The Washington Wizards will be on national TV 10 times for the 2014-15 season. Watching games on TV is one thing, though. Being at the Verizon Center, watching the game action unfold live, is another experience.
With the Wizards poised to have a breakout campaign this season, this could be a very special season. It could be like the 2008-2009 NHL season, when their Monumental sibling, the Washington Capitals, started selling out more games than not and when season tickets started becoming an asset that was wanted rather than a liability being sold for pennies on the dollar.
Season tickets are still available of course, but they can be expensive investments of your time and money. If you really wanted to pick single games or create your own package, which games should be high on your list?
Here is a list of the top 15 home games for the Wizards' 2014-15 season to nab, whether it's just for that one game or to arrange your partial season ticket plan. You can also use this as a cheat sheet for which games to pick first in an office pool draft.
So, let's go.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Friday, November 21 at 8 p.m.
The Wizards and Cavaliers have a rivalry that stemmed from three straight playoff appearances from 2006-2008. With LeBron James now back in the wine and gold and the Wizards relevant again in the Eastern Conference picture, this can be revived very quickly. Of course, having Kyrie Irving there is an added bonus too.
Neither team is coming off a back-to-back heading to this contest, so we should see both teams play with playoff-like intensity here.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Wednesday, January 21 at 8 p.m.
You thought this would be No. 1, huh? It could be, but we like the Cleveland game a little more. The Wizards have defeated the Thunder at home in each of the last three seasons and they will try to make it four in a row here.
The bigger story, of course, is that this is Kevin Durant's one visit to his hometown. He'll be openly courted by many fans in the arena because of his free agency in 2016.
Neither team is coming off a back-to-back, so this should be a great game to watch even if Durant wasn't from D.C.
3. Chicago Bulls: Tuesday, December 23 at 7 p.m.
This game is not on national television (which you can tell by seeing that 7 p.m. time). But it is significant nevertheless because this is the first regular-season match between the two squads since last year's playoff series. The key battle here is at the point guard position, where John Wall will (hopefully) be matched up against Derrick Rose, who is coming back from two injury-plagued seasons. He now has some better offensive players around him like Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and rookie Doug McDermott.
Then another major storyline is that the Bulls were dominated by the Wizards in the playoffs last April. They want to get some revenge. Even though I wouldn't call the Bulls a Wizards rival just yet, here's something to consider: the Wizards' last two playoff series wins were against ... the Bulls.
The Wizards aren't coming off a back-to-back for this one, but the Bulls are playing this game one day after hosting the Raptors.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Friday, February 20 at 8 p.m.
Some Eastern Conference teams will show up twice on this top 15 just because they're marquee matches. With the Wiz-Cavs rivalry back in full swing at this point, it's only fitting that both teams' first game after a long All-Star Break will be against each other. And it's on ESPN again.
5. San Antonio Spurs: Tuesday, January 13 at 7 p.m.
The defending NBA champions come to town and that alone is a draw. So is the matchup between Wall and Tony Parker. The last time the Spurs came to D.C., they won in double overtime and I heard a few too many "Go Spurs Go" chants. I think the Wizards should have pulled the upset off considering how that went. Let's see if they can do it this time.
6. Los Angeles Clippers: Friday, December 12 at 7 p.m.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and company come to the nation's capital. This will be a battle of Wall vs. Paul for sure. Last time the Clips were at Verizon Center, the Wizards got beaten badly. Hopefully they can turn that around this time.
7. Golden State Warriors: Tuesday, February 24 at 7 p.m.
There is a good chance that both of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will be on the World Cup team, whereas Wall and Bradley Beal were sent home last week. That will be the story for this game.
In the past, this game would have been one of those good "Bang for your buck" games where you see a quality, up-and-coming team without spending a really high price for those tickets. But with the Wizards' rising and the Warriors now as a relevant squad out West, this game is definitely in that tier right below teams like the Cavaliers and Thunder.
8. Portland Trail Blazers: Monday, March 16 at 7 p.m.
This is yet another battle of top tier point guards, as Wall will face off against Damian Lillard, who also is still in consideration for Team USA. Portland will play this game one day after playing the Raptors on the road, so the Wizards should be less fatigued for this one.
