2017 NBA Summer League: Top players to watch in Las Vegas
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2017 NBA Summer League: Top players to watch in Las Vegas

Markelle Fultz

Who and what to watch in the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League

The 2017 NBA Summer League comes to Las Vegas with nine of the Top 10 NBA Draft picks making an appearance in the annual event. Five of the NBA Draft’s top picks will play for fans, scouts, and media at the Thomas and Mack and Cox Pavilion venues.

These rookies join a great legacy of players who made their debut in the Vegas Summer League. Notable Las Vegas Summer League alumni include Kevin Durant, Karl Anthony-Towns, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Kawhi Leonard, among others. In fact, nine 0f the past 12 NBA Rookie of the Year award winners played in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Most players to watch are rookies but there are some key second-year pros performing too. Here are the top players to watch, including matchup information, in the 2017 Las Vegas NBA Summer League.

Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

All eyes will be on Lonzo Ball and whichever members of the Ball family attend the showcase. The No. 2 overall pick makes his debut as a Laker versus the Clippers on July 7 at 5:30 p.m. The Clippers return to Vegas after a few years of hiatus and their roster features 2016 first round pick Brice Butler. This should be a fun first contest for Ball to take NBA veteran Kendall Marshall to work.

Otherwise, Lonzo Ball has two other great contests guaranteed for Vegas. He takes on the Kings, which features eight players from their real roster, and a talented Celtics team that has the past two drafts’ No. 3 picks.

Ball will also have 2016 No. 2 pick, Brandon Ingram, playing with him. The chemistry between the last two No. 2 picks will be huge for Los Angeles in the Summer League and regular season. Ivica Zubac is also on the roster.

Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia 76ers

No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz already made his Summer League debut in the Orlando edition, but this does not mean that the Washington alum will not draw a crowd anyways.

Fultz has some interesting matchups versus the Warriors and Spurs. However, his marquee matchup is on Tuesday, July 11. At 3:30 p.m., Fultz and the 76ers take on the Celtics. Fultz will match up against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who will look to prove they can find roles on a contending Celtics team.

With last year’s No. 1 pick Ben Simmons not playing this summer, Fultz should be the focal point of his team. Expect Fultz to score and run the offense a ton in Vegas with second round pick Jonah Bolden also on the roster.

Patrick McCaw, Golden State Warriors

UNLV’s Patrick McCaw was a fan favorite in last year’s Vegas Summer League. This year, he returns as an NBA Champion. Moreover, McCaw was a legit reserve at times for the Golden State Warriors. McCaw averaged four points, 1.1 assists, and 1.4 rebounds in 71 games with the Warriors. His length and energy were utilized by Golden State throughout the season.

Now, McCaw will get a chance to prove that he deserves an expanded role on a deep Warriors roster. At the very least, McCaw can showcase his trade value to one of the many teams in Vegas.

Either way, McCaw finds himself in a matchup against the No. 1 pick on July 7. The Cavaliers and Timberwolves will also be in line before the tournament gets underway. It should be interesting to see how McCaw leads Golden State as a crowd favorite again.

De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

De’Aaron Fox and the Kings will get to showcase their future in Las Vegas as eight regular season players will join the No. 5 pick in the Summer League roster. This will be great for the group to develop chemistry.

Key rookies Harry Giles, Malachi Richardson, Frank Mason III, and Justin Jackson join Fox on the Kings’ roster. Plus, last year’s rookies Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere, and Buddy Hield will try to develop some chemistry with the incoming rookies too.

Ultimately, Fox will get his chance to take on Ball and the Lakers at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 10. The two developed a rivalry in college and that should carry onto the NBA via the Pacific Division. Additionally, Fox will take on the Suns and their roster of lottery picks on Friday, July 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns

Speaking of the Suns, No. 4 pick Josh Jackson is another player to watch in the Vegas Summer League. Jackson and the Suns are the favorites to win the tournament, according to Las Vegas’ oddsmakers. The Suns and Lakers are 6-1 favorites to win the Las Vegas Summer League Championship, per The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

It will be interesting to see how Jackson gels with second-year player Marquese Chriss. Last year’s other rookies Tyler Ulis and Dragan Bender will be critical parts of the Summer League team too.

Nonetheless, the Suns have a tough few games. The opener versus Sacramento should be a fun affair. They will face the Mavericks and No. 9 overall pick Dennis Smith Jr. on Sunday, July 9 at 1:30 p.m. The Rockets is also on the Suns’ guaranteed schedule.

Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Finally, many will turn their eyes to this year’s No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum. However, Jaylen Brown has just as much to prove in his second Las Vegas Summer League. Brown averaged 6.6 points and 2.8 rebounds last year, while showing glimpses of his defensive potential for the Celtics.

This year in Vegas, it will be important to see what Brown can do as a key contributor. Boston will be among the top contenders so Brown has to impress to even find minutes in the upcoming season. Again, it remains to be seen if Brown can even jump out of the shadow of Tatum who is already making highlights in the Orlando Summer League.

Regardless, Brown’s performance in the Summer League could also make him a more tradeable piece for Boston. A team may think they can better utilize him or the Celtics might decide to invest those minutes elsewhere. Either way, Brown needs a great performance in Vegas. He will have games versus NBA talent from Philly, L.A., and Portland to prove that he belongs in a rotation.

Ultimately, 24 teams will compete over 67 games from July 7-17. Teams are guaranteed five games including a few games in the tournament part of the event which begins on Wednesday, July 12.

Moreover, the Las Vegas Summer League offers fans an up close and personal look at incoming rookies. There are also special autograph signings and fan events at the annual event.  Hence, the 2017 NBA Summer League will be a memorable one for sure.