How to watch and everything you need to know about the 2023-24 NBA season
After another thrilling offseason, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is finally back.
With more blockbuster trades and the arrival of a generational talent, there is plenty to look forward to in the 2023-24 season.
There’s also the addition of the new mid-season tournament and a whole host of teams entering with title aspirations.
How to watch
The 78th NBA regular season will begin on Tuesday, October 24, running until Sunday, April 14, 2024.
The Play-In tournament – which determines the seventh and eighth seed in each conference in the playoffs with a mini-tournament between the teams ranked between seventh and 10th – takes place between Tuesday, April 16, to Friday, April 19, next year.
The playoffs properly start on Saturday, April 20, with Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Finals being held on Thursday, June 6.
The league’s inaugural In-Season tournament will take place between Friday, November 3, and Saturday, December 9, which is when the final will be played in Las Vegas.
Games will be broadcast across TNT, ESPN, ABC, NBA TV and ESPN Radio in the US over the season, while NBA TV and NBA League Pass will broadcast games internationally.
Two horse race?
The dominant talking point of the NBA offseason was what color jersey Damian Lillard would be putting on this season.
After 11 years with the Portland Trail Blazers, the 33-year-old handed in a trade request in the summer, signaling a desire to explore a new challenge outside of Oregon. Amid reports that his desired location was the Miami Heat, Lillard was surprisingly moved to the Milwaukee Bucks in a transaction which shifted the power dynamic across the whole league.
Lillard will team up with two-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Giannis Antetokounmpo in what promises to be a lethal offensive duo and one which catapults the Bucks from title contenders to title favorites. Excitement surrounding the trade also helps to banish some of the ills from last season where Milwaukee lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Miami Heat.
The team did lose Jrue Holiday in the three-team deal – Holiday was eventually traded from the Trail Blazers to the Boston Celtics – but the pairing of Lillard and Antetokounmpo will be a tough proposition for opposing defenses.
Ahead of the season, the duo was already very complimentary about its future prospects after sharing the court together in the Bucks’ first preseason game.
“I’ve never been this open. And first of all, I’ve never seen anybody being double-teamed from the first possession of the game,” the ‘Greek Freak’ said after Milwaukee’s preseason win over the Los Angeles Lakers, per ESPN.
Lillard said after the same game, per ESPN: “Having another guy out there that’s just dominant. He can dominate a game and win you a game. … First couple plays, they blitz me, they trap me and the guy that I’m releasing the ball to is Giannis.
“So I’m just like: ‘Uh, we can do this all night.’ You know what I mean?”
The Bucks’ main opponent in the Eastern Conference is likely to be the Celtics, who themselves are coming off the back of a disappointing playoff defeat to the Heat.
Led by the two “J’s” – Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – the team holds title aspirations. After years of falling short, many believe that this could be their best opportunity to finally get over the hump and claim the organization’s first NBA title since 2008 with Holiday and Kristaps Porziņģis also on the roster.
Second-year head coach Joe Mazzulla still has some room to grow with his decision-making in crunch situations, but with its top-heavy roster, a serious title push is expected in Boston.
Many are predicting a heavyweight showdown between the Celtics and the Bucks for a spot in the NBA Finals, as they are clearly the two most star-studded teams in the Eastern Conference.
There are others who might have something to say about that – notably the reigning MVP Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers – but the Bucks and the Celtics might prove to be too tough to beat in the East.
Out West, in the NBA’s other conference, it is a much different story.
The reigning champion Denver Nuggets begin their title defense looking strong once again, spearheaded by two-time MVP Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray.
However, they have suffered some key losses from their title-winning team in the form of Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, leaving question marks about the depth of its roster.
The baseline for Denver remains high though with an offense led by Jokić and Murray; their combination has been established as the NBA’s most lethal two-man offense – though Antetokounmpo and Lillard might have their say this year.
But behind the Nuggets is a loaded conference poised to take advantage of any slip up from the reigning champions.
All of the Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks have their own lofty ambitions and reasons to believe that this could be the year.
The Suns are the team who might most strongly believe that it can challenge the Nuggets for a title, in particular after the addition of Bradley Beal to its already glittering cast of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
Durant’s late-season arrival last year didn’t leave the team much time to gel on the court – especially with injuries restricting game time – but with a full offseason under their belts and Beal amongst their ranks, head coach Frank Vogel, who’s in his first year with the team, will be expected to be contend for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The other Western contenders all have reasons to be hopeful – most of them being led by star players – but have looming question marks.
The Grizzlies will be hampered by the early absence of star point guard Ja Morant, who is suspended for the first 25 games of the season following “conduct detrimental to the league” after an Instagram Live video circulated on social media, appearing to show him flashing a gun while in a vehicle with others, just two months after he was suspended over a similar video.
Persistent injuries to the Clippers’ two stars – Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – have restricted the team’s success since they arrived in 2019, while it is a similar story for Zion Williamson with the Pelicans.
The Kings will be hoping to replicate their breakthrough success last year – reaching the playoffs for the first time in almost 17 years – but with only a few changes made to their team, will continuity benefit them or will standing still allow others to catch up?
The Warriors, Lakers, Timberwolves and Mavericks all also have high hopes going into the season but each squad has problems that need ironing out with tip-off around the corner.
This star power at the top has led to a crowded conference in which every game potentially holds big-time playoff implications.
Rookies to keep an eye on
The excitement around seeing the next generation of rookies to come into the NBA is always high, but this season, that anticipation is through the roof almost singlehandedly because of one man: Victor Wembanyama.
The Frenchman was evaluated as one of the most highly thought of prospects to come to the NBA, leading to a ferocious race last season to bottom out and earn the opportunity to draft him.
In the end, it was the San Antonio Spurs who won the lottery to pick first in the 2023 draft, therefore bringing Wembanyama to the Alamo City to pair him with legendary coach Gregg Popovich.
The excitement around the potential generational talent hasn’t been at this level since LeBron James arrived in the NBA in 2003, with Spurs’ TV games becoming much more intriguing propositions than before.