This summer's biggest soap opera gets at least one more chapter, as Mavs fans (not to mention the Mavs game operations crew) get one last chance to let DeAndre Jordan know how they feel about him.
Gutierrez: The first matchup between the Spurs and Warriors on Jan. 25. How in the world these two teams don't play each other until three months into the season is mind-boggling, but it gives the Spurs a chance to acclimate Aldridge and be fully prepared for the defending champs.
Pelton: Aldridge's return to Portland on Nov. 11. I'm curious to see how Aldridge is received by Blazers fans after leaving his only NBA team for San Antonio, as well as to see how the Spurs are coming together with Aldridge in the lineup.
Stein: Nov. 11 is the only date I'm aggressively circling. Clippers at Mavs. Spurs at Blazers. Jordan and Aldridge walking into hostile cauldrons on the same night. A runaway choice for most contentious night of the regular season
5. What's the biggest takeaway from the 2015-16 schedule?
Adande: The lack of entrenched rivalries. Most of the intriguing matchups have been created by free agency, not years of battling in the playoffs. Emojis did more to generate interest in the first Clippers-Mavericks game than postseason meetings (of which there's been none). Meanwhile, I haven't even bothered to check the dates for Lakers vs. Celtics, which is sad.
Elhassan: The drastic reduction of stretches with four games in five nights means that once again, the hallmark of commissioner Adam Silver's administration is a willingness to listen to constructive criticism and make adjustments. The making of the schedule is an extremely difficult process, and for the league to find a way to practically eliminate four-in-fives without extending the season in any way is something of a miracle.
Gutierrez: The effort the league made to reduce player fatigue, and theoretically injuries as well, was significant despite not extending the season. The average number of back-to-backs per team dropped by 1.5 sets, and the experience of four games in five nights will happen essentially just once per team this season, while total miles traveled dropped as well.
Pelton: The reduction in the number of stretches with four games in five nights. It's encouraging to see the NBA using cutting-edge statistical knowledge to help inform the scheduling process, as Nylon Calculus' interview with league director of analytics Jason Rosenfeld indicated.
Stein: That we're needlessly burning two of the sauciest games all season on the same night. Why do we have to squeeze those two games into a Nov. 11 doubleheader? Couldn't we have spread them out a bit, NBA schedule computer?