The NBA has released its schedule for the year and the Christmas Day matchups are impressive, as usual. On the day the season unofficially starts for many fans, the Cavaliers and the Warriors will have a rematch of last year's finals, headlining a star-studded five-game slate.
The Cavaliers, fresh of the first title in franchise history, will face the new look Warriors, the team most likely to prevent a repeat. While Golden State and Cleveland will battle for league dominance, the Celtics will look to prove they belong in the contenders' group when they clash with a Knicks team that reloaded by adding Derrick Rose to its core of Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
The up-and-comers will also be showcased, with the Timberwolves slated to face the Thunder.
The Heat, meanwhile, won't play on Christmas for the first time since 2008. Dwyane Wade's departure and the uncertainty surrounding Chris Bosh's health were apparently enough for the league to decide against having Miami in the showcase. Wade's new team, the Chicago Bulls, will face the San Antonio Spurs.
Here's this season's NBA Christmas Day showcase, which will air in ABC and ESPN:
Celtics at Knicks (Noon ET, ESPN)
The Knicks and Celtics are at different levels right now but both had busy summers. Boston made it to the postseason and added third overall pick Jaylen Brown and star big man Al Horford to a deep roster. The Knicks are looking to return to the playoffs and have traded for Derrick Rose and made some other additions in the hopes of taking a step forward.
If the moves pay off, this matchup could be between two of the best teams in the East. Boston could be a legitimate contender while New York should at least improve over the 32 wins they had last season. Rose, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis on one side, Isaiah Thomas, Horford and Brown on the other. That's enough star power and intrigue to get viewers to tune in.
Warriors at Cavaliers (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Cavaliers' historic comeback allowed LeBron James to deliver on his promise to win a championship for Cleveland. It took everything they had to beat a Golden State squad that had a solid claim to be considered the best team in league history after a dominant regular season run. Now that juggernaut has added Kevin Durant, becoming an even tougher opponent.
Both teams are heavily favored to come out of their respective conferences, so this is not only a Finals rematch but also a potential Finals preview. The stakes obviously won't be as high as they were in the playoffs but these two teams didn't seem to like each other last season, so they should be motivated to make a statement in what's very likely to be the best game of the day.
Watch: You should embrace Kevin Durant's Warriors
Bulls at Spurs (5 p.m. ET, ABC)
Even without Tim Duncan, the Spurs will play on Christmas for the fourth straight season. San Antonio is expected to remain one of the league's best teams, so it makes sense to slot them there. The Bulls, meanwhile, will be making their seventh straight Christmas appearance, even though Derrick Rose is now in New York. Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler are enough of a draw for a national audience, though it remains to be seen if all three will be playing together in perfect harmony by this point.
Timberwolves at Thunder (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Hardcore NBA fans already know how good Karl-Anthony Towns really is. Now the general public will be introduced to the big man who had one of the most impressive rookie seasons in league history. He will be flanked by Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine and led by Tom Thibodeau on a Timberwolves team that seems ready to make a leap into playoff contention.
Oklahoma City will be compelling all season after losing Kevin Durant, but keeping Russell Westbrook. We'll all be curious to watch exactly how Westbrook fares with his own team. But it's also possible the novelty will wear off quickly as the Thunder settle into being a good, but not great team stuck in the middle of the pack. Maybe a Christmas Day matchup against the team that's coming closest to replicating its old build-through-the-draft motif will reinvigorate any interest they lose.
Clippers at Lakers (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Los Angeles' two teams ended last Christmas' slate with a dull 94-84 Clippers victory, but because it can't be Christmas without the Lakers, we get to see these two teams play again. From a pure basketball sense, it'd be more interesting to slot an up-and-comer like Portland or Utah in this space to face the Clippers, but those teams don't have the national draw of the Lakers. And hey, at least the Lakers could be a little more interesting this year with the addition of Brandon Ingram and the continued development of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle.