The first taste of professional basketball starts now for rookies, as the NBA Summer League kicks off at three sites this month.
And while first-round picks will draw a lot of attention for how they can impress in court action wearing the colors of their professional team for the first time, it’s also a chance for an undrafted player or a young pro to make a good impression, perhaps steal a 15th roster spot or a place in the newly renamed NBA G League next year.
Play got underway Saturday at the Orlando Summer League, with the Utah Summer League a mini-session from July 3-6. The biggest of the leagues is the Las Vegas Summer league, running July 7 through 17 and featuring the majority of the league’s teams.
Here are some keys to look for in each session:
Eight teams, including 2016-17 playoff contestants from Indiana and Oklahoma City are part of the Summer League hosted by the Orlando Magic.
Also present are the New York Knicks, looking to almost anything to distract from a tumultuous offseason. Their first-round pick, Frank Ntilikina will be in uniform (hopefully with his name spelled correctly.)
Malik Monk, the Hornets’ first-round pick, is expected to miss summer ball due to an ankle injury sustained in a recent workout.
The Jazz, Celtics, Spurs and 76ers will get a three-game tuneup for play in Vegas in the Utah league.
Perhaps of most interest here is which of Philadelphia’s young stars will see the court. The team already announced Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will not play this summer as they recover from injuries. But No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz will compete both here and Vegas, along with the likes of 2016-17 team member Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who is poised to emerge as a big piece in Philly.
Twenty-four of the league’s 30 squads will participate in Vegas in what generally is the most relevant showcase of the summer.
The aforementioned Celtics will bring two heralded draft picks, No. 3 overall Jayson Tatum and forward Semi Ojeleye, as well as 2016-17 rotation member Jaylen Brown.
Malcolm Brogdon, last year’s Rookie of the Year, is on the Bucks summer roster, although how much he plays remains to be seen. Same goes for Sacramento’s Buddy Hield and Phoenix power forward Marquese Chriss, each important cogs on their respective squads last season.
And don’t forget the pro debut for 2nd overall pick Lonzo Ball and his entourage, sure to be right at home under the bright lights of Vegas.
It’s also a stage for players who weren’t drafted or perhaps toiled in the G League or overseas to make an impression on one of the hundreds of scouts and executives and try to land a spot in the big show.