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SALT LAKE CITY — On Monday, the Utah Jazz released its 2019-20 schedule.
After the busiest summer since Dennis Lindsey took over the reins of the organization, trading for Mike Conley Jr. and signing several other contributors, the Jazz appear primed for a deep playoff run.
With the season just over two months away, here are the five can’t-miss games for the upcoming Jazz season.
Oct. 25 @ Los Angeles Lakers
The Jazz make their first trip of the season in Game 2, traveling to the new-look Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James has been paired with Anthony Davis, arguably his most talented teammate since entering the NBA 16 years ago.
The Lakers paid an enormous price to acquire Davis, sending out lottery pick De’Andre Hunter and former second overall picks Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, along with Josh Hart and draft pick compensation for the perennial MVP candidate. The crazy part, Davis might be worth it if he rights the ship for a wayward Los Angeles franchise.
The Lakers' supporting cast has a few proven veterans in Danny Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Dudley, but they will need former University of Utah forward Kyle Kuzma to take the next step in his development to provide the roster with a true big three. The roster surrounding those players is full of question marks, including former All-Stars DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, but neither proved particularly useful last season.
The Jazz catch the Lakers early in the season, which may be an ideal situation — before they gel as the season progresses. A win would provide early evidence the Jazz can compete with the league’s best teams.
Dec. 2 @ Philadelphia 76ers
The Jazz have arguably their toughest road test of the season, taking on the Philadelphia 76ers on the second night of a back-to-back game against defending champion Toronto Raptors. The 76ers revamped their roster this summer, losing All-Star Jimmy Butler and sharpshooter JJ Redick, but added likely Hall of Famer Al Horford.
Donovan Mitchell has traditionally struggled in Philly, often pressing in head-to-head matchups with guard Ben Simmons. For his career, Mitchell is a combined 33% shooter from the floor and 17% 3-point shooter against the 76ers, both career lows against any franchise.
The 76ers appear to be a contender to come out of the East with Kawhi Leonard heading West. And coming off the second night of a back-to-back, this appears to be a scheduled loss for the Jazz; however, the best teams in the league find ways to win impossible games, and this will be a great road test for the Jazz.
Nov. 23 vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Former Jazzman and crowd favorite Derrick Favors returns to Salt Lake City with his new Pelicans roster in mid-November, likely starting alongside No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. Favors has long been one of the league’s most overlooked players, largely because he’s played alongside two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Favors is a high-level starter in his own right but was often hidden in a sometimes clunky frontcourt pairing.
Williamson may not be ready to spread the floor to change Favors game dramatically, but the two should pair for one of the more intriguing frontcourt duo’s in all the league.
The Pelicans will be spearheaded by All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, who will face up against Conley in Utah. The Pelicans roster is filled out by the newly acquired Ingram, Ball, and Hunter, as they look to shine outside of the Lakers' purple and gold.
The Pelicans could compete for a playoff spot this year, and the head-to-head matchups across the board should make for terrific basketball. To make the game more difficult for the Jazz, it comes on the second night of a back-to-back at home after playing the Golden State Warriors.
Feb. 22 vs. Houston Rockets
The Jazz come out of a long All-Star break with back-to-back home games against the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets. Both teams have a chance to compete for the playoffs this season, and the Rockets have had the Jazz number each of the last two postseasons.
This Rockets team, however, should look completely different after they traded future Hall of Fame guard Chris Paul for another future Hall of Famer Russell Westbrook. James Harden will still find himself squarely in the MVP race, but alongside Westbrook, there likely won't be enough shots for the Rockets' supporting cast to stay engaged throughout the season.
Westbrook is an amazing talent, with the league’s best motor, but has struggled with efficiency throughout his career. Westbrook has lost a step athletically but has always been worth the price of admission. This game will be no different and could have playoff implications at season’s end.
April 14 vs. Denver Nuggets
The Jazz wrap up their season with a home game against the Denver Nuggets, on the second night of a back-to-back against Oklahoma City the night before. The Nuggets made a surprise run in the playoffs in 2019 and were one game away from a Western Conference Finals appearance before falling short to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Nikola Jokic is one of the league’s best centers and a great offensive counter to Gobert’s defensive brilliance. Conley and Mitchell matchup with Denver’s rapidly developing backcourt of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.
Denver should add last year’s lottery pick Michael Porter Jr., who missed his entire rookie season with a back injury. If Porter Jr. can reach his enormous potential, the Nuggets are a dark horse championship contender, and a risk to the Jazz's own title hopes. Both teams should be picked to win over 50 games, and this final game of the season could determine playoff matchups.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated the Jazz play Houston on Feb. 2. That has been corrected. An earlier version of this story had the wrong first name of Josh Hart. It has been corrected.
Ben Anderson is a contributor at KSL.com, follow him on Twitter @BensHoops. Listen to him 2-6, Monday through Friday with Kyle Gunther on ESPN 700.