NBA

2021-22 NBA schedule: Can't-miss rookie matchups during the NBA regular season

We've already seen some primetime rookie matchups unfold at the Las Vegas Summer League, but there is a different level of magnitude when members of the newest draft class go head-to-head in their first NBA regular season.

With the release of the 2021-22 NBA schedule, take a look at some rookie matchups you'll want to have circled on your calendar.

Can't-miss rookie matchups of 2021-22 NBA season

Wednesday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m. ET - Cade Cunningham vs. Jalen Green

Detroit Pistons vs. Houston Rockets

No. 1 vs. No. 2. It doesn't get much better than this.

Prior to the first Summer League matchup between these two future superstars, I highlighted their historied rivalry as the two top prospects of the 2020 high school class. Cunningham edged out Green for the No. 1 ranking in high school, and then again with the No. 1 pick in the draft.

That has placed a chip on the shoulder of the Rockets' prolific scorer, who has his sights set on taking home the 2022 Rookie of the Year trophy over Cunningham.

"I need it," the No. 2 pick said of the award in an interview with Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. "I feel like I'm the best player in the class. I didn't go No. 1, so I'm going to go get the Rookie of the Year."

MORE: The path to 2022 Rookie of the Year

Their one Summer League meeting didn't disappoint, as Green's 25 points, five rebounds and three assists edged Cunningham's 20 points, four rebounds and two assists.

The regular season matchup will be must-see TV.

Friday, Oct. 29, 7:00 p.m. ET - Scottie Barnes vs. Jalen Suggs

Toronto Raptors vs. Orlando Magic

The Raptors shocked the NBA world when they went with Barnes over Suggs at No. 4. With the writing on the wall for Kyle Lowry's departure, it felt like a seamless transition to slide Suggs into that spot as the floor general of the future, but Toronto went in a different direction.

In drafting Barnes, the Raptors continued to create a roster that is built around length and versatility. Barnes is a poster child for both of those attributes, but he will always be tied to Suggs because of the decision Toronto made.

Both of these promising young prospects will have this game circled on their calendar the moment the schedule drops, but who will rise to the occasion to try and prove a point about the Raptors' selection?

Sunday, Nov. 7, 8:30 p.m. ET - Jalen Green vs. Jonathan Kuminga

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors

These two top prospects elected to take a new path to the NBA, acting as trailblazers of the NBA's G League Ignite development program.

Spending one season as teammates playing professionally instead of going to college or overseas, Green and Kuminga were able to fine-tune their skills and prepare themselves for the full-time job of being an NBA player. Their decisions paid off, going second and seventh in the 2021 NBA Draft, respectively, and now we know when we can watch this tandem go head-to-head.

They're expected to be of the two best players in this draft class. Now let's see what they look like on opposite teams.

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 10:00 p.m ET - Davion Mitchell vs. Jalen Suggs

Sacramento Kings vs. Orlando Magic

This may not be the first rookie matchup that comes to mind when you think of meetings you're excited to see, but it should be up there.

It was only five months ago that Suggs' undefeated Gonzaga team faced off against Mitchell's red-hot Baylor squad in the NCAA National Championship game. Baylor came out gunning, striking first against Gonzaga, and the Bulldogs couldn't counter, falling for the first time in the title game.

Gonzaga finished with a near-perfect record of 31-1, while Mitchell's Baylor team took home the 2021 National Championship.

Suggs will certainly be eager to get revenge on Mitchell, whose relentless defensive pressure set the tone to win the title.

Saturday, Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m. ET - Cade Cunningham vs. Scottie Barnes

Detroit Pistons vs. Toronto Raptors

Former teammates go head-to-head in this one.

Cunningham and Barnes will battle for the first time after dominating at the high school level at the prestigious Montverde Academy. When Barnes joined Cunningham at Montverde for their senior season, the tandem (along with 2021 draftees Moses Moody and Day'Ron Sharpe) formed one of the best high school basketball teams in history, going a perfect 25-0 with an average margin of victory of 39 points.

There will be several matchups between players of that Montverde team at the NBA level this season, but none bigger than this one.

Wednesday, Dec. 15, 7:00 p.m. ET - Evan Mobley vs. Alperen Sengün

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Houston Rockets

Mobley was widely considered to be the best big man in the 2021 NBA Draft class, but 19-year-old Turkish League MVP Sengün may have something to say about that.

Sengün fell out of the lottery but if his Summer League performance is any indication, he'll make a lot of teams regret passing on him. He averaged 14.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks over four games, looking like a starting-calibre big man from Day 1 in the NBA.

He'll have his chance to prove he's the best big in this draft when he goes head-to-head against Mobley, who didn't have the most stellar Summer League showing. Summer League isn't the NBA regular season, of course, so expect Mobley to come out and prove a point in this matchup, too.

Monday, Dec. 6, 7:00 p.m. ET - Cade Cunningham vs. Josh Giddey

Detroit Pistons vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

A meeting of the 6-foot-7 point guards.

Giddey was one of the surprise picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, going sixth overall to the Thunder. The Australian already has a full season of professional experience under his belt, taking home the NBL's Rookie of the Year honours last year after averaging an impressive 10.9 points, 7.6 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game, including a pair of record-setting triple-doubles.

There's no better opportunity to prove yourself than against the No. 1 pick in your draft class, but the fact that both of these players are 6-foot-7 jumbo playmakers makes the matchup all that much more enticing.

This one should be fun to watch.

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