Many of the NBA’s elite saw their first NBA action in the Summer League. Players like Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell and many more lit up Summer League play en route to dominate rookie campaigns. What games and teams should you check for? How can you watch some of the NBA’s upcoming start compete in competition?
Top Teams in the Summer League
The crazy thing about the Summer League is that it flips the league on its head for a few weeks of exhibition. The young and rebuilding teams often have the most talent playing together. Meanwhile, the better teams from the regular season rely on late picks and veterans to fill their summer league roster.
The rosters are net set, especially for the Las Vegas Summer League which begins on July 6. Utah and Sacramento run through the fifth and teams will adjust their rosters as needed after those exhibitions. Here are some teams to check for in the 2018 Summer League.
John Collins and Tyler Dorsey were both surprise rookies last year. Now, they’ll team up with Trae Young for what should be one of the more entertaining teams in the Summer League. Young will bring a flair and confidence that should thrive in the Summer League exhibitions and make him a star in Atlanta.
Don’t forget, the Hawks added Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman in the first round too. All of these players could see significant time in the regular season so it will be important for them to play well together early.
Debut: Monday, July 2 against the Memphis Grizzles at 7 p.m. EST at Vivint Smart Home Arena (Utah) with the Game televised on NBATV.
Few rosters feature as many significant regular season players as the Suns. Not only do they feature No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton but they also traded for No. 10 pick Mikal Bridges and selected Elie Okobo in the second round.
Last year’s No. 4 pick Josh Jackson is on the roster too. He is one of the highest drafted players from 2017 playing in this year’s Summer League. Rotational big Dragan Bender is playing in his third summer league as well. Phoenix might not be contenders in the regular season but they are for Summer League exhibitions.
Debut: Friday, July 6 versus the Dallas Mavericks at 6:30 p.m. EST at Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas) with the game televised on ESPN.
De’Aaron Fox, Frank Mason and Justin Jackson are all returning for their second Summer League after flashing plenty of potential in their rookie years. Now, No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III is thrown into the mix.
This should be one of the more fun and explosive groups in Summer League. Hopefully, they can build some rapport with Bagley as they get ready for the regular season.
Debut: Monday, July 2 against the L.A. Lakers at 8 p.m. PST at Golden 1 Center (Sacramento) with the Game televised on NBATV.
Los Angeles Clippers
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson were picked in the lottery of this year’s draft to begin a new era in Clippers basketball. The two backcourt players could end up starting for the Clippers if they’re ready.
Otherwise, this team also has Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell who were both surprise rotational players for the Clippers last year.
Debut: Friday, July 6 versus the Golden State Warriors at 11:30 p.m. EST at Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas) with the game televised on ESPN.
Top draft pick Luka Doncic isn’t expected to play in the Summer League. However, Dennis Smith Jr. alone makes this team worth watching. Either way, it doesn’t hurt that this team has Kostas Antetokoumpo who is the younger brother of Giannis.
Debut: Friday, July 6 versus the Phoenix Suns at 6:30 p.m. EST at Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas) with the game televised on ESPN.
Donte DiVincenzo just won a ring and will headline the Bucks squad. Rotational players Sterling Brown and D.J. Wilson were surprisingly good last year. They will look to grow their game more in Summer exhibitions. Brandon McCoy is a hometown undrafted free agent with the tools to be a surprise pick.
Debut: Friday, July 6 versus the Detroit Pistons at 6 p.m. EST at Cox Pavilion (Las Vegas) with the game televised on NBATV.
New York Knicks
Second-year guards Damyean Dotson and Frank Ntilikina are on this squad. Both had up and down rookie seasons they will need to build on. Forward Kevin Knox (ninth overall) and center Mitchell Robinson (36th overall) are also highlights on this roster. They will could get
Debut: Saturday, July 7 versus the Atlanta Hawks at 5:30 p.m. EST at Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas) with the game televised on ESPN.
Jonathan Isaac only played in 27 games last year due to injury. With Aaron Gordon’s return to the Magic uncertain, it is important for Isaac to show he is healthy as well as some development especially in his offensive game.
He will team up with this year’s No. 6 pick Mohamed Bamba for a lengthy and athletic front court that could develop into a powerhouse in the East. Look for the duo to use these exhibitions to really develop together.
Debut: Friday, July 6 versus the Brooklyn Nets at 5 p.m. EST at Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas) with the game televised on ESPN.
Malik Monk will try his best to live up to the 2017 No. 11 pick status despite a down rookie year. Brice Johnson is a well traveled first round pick from a few years ago and he is one of a number of UNC Tarheels on this roster.
Willy Hernangomez is another rotational NBA big who will get some run. Not to mention, Miles Bridges was the No. 12 pick in this past draft. The versatile wing could be a standout in Las Vegas.
Debut: Friday, July 6 versus the Oklahoma City Thunder at 5:30 p.m. EST at Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas) with the game televised on ESPNU.
No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. teams up with third-year player Deyonta Davis for an intriguing twin towers in the Las Vegas and Utah Summer League.
Debut: Monday, July 2 against the Atlanta Hawks at 7 p.m. EST at Vivint Smart Home Arena (Utah) with the Game televised on NBATV.
No. 7 pick Wendell Carter and No. 22 pick Chandler Hutchinson will team up at the forward spots. Both players feel voids on the Bulls rosters but they will have to battle to break into the rotation. Look for the two athletic rookies to try and develop some chemistry and momentum before the regular season.
Debut: Saturday, July 7 against the Cleveland Cavaliers at 9:30 p.m. EST Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas) with the game televised on ESPN2.
Games to watch
Here are some of the top NBA Summer League games over the next couple of weeks. More games will get added to the schedule as the Las Vegas Summer League is a tournament style competition. You can also find broadcast information if you want to watch your favorite prospects on TV.
Dallas vs. Phoenix (Friday, July 6, 9:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges Las Vegas Summer League debut comes in primetime on the first night in Las Vegas. It won’t be an easy test. Dennis Smith Jr. is likely to play in this first game if he plays at all in Vegas.
Memphis vs. Orlando (Sunday, July 8, 9:30 p.m. EST, ESPN2)
Memphis Grizzlies No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. will face for the Orlando Magic’s No. 6 selection Mo Bamba. Bamba will look to prove he was one of the better value picks in this draft by dominating the center that went a few picks before him.
Magic vs. Suns (Monday, July 9, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU)
A pair of lottery selections face off in the clash again when Orlando and Phoenix face off. Ayton versus Bamba should be a great matchup between to long and athletic bigs. The two aren’t going to face off a ton due to different conferences so this will be a good gauge for both.
Atlanta vs. Chicago (Tuesday, July 10, 6 p,m., NBATV)
Young, Huerter and Spellman will take on the Bulls. Chicago’s roster should feature Wendell Carter and Chandler Hutchinson. That means five first round players could see the court at the same time in this contest.
Las Vegas Tournament Play
After July 10, the Las Vegas Summer League turns into a tournament style competition. Any one of these teams have a chance to win the tournament.
Even if you don’t get a banner for a Summer League title, it is important to win every time you hit the floor. Past winners include the Lakers and Spurs who both have winning cultures. A Summer League victory could give one of these teams the necessary confidence to have a breakout regular season.
Utah and Sacramento Summer Leagues are four team exhibitions from July 2-5. After that, Las Vegas summer league features all 30 teams in 82 games from July 6-17 for the first time.