5 Ways NBA Can Make Summer League Even More Exciting
The Las Vegas NBA Summer League is a fine innovation for the hoops junkie that can't get enough action between the NBA Draft and the commencement of the regular season.
It's also an ideal opportunity for up-and-coming talent attempting to prove itself.
But, let's face it.
This league is boring. The excitement level hovers somewhere between preseason exhibition games and practice. There's nothing on the line in these games, and the crowds sound like they're watching golf.
You probably didn't even know that the Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard and the Memphis Grizzlies Josh Selby were named co-MVPs of the league. And, if you did know, chances are you didn't care.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Here are five innovations that could make the Summer League a bit more worth your time.
Leave Las Vegas
There are obvious logistical reasons for playing all the Summer League games in one place. It facilitates an abbreviated schedule and makes it easier for scouts and front office personnel to survey the talent.
Unfortunately, it also makes the games an absolute yawn from a fan's perspective.
The only time the crowd makes a peep is when something remarkable happens, and that's not too often. If games were played in front of home crowds, someone might actually care about what happens in the end.
Without a stake in the outcome, these games sound like they're being played in empty gyms.
Add a Tournament
So long as the Summer League is structured as a series of exhibition games, no one will care who wins or loses.
Perhaps there's some virtue in branding the event as a learning experience and opportunity to show off young talent.
But, when there's nothing on the line, the skills put on display aren't especially telling. Teams don't just need to know who can ball. They need to know who can win, who's willing to sacrifice individual performance for team success and who's able to handle some pressure.
A short tournament roughly patterned after the Summer Olympics would do the trick.
Fans would have additional reason to care, and scouts would walk away with a better sense of whether these guys can actually help a team at the next level.
Add Some Incentives
For a lot of guys playing in the Summer League, this may be as close as they ever get to the NBA.
A few carefully-placed incentives could help further their big-league dreams even more. Instead of simply naming a league-wide MVP, the NBA should recognize the top-performing players who aren't already under contract with a pro club.
It's all well and good that first-round selections from the last two years can show what they're made of, but they're not the ones with something on the line.
The league could sweeten the deal even further by giving those top-performing free agents guaranteed spots on their respective teams' Development League affiliates.
How About a Dunk Contest?
The NBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest has become a travesty.
Without any actual All-Stars participating in the event these days, we might as well be watching D-Leaguers. After winning the contest this February, it's doubtful anyone outside of Utah even knew Jeremy Evans was a free agent this summer.
With the traditional dunk contest increasingly shrouded in anonymity, we might as well see an expanded version during the summer.
The event should include more competitors, and it should be accelerated. If a guy can't make the dunk in two or three tries, he's done.
With all the young athletes involved in Summer League play, why not see some of those hops on display?
The David Stern Dunking Booth
We all know what the average NBA fan thinks of league commissioner David Stern.
So, after the proposed dunk contest, what better festive past-time than a dunking booth?
A David Stern Dunking Booth.
The NBA Draft gave a few passionate fans the opportunity to relentlessly boo one of the worst personalities in professional sports. But, booing isn't quite cathartic enough. We need to see Stern dropped in a bucket of water repeatedly.
Water might be too merciful. We'll have to go with something viscous like maple syrup or blue cheese salad dressing.
It doesn't get any better than watching this guy squirm.