NBA

Biggest storylines to watch in the NBA's 2020-21 opening week schedule

The schedule for the first few days of the upcoming NBA 2020-21 season is out.

A total of 11 teams are featured with as many as seven teams playing twice in this four-day span. It's loaded with can't-miss contests including the five-game slate of Christmas Day.

To make better sense of it all, here's a look at the biggest storylines to watch out in the first three-game days of the upcoming NBA season:

Kyrie Irving-Kevin Durant debut

We won't have to wait long to see the new-look Brooklyn Nets in action, with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and co. slated to open the new season in the first game against the Golden State Warriors.

While the matchup has no shortage of intrigue, seeing Durant and Irving back on the court after extended absences will be worth tuning in for alone. Durant missed the entire 2019-20 season after suffering a torn Achilles, meanwhile, Irving played just 10 games for the Nets before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.

MORE: Nets 2020-21 season preview

For Durant, playing his first game for the Nets against his former team only adds to the excitement, plus what is sure to be a highlight-filled one-on-one battle at point guard between Irving and Steph Curry.

Steph returns from injury

In a similar vein to Durant and Irving, Stephen Curry makes his return to the court after a broken left hand limited him to just five games in 2019-20. It's been more than a year since Curry played meaningful minutes in an NBA game, but he returns to a Warriors team with a supporting cast featuring plenty of fresh faces.

With Klay Thompson ruled out for the season with an Achilles injury, more will be asked of Curry than ever before as he lines up alongside Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft James Wiseman.

In the small sample size of games last season Curry recorded his highest-ever usage rate of 33.6%, up from the 32.6% on his unanimous MVP season (2015-16), per StatMuse. Will we see Steph go supernova in 2020-21, with the lion's share of the offensive responsibility falling on his shoulders?

How do the Bucks begin?

There's no debate about the fact that last season's Conference Semifinals exit was a disappointing end to the Bucks campaign, one where Giannis Antetokounnmpo dazzled to win a second-straight MVP and the team held the league's best record at 56-17.

Their franchise's biggest move in the 2020 offseason was acquiring Jrue Holiday. The 6'3" two-way guard, along with the acquisition of back-up point guard D.J. Augustin, helps solve what is considered to be the team's biggest problem from last season - shot-making and offense creation at the guard spot - taking some, if not all, of the defense's eyeballs off the Greek Freak.

Their new starting line-up of Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez is deadly but how will the new offseason acquisitions of Bryn Forbes, Bobby Portis, and Torrey Craig perform as key members of the team's new bench rotation?

The team opens their season on the road in Boston, and a couple of days later they host Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

With nothing yet on Antetokounmpo's supermax extension and his upcoming free-agency in 2021, the team is going to have a lot of eyeballs on it all through the season - let alone through these two crucial season-opening games.

How they fare in both these games will play surely play a huge role in the ensuing headlines, and how the team performs for the rest of the year?

Will the Lakers flex their muscles or start steady?

It's not often that the league's reigning champions dominate the following free-agency season. In fact, it's very very rare but the Lakers have done just that.

The outright winners of the 2020 offseason, the Lakers, at least on paper, look poised to repeat as champions with no real legitimate threat in sight. For every player, they let go or traded, they acquired someone better and younger at the same spot on the depth chart.

Wesley Matthews for Danny Green. Dennis Schroder for Rajon Rondo. Marc Gasol for JaVale McGee, Montrezl Harrell for Dwight Howard. And I haven't mentioned their All-NBA duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis yet.

The pressure to repeat is immense but these new roster acquisitions could infuse new energy into the organization. Will the Lakers start slow and build towards their second consecutive title or will they come out of the gates, beating everybody in dominant fashion?

The result against their first two opponents in the LA Clippers, on opening night, and the Dallas Mavericks, on Christmas Day, should provide a good answer to that question.

Zion and the Pelicans

After narrowly missing out on the playoffs last season in the bubble, the Pelicans open their new campaign on Christmas Day against the Miami Heat, fresh off an NBA Finals appearance.

With Jrue Holiday now in Milwaukee, the Pelicans have committed to their youth movement, with Lonzo Ball set to take on a large share of the playmaking duties, alongside Most Improved Payer of the Year Brandon Ingram, and the high-flying Zion Williamson.

Under new head coach Stan Van Gundy, the Pelicans off-season focus was improving their defence with the acquisition of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, but all eyes will be on Williamson and his development in Year 2.

Coming off his rookie season, where he averaged 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game on 58.3% shooting from the field, Williamson and the Pelicans will be must-see TV when the new season gets underway.

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