NBA Summer League 2013: Last-Minute Predictions for Vegas' Opening Games

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NBA Summer League 2013: Last-Minute Predictions for Vegas' Opening Games
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The 2013 NBA Summer League is in full swing in Orlando, but as the season progresses, all basketball minds are itching to reach Las Vegas. The top rookies will come together, all looking to gain early edges before the regular season commences.

The question is, how will it all transpire in Las Vegas?

The action commences on Friday, July 12, as the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs take center stage. With eight high-profile teams in action, the tensions will be high.

So who will get the early edge in Las Vegas?

 

New York Knicks vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Date: Friday, July 12

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Prediction: Knicks 82, Pelicans 71

 

In our first game of Las Vegas Summer League action, the New York Knicks will play the New Orleans Pelicans. With New York's stacked perimeter and New Orleans' second-year players looking to break through, there will be some fireworks.

In the end, the Knicks will be the team walking away victorious.

Iman Shumpert will lead the Knicks, with first-round draft choice Tim Hardaway Jr. and undrafted signing C.J. Leslie joining the charge. Paired with athletic big man Jeremy Tyler and former Alabama standout Tony Mitchell, the Knicks have a deep group.

Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts and Darius Miller are in for a struggle.

Shumpert will continue to display his offensive progression, stroking it from beyond the arc and flashing his improved handles. Hardaway Jr., meanwhile, will take it to Rivers, as the two battle offensively and trade jumpers.

When it comes down to it, Tyler will be the breakout performer on defense and lead New York to an early victory.

 

Atlanta Hawks vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Date: Friday, July 12

Time: 6 p.m. ET

Prediction: Clippers 79, Hawks 74

 

The Atlanta Hawks enter the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League with a handful of jump shooters and quality interior players. The Los Angeles Clippers have their fair share of bigs but are overrun by shooters and ball-handlers.

In the end, we like L.A.'s chances better.

Reggie Bullock is an elite jump shooter who should see playing time as a rookie, while Jonny Flynn is a former top-10 draft pick. Throw in college stars Elijah Johnson and Jerome Randle, as well as big men Brandon Davies and Samardo Samuels, and you have a strong squad.

One that outmatches a Hawks team with significantly fewer facilitators.

Jordan Taylor will stand out as a facilitator and jump shooter, but in the end, L.A. has too much offensive firepower. It may be close throughout, but as Bullock and Flynn take over, the Clippers will pull away.

A theme that should continue throughout the tournament.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Friday, July 12

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Prediction: Cavaliers 86, Lakers 85

 

In what should be the best NBA Summer League game of the day, the Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Los Angeles Lakers, in a game highlighted by the likes of Dion Waiters, Josh Selby, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Matthew Dellavedova.

A stacked game, to say the least.

Selby may not have the most remarkable NBA career, but he was the co-MVP of the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League. With Selby going up against Waiters, a first-team all-rookie selection, there will be no shortage of offense.

It all comes down to who has the superior supporting cast.

The Lakers have an interior presence in Robert Sacre, a sharpshooting big man in Ryan Kelly and an experienced swingman in CDR. With that being said, Waiters leads a team that includes an elite pick-and-roll prospect in Dellavedova and a strong center in Tyler Zeller.

In the end, it'll be Waiters who outlasts Selby in an instant classic.

 

Charlotte Bobcats vs. San Antonio Spurs

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Date: Friday, July 12

Time: 10 p.m. ET

Prediction: Bobcats 76, Spurs 69

 

On paper, this appears to be a one-sided game in which the Charlotte Bobcats' highly touted crop of young stars will shine. With that being said, the San Antonio Spurs put forth a cast of dynamic playmakers and defensive specialists.

There won't be many points scored, but it will be a defensive slugfest.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller will take over this game, as MKG turns turnovers into points and Charlotte's rookie big man spaces the floor with his shooting. With Rodney McGruder flashing his shooting ability and Bismack Biyombo blocking shots, Charlotte will walk away victorious.

Just make sure you watch out for the Spurs' young players.

Nando De Colo, Cory Joseph and Deshaun Thomas will all get their points, but it'll be Marcus Denmon and Durand Scott that stand out. Scott will prove to be a high-caliber defender, while Denmon will make his case to be a rotational option in 2013-14 with his gorgeous shooting stroke.

Charlotte will win, but the Spurs' young guns will be impressive.

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