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NBA schedule 2019-20: Five must-see rookie matchups, including Zion Williamson and former Duke teammates

Two months ago, during the 2019 NBA Draft, we learned where this year’s rookie class would be playing. Now, after Monday afternoon’s official schedule release, we know when they’ll be playing. 

The NBA released the entire regular-season schedule, and the focus, for good reason, was on some of the biggest dates on the calendar: opening night, Christmas Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and revenge games. But we also now know the dates and times for some of the biggest matchups featuring this season’s rookie class. 

Ahead of the 2019-20 season, here’s a look at five of the most anticipated contests featuring the league’s future stars. 

1. Pelicans at Knicks

  • Date: Friday, Jan. 10
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • Location: Madison Square Garden — New York City
  • TV: ESPN

After stellar freshman seasons, Duke teammates Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett were both drafted in the top three. Williamson of course went No. 1 overall to the Pelicans, while the Knicks selected Barrett with the No. 3 pick. They played against each other in Summer League, but they’ll get at it for real for the first time in the NBA on Jan. 10, with the game set for Madison Square Garden. Two former teammates turned top-three picks meeting for the first time at The Mecca? Yeah, that sounds like a must-see matchup. 

2. Pelicans at Grizzlies

  • Date: Monday, Jan. 20
  • Time: 5 p.m. ET
  • Location: FedEx Forum — Memphis, Tennessee
  • TV: TNT
  • Streaming: fuboTV (try it for free)

It’s always exciting to see the top two picks in the NBA Draft meet for the first time. There should be some added hype for that game this season after one of the most promising draft classes in quite some time. Williamson is one of the most exciting prospects since LeBron James, and Ja Morant, the No. 2 overall pick, is a ridiculous athlete loaded with all sorts of potential of his own. We’ll have to wait until late January to see them take the court against each other for the first time, but the wait should be worth it considering the game will be on national TV as part of the league’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. 

3. Timberwolves at Hawks

  • Date: Monday, Nov. 25
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: State Farm Arena — Atlanta
  • TV: NBA League pass
  • Streaming: fuboTV (try it for free)

Last year’s NCAA Tournament championship game featured an unexpected matchup, as Virginia took down Texas Tech in overtime to win its first national title. Two key players in that game were Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter and Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver. Hunter and Culver went on to be drafted in the top-six of the draft. As it turns out, they won’t have to wait long for their first rematch in the NBA. Culver’s Timberwolves are set to travel to Atlanta to take on Hunter’s Hawks just a month into the season. Plus, as an added bonus, we’ll also get to see the No. 8 overall pick, Cam Reddish, who also plays for the Hawks. 

4. Hawks at Pelicans

  • Date: Monday, March 16
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • Location: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans
  • TV: NBA League Pass
  • Streaming: fuboTV (try it for free)

There are a number of Williamson games on this list, and for good reason. The No. 1 overall pick is one of the most-hyped prospects to ever enter the league, and has incredible potential. He was unstoppable at times during his freshman season at Duke, where he helped lead the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight. Reddish was also a key member of that Duke team, and together they were two of three Duke players to go in the top-eight of the draft. Williamson and Reddish won’t meet in the NBA for a long time, but that might make the matchup even more interesting, as they’ll each have had plenty of time to adjust to the league. 

5. Grizzlies at Cavaliers

  • Date: Friday, Dec. 20
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • Location: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse — Cleveland
  • TV: NBA League Pass
  • Streaming: fuboTV (try it for free)

A few days before Christmas, the Grizzlies will travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers. At a quick glance, this game wouldn’t seem all that interesting, with both teams expected to once again finish near the bottom of the standings next season. However, there are a few rookie reasons why this will be an interesting early-season matchup. For one, two of the top-five picks will go head-to-head when Morant takes on Darius Garland. The first two point guards taken in the draft, this should be a good measuring stick for each player. But that’s not all; both of these teams had multiple first-round picks, and in total one-sixth of the first round of the 2019 Draft will be playing in this game. In addition to Morant, the Grizzlies have Summer League MVP Brandon Clarke, while the Cavaliers also have Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr.