It’s starting to heat up in Las Vegas.
With the Orlando Summer League over, all eyes now shift to the Las Vegas Summer League, where preliminary round play is nearly complete. Each team will play three total games before the inaugural tournament begins on Wednesday. Even though they’re summer games, winning on Monday and Tuesday is vital to title hopes.
We’ve already seen many great performances this summer, and we’re bound to witness even more in the coming days. There’s no question that the tournament is going to be an exciting one, as the top youngsters in the NBA try to win a championship before the preseason gets underway.
Here’s a look at the upcoming schedule for the week, including the storyline to watch, the player to keep and eye on and the matchup that you can’t afford to miss.
Complete Preliminary Round Schedule (via NBA.com)
|Monday, July 15||4 p.m.||New York vs. Charlotte|
|Monday, July 15||6 p.m.||Cleveland vs. New Orleans|
|Monday, July 15||6:30 p.m.||Minnesota vs. Phoenix|
|Monday, July 15||8 p.m.||Los Angeles (C) vs. Los Angeles (L)|
|Monday, July 15||8:30 p.m.||Sacramento vs. Golden State|
|Monday, July 15||10 p.m.||San Antonio vs. Atlanta|
|Monday, July 15||10:30 p.m.||Chicago vs. Denver|
|Tuesday, July 16||4 p.m.||Minnesota vs. Miami|
|Tuesday, July 16||6 p.m.||Sacramento vs. Toronto|
|Tuesday, July 16||6:30 p.m.||Golden State vs. Milwaukee|
|Tuesday, July 16||8 p.m.||Chicago vs. Portland|
|Tuesday, July 16||8:30 p.m.||Phoenix vs. Memphis|
|Tuesday, July 16||10 p.m.||Denver vs. Washington|
|Tuesday, July 16||10:30 p.m.||Dallas vs. NBA D-League Select|
Key Storyline: Las Vegas Tournament Quickly Approaching
Once Tuesday’s games are completed, we’ll have a clear-cut look at where each of the teams in Las Vegas will be seeded. All of the teams will be placed into a single-elimination bracket that will determine the inaugural champion of the Summer League—Championship Game scheduled for Monday, July 22.
There are six teams entering Monday’s games without a tally in the loss column: Chicago, Cleveland, D-League Select, Golden State, Milwaukee and Phoenix. They all have the upper hand, as securing one of the top eight seeds will give them a bye in the first round of the tournament.
It will be difficult to win four—or potentially—five straight games against some of the top young talent in basketball, but one Las Vegas team is going to hoist the trophy come Monday night. Cleveland and Milwaukee seem to have the best chances at the moment—albeit each has only played two games thus far.
Player to Watch: Austin Rivers, New Orleans Pelicans
Austin Rivers has a ton to prove this summer, as the Pelicans may not be giving the point guard much time in the upcoming season. He didn’t have the most impressive rookie season, as he averaged 6.2 points in 23.2 minutes per game. He started 26 games—and played in 61—but his future with the franchise doesn’t look so good.
Zach Harper of CBS Sports writes that with New Orleans retaining Eric Gordon, signing Tyreke Evans and trading for Jrue Holiday, it’ll be tough for Rivers to find much time on the court in the 2013-14 season. He controls his own destiny, though, and strong performances in Las Vegas could increase his role going forward.
Rivers scored 24 points, grabbed seven rebounds and totaled six assists last Friday when the Pelicans defeated the Knicks. He was good in his second game of the summer too, as he scored 15 points and racked up four boards in an eight-point loss to the Bucks. He’s easily been New Orleans’ top player, and needs to keep it up.
Game to Watch: Cleveland vs. New Orleans (Monday, July 15, 2013 at 6 p.m. ET)
It’s only been two games, but the Cavaliers have looked pretty darn good so far. Cleveland took down the Lakers by eight points last Friday and then defeated the Grizzlies by 11 points on Sunday. Tyler Zeller, the 17th overall pick in last year’s draft, has been great thus far, averaging 13 points and eight rebounds per game.
Zeller and Dion Waiters (13 PPG, 4 RPG, 4.5 APG) could help lead the Cavaliers to the Las Vegas Championship Game if they continue to play like they have been. But their undefeated record may be gone after Monday when they’re set to take on the aforementioned Rivers and New Orleans.
The Pelicans are 1-1 through a pair of games in Las Vegas, and it’ll be looking to get back to its winning ways with a victory Monday night. Brian Roberts has been impressive, as he’s score 30 total points in New Orleans’ two matchups. It’ll be interesting to see if he continues to be one of the team's top scorers.