9. Miami Heat: Monday, December 1 at 7 p.m.
The Wizards defeated the Heat in both Verizon Center games last season. Sure, LeBron James is no longer in South Beach, but Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng still make a really formidable trio that is relevant in the East. Miami will come to D.C. coming off a back-to-back after a road game against the Knicks, while the Wizards aren't.
10. Phoenix Suns: Sunday, December 21 at 6 p.m.
The Suns didn't make the playoffs last season, but they still won 48 games and defeated the Wizards at Verizon Center too. And there's another major point guard battle between Wall and Goran Dragic, who made the All-NBA Team while our guy didn't. Wall's old college teammate Eric Bledsoe should (probably?) be around too, and Bledsoe often gets up for these games. Since the Suns aren't as star-studded as most of the teams that were previously mentioned on this list, this game could be one where you don't pay too much, but still get to see a quality opponent that's a lot of fun to watch.
11. Toronto Raptors: Saturday, January 31 at 7 p.m.
The Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks are the only two Eastern Conference teams that will be making a trip to D.C. just once in the 2014-15 season. And yet again, the featured battle is at the point guard position as Wall takes on Kyle Lowry.
Even though ESPN predicted that this team would be the No. 3 seed in the East ahead of the Wizards, a casual NBA fan may not know just how good they are, so single game tickets for the Raptors could be lower than if this team were in an American market instead. The Raptors are also coming off a back-to-back while the Wizards aren't, so this is another game which favors them in that regard.
12. Houston Rockets: Sunday, March 29 at 6 p.m.
I've been pretty biased about putting teams with star point guards higher on this list, which is partly why this team has dropped. But at the same time, several key members like Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin now play for other clubs. Still a battle between Beal and James Harden, as well as one between Marcin Gortat and Dwight Howard, will be fun to watch. Neither team will head to this game off a back-to-back.
And, oh yeah, it's Trevor Ariza's return.
13. Chicago Bulls: Friday, January 9 at 8 p.m.
This is the second appearance featuring the Bulls because of the playoff series last season and the Wall/Rose matchup. Unlike the December 23 match, the Bulls will not be coming off of a back-to-back and the Wizards still aren't either. This is an ESPN game too, hence the 8 p.m. start.
14. Miami Heat: Friday, March 6 at 8 p.m.
The Heat make a second appearance here in large part due to the ESPN game, and fans often want to be seen on national television. This is also the last matchup between these two teams for the regular season.
15. Indiana Pacers: Wednesday, November 5 at 8 p.m.
The Pacers lost Paul George due to his right leg injury and Lance Stephenson left for division foe Charlotte. Still, even if Indy is a lottery team in 2015, the Wizards want to get a win against the club that eliminated them in the playoffs last season, and at home. The Pacers won three of their four games in the series at Verizon Center.
This game could be priced high because it's on national television, but since Indy is in a smaller market and their best player is going to be out, you shouldn't have to spend too much for this game, and you could get on national TV.
Are there other quality games I could watch where I don't have to spend $150 a seat in the 400 level?
Yes, there are. Here are some possible options.
- The Charlotte Hornets play on Monday, February 2, and Friday March 27, both at 7 p.m. This is definitely a team I'm looking forward to seeing given that Al Jefferson will play alongside Stephenson and Kemba Walker.
- The Minnesota Timberwolves will play on Tuesday, December 16 at 7 p.m. Current Cavaliers rookie forward Andrew Wiggins will probably be traded here very soon and it's always intriguing to see a team with the No. 1 pick in the Draft come to town.
- The Los Angeles Lakers come to town on Wednesday, December 3, at 7 p.m. I'm down on this team, but if you want a chance to see Kobe Bryant before he retires, this is one of your last opportunities.
- The New Orleans Pelicans will arrive on Saturday, November 29, at 7 p.m. Anthony Davis will be a featured post player on the World Cup team, so this is your one chance to see him here. Unfortunately, the Pelicans are probably on the outside looking in playoffs-wise, but that also will make this game cheaper to buy. Davis is a rising talent in the NBA nonetheless and New Orleans could be very fun to watch.
- The home opener is against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, November 1, at 7 p.m. This is your only chance to see Jabari Parker, the No. 2 pick in the Draft, here in D.C. Tickets here may be lower than normal in an effort to sell out the building and also because the Bucks figure to be a sub 30-win team. But I do have an interest in seeing him play.