The best part of the NBA Draft? You don’t have to wait long to see the league’s freshest crop of players take the court for their new team. Las Vegas Summer League kicks off just weeks after, giving hardcore hoops fans a much-needed fix of sneaker squeaks and net swishes.
Rookies aren’t the only ones who will be in Vegas. Sophomores will look to build on their first year of experience and a deep collection of undrafted names, overseas veterans and former NBA contributors will all be looking to make their presence felt in Sin City.
Before we get into the top teams and players to watch, let’s recap the format. All 30 squads will show up in Vegas, with each playing at least five games. After the initial schedule (which kicks off on July 7), the top four squads will compete in a tournament to determine the Summer League champion.
Speaking of champions, let’s kick off this preview with the team that took the crown last year. The Trail Blazers will be back, looking to earn their third Summer League title of the last six years. They’ll be headlined by a new name this time: Scoot Henderson. All eyes will be on the No. 3 draft pick as he kicks off his highly promising career.
introducing your 2023 #SummerBlazers ☀️
📺: ESPN, ESPN2, NBATV pic.twitter.com/bBWia2qMkn
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) June 30, 2023
On the first night of Las Vegas Summer League (July 7), there’s obviously one game to focus on: San Antonio vs. Charlotte. Whoever made the schedule definitely knew what they were doing here, pinning the first and second overall selections of the draft against each other early.
The anticipated contest will provide eager fans with a first look at Victor Wembanyama. While it’s not yet confirmed that the Frenchman will suit up, it’s highly expected that he will. “He will participate in the summer league. To what degree, we are not exactly sure yet,” said Gregg Popovich.
Brandon Miller is more of a sure thing. The University of Alabama product will show his skills in Vegas alongside a deep group of talented teammates. With guys like Miller, James Bouknight, Bryce McGowens and Kai Jones, the Hornets shouldn’t be considered a long shot to win it all.
As mentioned earlier, up-and-coming prospects aren’t the only players looking to flash in Nevada. Some players are looking for a second chance to show they belong in the league. If that storyline interests you, then be sure to catch a Bucks game. Former No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker will suit up for the squad, as will recognizable names like Tacko Fall and Nico Mannion.
No matter if it’s the regular season, preseason or Summer League, the Lakers will always draw attention. Their passionate fan base has been treated to an exciting roster for 2023’s version of July hoops. Promising rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino will take the court for the first time, while Colin Castleton, undrafted after a remarkable career with the Florida Gators, will look to earn a spot in the NBA.
The Las Vegas circuit is also expected to feature the return to the hardwood for a hyped youngster. Chet Holmgren, who shined in the event a year ago, has already participated in the Salt Lake City version of Summer League earlier this week.
Chet Holmgren tonight:
⚡️ 15 PTS
⚡️ 9 REB
⚡️ 4 BLK pic.twitter.com/D75k9Hgdlq
— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 4, 2023
Another interesting squad comes from Cleveland. Not only will former prep phenom Emoni Bates get to put in work, he’ll be joined by a pair of fun father-son connections. Pete Nance is the son of Cavs legend Larry Nance and Cedric Henderson Jr.’s pops (Cedric Sr.) played four seasons in Cleveland in the late 90s.
Those are just the tallest peaks in a mountain range full of storylines at Summer League in 2023. We didn’t even mention the Thompson twins, Amen and Ausar, who should be making their debuts for their respective squads. There’s also the Magic, who will showcase a pair of lottery picks in Anthony Black and Jett Howard.
Even more exciting scenarios will emerge as Summer League takes shape. The Las Vegas event starts on July 7 and will feature high-quality hoops until a victor is crowned on the 17th.