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NBA

2020-21 NBA schedule: Can't-miss rookie matchups in the first half of the regular season

The NBA has officially released the schedule for the first half of the 2020-21 regular season, set to begin on Dec. 22.

While we usually have Summer League as the first chance to see rookies on display, the quick turnaround from the NBA Draft to the start of the season left no room for any sort of a rookie preview.

Preseason aside, that means first-year players will jump straight into their NBA careers with very little preparation of game-speed prior to their first regular-season matchups.

With that being said, which rookie versus rookie matchups should you be most excited for?

Take a look at head-to-head matchups that stood out from the schedule release.

LaMelo Ball vs. Anthony Edwards

Charlotte Hornets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Date: Friday, Feb. 12, 7:00 p.m. ET

The general consensus was that it was a two-man race for the first-overall pick between Ball and Edwards before the Timberwolves elected to go with the Georgia product.

Assuming that leaves a chip on the shoulder of Ball, this should be one of the best rookie matchups of the year when these two go head-to-head. While they might not draw the assignment of guarding each other, you know both top prospects are looking to prove they're better than the other, while Ball looks to show Minnesota what they may have missed out on.

Deni Avdija vs. Obi Toppin

Washington Wizards vs. New York Knicks

Date: Friday, Feb. 12, 7:00 p.m. ET

Each of these players were projected to go in the top-five and neither of them landed where they were projected. While some would have guessed the Knicks would take Avdija should he had slid to pick No. 8, they elected to take a safer route with college basketball's best player in Toppin instead. The Wizards have to feel like they could have the steal of the draft getting Avdija at No. 9, but it would be nice to see him prove that against a top forward whose considered to be much more NBA ready from the same draft class.

These two should spend some time matched up with each other, both trying to prove they should've gone higher than they were selected.

Tyrese Haliburton vs. Killian Hayes

Sacramento Kings vs. Detroit Pistons

Date: Friday, Feb. 26, 7:00 p.m. ET

Haliburton and Hayes were seemingly interchangeable on Mock Draft boards for teams that needed a playmaker, being two of the best passers in this draft class. Hayes ended up going off the board first, No. 7 overall to the Pistons, but Haliburton wasn't far behind him going No. 12 to the Kings. As two players with similar size and skillsets, this strikes me as another "prove it" game for each guard.

Josh Green vs. Tyrese Maxey

Dallas Mavericks vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Date: Thursday, Feb. 25, 7:00 p.m. ET

Maxey is another one of the biggest steals in the 2020 NBA Draft, falling all the way to pick No. 21 to the 76ers. While that may end up being the best thing for his career, fitting nicely as a scoring machine off of Philly's bench, he must have some animosity toward the Mavericks selection of Josh Green at pick No. 18. Maxey is a Dallas, Texas native and Dallas selected Green instead, a player of the same position, though they have slightly different playstyles.

Green's going to want to prove the Mavericks made the right choice while Maxey will look to show his hometown team what they passed on.

Malachi Flynn vs. Payton Pritchard

Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics

Date: Monday, Jan. 4, 7:30 p.m. ET

Flynn was widely projected to be in a league of his own for contenders looking to add upperclassman guards to their roster, yet the Celtics passed on him at pick No. 26 to select Pritchard. Both players had very decorated college careers and look to add an NBA-ready playmaker and shot-maker to the teams that selected them. They're also each expected to play a meaningful role in their first season, which isn't always the case with rookies.

This is just one of the many inner battles between two division and conference rivals, adding another layer to what is already a game that each team always circles on the calendar.

RJ Hampton vs. LaMelo Ball

Denver Nuggets vs. Charlotte Hornets

Date: Friday, Feb. 19, 7:00 p.m. ET

The two players that elected to take their talents to the NBL's (Australia) Next Stars program will meet again, this time on NBA soil. Hampton's New Zealand Breakers won each of the two matchups against Ball's Illawarra Hawks when they faced off last season.

Ball averaged 17.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists over those two games but shot 31.7% from the field and 16.7% from 3. He did, however, record a 25-point triple-double in the second meeting, but shot 1-for-11 from beyond the arc. Hampton averaged 10.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists over those two games, shooting 47.1% from the field on a much smaller volume of shots.

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