Twenty-four teams will put their top rookies and developing players to the test over the next week, as the NBA kicks off its Summer League schedule in Las Vegas.
For the next nine days, and for the first time on the professional level, we'll get to see the likes of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal and more square off against each other. For us—the viewers—the games don't count for much, but for the players, this could make or break their chances of earning a spot on their teams' rosters.
All 60 of the next week's games will be televised on NBA TV. You can see the full schedule here, but here are the best games to watch for on the Vegas Summer League's opening day on Friday.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Washington Wizards
4 p.m. ET
Bradley Beal, the No. 3 overall draft pick and the player projected to be the top rookie guard in the league, will get his first shot at showing us what he can do—and that means proving that he wasn't all hype coming into the draft, an accusation that was levied at him more than once.
Throughout the Wizards' two-a-days this week, Beal had no trouble hitting any of his shots, according to Carla Peay of The Washington Times. And despite the fact that he's often accused of being too cocky for his own good (maybe this is the reason he got that rep), he knows he has a lot of work do to over the next week to prove himself.
Beal told The Times:
I’m very impatient. It’s a learning process at the same time so there are a lot of things I have to learn, a lot of adjustments I have to make. I’m really just trying to learn quick and really just to fit into the system as best as I can.
For the Hawks, the Summer League schedule will be equally important—they have too many young hopefuls, including draft picks from previous years, participating and not enough roster spots.
Houston Rockets vs. Toronto Raptors
3 p.m. ET
Time for the Rockets to put all of those draft picks to good use.
This year, Houston obtained Jeremy Lamb (No. 12), Royce White (No. 16) and Terrence Jones (No. 18) in the first round and took Will Barton in the second round. The Summer League is the perfect time to see if, and how, all of those young players are going to gel.
If a deal for Dwight Howard officially falls through in the next few days, Kevin McHale will be stuck with these guys for good, so seeing what they're capable of over the next week will be vital. And if any of them were thinking about taking it easy during minicamp and exhibition games, they haven't yet met McHale. These games matter to him.
The coach told the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen:
It’s valuable to let the guys know how hard they have to work, how hard it’s going to be, and the fact that the NBA is not Thursday night with Chuck, Kenny and Ernie, bright lights and ha ha. It’s a grind league. You have to grind every single day. A lot of young guys, they think, "Oh, I made it to the NBA. I’m going to get paid. My life is going to be perfect." You try to tell them, "No, you’re going to have to work harder. You made it to the NBA. If you want to make it in the NBA, you’re going to have to work harder than you ever worked in your life."
That work begins on Friday versus the Raptors, and if these kids can't swing it…better luck next year.
Sacramento Kings vs. Charlotte Bobcats
10 p.m. ET
One of the most hyped prospects in this year's draft pool takes center stage on Friday night: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis' former right-hand man. But how will the second overall draft pick fare without his unibrow-bearing comrade? We'll get our first glimpse on Friday, when the lowly Bobcats take on Thomas Robinson and the Kings.
The next few games will be especially important for Gilchrist and the Bobcats because, in all likelihood, MKG is the player the Bobcats are going to look to build around for the next several years. This is his first chance to show whether or not he's worth it.
Robinson, too, is facing a similar situation out in Sacramento. The No. 5 overall pick is already impressing his coaches and his teammates with his grit, according to Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee. Robinson drew a pretty flattering comparison from one of his coaches, Alex English, who told Kawahara:
I remember when LeBron James came in the league, how he used to drive to the hole, and he was so big and strong that people would get out of his way. He's kind of like that. I mean, he's not that player. But when he goes to the hole, he goes hard. He goes strong. He's got a lot of power.
If he keeps it up until the Kings leave Vegas, he could be one of the centerpieces of this team come October.