The Miami Heat may not have the same household names they’ve had in previous years — having lost Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Mario Chalmers, among others — but they’re expected to field a younger team and a faster offense, both of which should bring some excitement to the fan base.
We all knew that the Heat would be testing out their new, young core against some of the best teams and biggest names in the league, but now we also know when these must-watch events will take place.
Here are 10 must-watch games on the Heat’s 2016-17 schedule.
Nov. 4, 2016: Heat @ Toronto Raptors
After getting knocked out in the second round of the playoffs by the Raptors last season, Miami will have a little extra motivation for this game. The Heat’s season ended in Toronto, and the holdovers from last year’s team will likely be seeking revenge. This game takes on extra significance depending on the health and status of Chris Bosh. If Bosh were to play, it would be interesting to see what type of reaction the former Raptor would get, considering his recent time off to deal with career-threatening blood clots.
Nov. 10, 2016: Heat vs. Chicago Bulls
For the first time, Dwyane Wade will need to use the key under the mat to get into the American Airlines Arena as a competitor. Wade will bring a new-look Bulls squad with him, a team with veteran guard Rajon Rondo, Olympian Jimmy Butler and center Robin Lopez. Wade’s return alone makes this a a must-watch game, but these two teams are also projected to battle for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Nov. 28, 2016: Heat vs. Boston Celtics
Many expect the Celtics to take a step forward this season after adding center Al Horford and rookie Jaylen Brown to a side that already included All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. The Heat and Celtics are no strangers and with Boston touted as an up-and-coming team in the East, the Heat will look to delay a conference power shift.
Dec. 16, 2016: Heat vs. Los Angeles Clippers
With Russell Westbrook off the board, Blake Griffin is arguably the most coveted player in the 2017 free-agent class. Griffin will lead a squad with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan into Miami in a game where the Heat could well be auditioning for his services.
Dec. 29, 2016: Heat @ Charlotte Hornets
In the same way that Heat players may look to get revenge on the Raptors for knocking them out of the playoff, the Charlotte Hornets will look to even the score against the Heat. Though it is unclear if “Purple Shirt Guy” will be in attendance, the rest of the Hornets fan base will be vocal in its displeasure for the Heat. Both teams will enter the season with new-look rosters, making for an intriguing Eastern Conference contest.
Jan. 10, 2017: Heat @ Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are the NBA’s premier superteam, having signed Kevin Durant away from Oklahoma City this offseason. The Warriors are also coming off the best regular season in NBA history and nearly went undefeated at home. Though the Heat will be hard-pressed to get a win at Oracle Arena, if Goran Dragic can get the offense moving at a face pace, this could be one of the most exciting games of the Heat’s season. The Heat also have some history with the creation of super teams, giving fans another point of interest.
Feb. 4, 2017: Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers have been bad and, no, they likely won’t make a huge leap forward into playoff contention this year. However, first overall pick Ben Simmons has the potential to be a franchise-altering talent and, if he plays anything like he did in Summer League, he will be one of the most exciting players in the league to watch. Add in Philly’s other young talents like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor and the team may see the light at the end of the NBA lottery tunnel.
Mar. 4, 2017: Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
It’s always a spectacle when LeBron James returns to Miami, no matter what the Heat’s roster looks like. Coming off of an NBA title, LeBron returns this time with vindication of his decision to return to Cleveland. Since LeBron’s return to the Cavs, though, Cleveland has not won a game in Miami, giving this year’s contest an extra bit of intrigue.
Mar. 17, 2017: Heat vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
While a matchup with the Timberwolves may not jump off the schedule, Minnesota may be one of the better young teams in the NBA, boasting a core of Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns. The Wolves also drafted Kris Dunn with the fifth overall pick in the draft and still have Spanish Olympian Ricky Rubio on the roster. With the Heat developing their own young core, this could be a rivalry that develops into one of the best in the NBA for years to come.
Mar. 29, 2017: Heat @ New York Knicks
The New York Knicks restocked their roster this offseason, trading for Derrick Rose and signing Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings to go along with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks, much like the Celtics, are viewed as having improved, making their matchup with the Heat more intriguing.