NBA Preseason 2017: Projecting Most Intriguing Matchups on the Schedule

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistOctober 2, 2017

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid in action during an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

With all the drama that has gone on throughout the NBA offseason, it feels like the season never ended.

Now after all the pettiness that would make a middle school lunch table jealous, it's time to start playing the games.

The NBA preseason began Saturday night with two games, but the real madness starts in earnest Monday, with a plethora of intriguing matchups over the next few weeks.

With plenty of new faces spread across the league, building chemistry over the next few weeks is crucial to get off to a fast start in the regular season on October 17. The preseason slate features some international trips, clashes between big teams, and showdowns between up-and-comers and perennial contenders. 

Here's a look at the few of the games to keep an eye on as the preseason begins.

      

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

(October 3, 8 p.m. ET at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma)

Only a few months ago, a meeting between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder playing at a neutral site might not have been intriguing to some, but now it carries all sorts of interest.

The superstars on each team may not play a ton of minutes, but seeing James Harden, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook on the court for spurts is enough to persuade someone to make a Tuesday night trip to Tulsa.

The new teammates on both ends of this matchup are already developing some chemistry. ESPN.com's Royce Young pointed out Anthony and George already had some in a Sunday scrimmage: 

Paul expressed his excitement to get going with this new teammates through an interview with the Rockets website:

This game might not carry the intensity of a regular-season or playoff showdown between the two teams, but it's still worth keeping an eye on, given the offseason acquisitions by the pair of Western Conference teams.

       

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Golden State Warriors

(October 5, 2 a.m. ET in Shenzhen, China; October 8, 7 a.m. ET in Shanghai)

The Minnesota Timberwolves did their best to join the Western Conference elite during the offseason by bringing in Jimmy Butler, but they still have some work to do to challenge teams like the Golden State Warriors.

The two-game trip to China with the Warriors will be more about bringing two exciting spectacles to the fans overseas, but it'll also give Jimmy Butler some time to jell with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins against some quality competition.

Both the Timberwolves and Warriors headed to China Sunday, per their official Twitter accounts, after winning their respective preseason openers over the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers Saturday.

We won't be able to draw any major conclusions from the pair of contests, but at the very least, it should be a nice spectacle. Plus, who doesn't love watching basketball in the early morning.

        

Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics

(October 9, 7:30 p.m. ET)

The second game of a home-and-home between the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics will be the third preseason game for two Eastern Conference teams with expectations that are lofty in their own regard.

The Sixers, if healthy—and that's a big if—could become one of the best stories in the NBA as they finally begin to reap the rewards of the process. Preseason is massive for the Sixers since it'll give the young core of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor time to play together.

Embiid is the biggest concern for the Sixers at the moment, and as the team started camp last week, the Kansas product was participating in five-on-five half-court scrimmages, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer: 

As for the Celtics, they have a loftier set of expectations with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward now on the roster. The top challenger to the Cleveland Cavaliers also needs time to jell as a unit, and it'll be fun to watch how Irving and Hayward's chemistry comes along.

The fans in Boston are excited to see what the new season will bring and they welcomed Irving with a massive cheer Sunday, per the Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach: 

        

Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers

(October 13, 10:30 p.m. ET)

The final night of the preseason brings us a clash between the two Los Angeles teams. With the Lakers on the rise and the Clippers looking to still be a force in the Western Conference, the basketball scene at Staples Center should be interesting this season. 

The Lakers are getting all the attention thanks to Lonzo Ball and everything else that comes along with being a member of the Ball family. Ball played in his first preseason game Saturday and described it as a dream, per the Lakers' official Twitter account. 

After the Paul trade, the Clippers were forced to craft their roster in a different manner than in past years while still having Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the frontcourt. With pieces like Patrick Beverley and Sam Dekker, we should have an idea of what the Clippers look like by their final preseason game.

Clippers guard Austin Rivers talked about pushing the pace on offense, per the team's official Twitter account: 

        

Follow Joe Tansey on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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