NBA Preseason 2017 Schedule and Predictions for Under-the-Radar Rookies

David McCracken@crackemcFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2017

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 02:  Kyle Kuzma #0 and Luol Deng #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers defend against Mason Plumlee #24 of the Denver Nuggets during the second half of a preseason game at Staples Center on October 2, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The wait is over, basketball fans. The NBA preseason kicked off on September 30, beginning what looks to be one of the more interesting preseason stretches in recent memory.

Not only are there a handful of high-caliber players on new teams, but there's also an intriguing rookie class that can make an immediate impact in the Association.

And I'm not talking about the usual suspects.

We all know the hype surrounding Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, etc., but what about those other rookies who have been performing lights out during the summer and carried that momentum over into training camp/preseason?

Let's take a look at three of the league's under-the-radar rookies heading into the weekend, along with notable preseason games you won't want to miss:

         

Friday, October 6

Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

7:00 p.m., ET

        

Phoenix Suns vs. Utah Jazz 

9:00 P.M., ET

       

Sunday, October 8

Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers

9:00 P.M., ET

       

Tuesday, October 10

Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers

10:30 p.m., ET

         

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets

9:00 p.m., ET

         

Under-the-radar rookies

Kyle Kuzma

We all know about the Lakers' second overall pick, Lonzo Ball. But if you haven't heard of Kyle Kuzma yet, the 27th overall pick this year out of the University of Utah, it's time to start paying attention.

Not only is Kuzma playing above his draft position, he's not even playing like a rookie right now. Throughout Summer League, Kuzma was easily Los Angeles' most consistent rookie and has proved his stellar play is not a coincidence so far this season.

Through two preseason games, Kuzma is averaging 21 points per game on 62.1 percent shooting. Rookies shouldn't have that type of efficiency yet, but Kuzma seems to be a candidate for steal of the draft, and the regular season hasn't even begun. 

How the Lakers will handle Kuzma's minutes once preseason is over will be the real question that needs to be answered. But at the least, Kuzma has earned himself a spot in Luke Walton's rotation. 

        

Daniel Theis

Daniel Theis isn't your typical rookie.

The 25-year-old wasn't drafted out of college, nor did he play the last few seasons in America. The German honed his craft overseas, becoming one of Europe's best defenders and all-around players. Not much was expected of Theis so soon, as adjusting to the speed of the NBA game should take time for any player.

But if his first appearance for the Boston Celtics earlier this week against the Charlotte Hornets is any indication, it looks like he'll be settling into his new surroundings just fine.

In just 14 minutes of action, Theis scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting along with seven boards. Those are numbers that would make any per-36 minute stat junkies go bananas. It's a good thing the Celtics know how to utilize analytics, because Theis looks to be a steal on a two-year, near league minimum deal. 

       

Donovan Mitchell 

Overlooked throughout the draft process, Donovan Mitchell went into Summer League with something to prove. Now seen as a rookie point guard with as much potential as any guard taken ahead of him in the draft, Mitchell had to prove in his preseason debut that his play over the summer wasn't a fluke.

And on Monday, Mitchell made the most out of his debut.

In 17 minutes on the floor against the Sydney Kings, Mitchell scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-5 from deep. Mitchell was able to show off his diversity as an offensive player, all while showcasing his defensive potential with 6'3" frame and 7' wingspan.

The 13th pick in the draft is still considered a late-lottery pick, but Mitchell probably should've had his name called well before then. The rest of the league better hope that Mitchell doesn't make them regret on passing on him as he projects to be one of the best players out of this year's draft class.