The 2013 Las Vegas Summer League is down to eight teams, as the quest for supremacy has reached the quarterfinals. While this may not be the NBA playoffs, eight teams have used their prospects well enough to be on this stage.
You may be skeptical, but you need to watch the quarterfinals of the NBA Las Vegas Summer League championship tournament.
The action resumes on Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m. ET as the Cleveland Cavaliers battle the Miami Heat. Three games will follow until four teams remain and we move on to the semifinals on Sunday, July 21.
Before you miss out on one of the most exciting tournaments of the year, here's why you need to tune into the quarterfinals of the Las Vegas Summer League.
If there's one thing you need to know about the NBA Summer League, it's that teams get out in transition at virtual will. If there's one thing you need to know about open court basketball, it's that something flashy is bound to follow a strong outlet pass.
What could possibly be more entertaining than posterizing dunks and breakaway windmills?
If there's one thing that the Las Vegas Summer League participants have going for them, it's the fact that most players in Las Vegas are supreme athletes. More often than not, they're the undrafted players who can leap out of the gym, but lack any defined skills.
When you throw those players in with the established players who can shoot the lights out, block shots with ease and make plays on the ball, you're bound to witness something exciting.
There's no comparing a summer league highlight with DeAndre Jordan converting an alley-oop all over Brandon Knight. The roar of the crowd is weaker and the floor is filled with less recognizable talent.
If what we've seen already has taught us anything, however, it's that these high-flyers can put on a show—something that few can claim at this stage of the sports year.
2. Close Finishes
Since the Las Vegas Summer League commenced on July 13, 11 separate games have been decided by five points or less. Of those games, six have been been won by one possession.
In other words, these games are more competitive than they're being given credit.
With the quarterfinals upon us and the teams more evenly matched, it's likely that the outcomes become even closer. Winning the D-League championship may not make someone a Hall of Famer, but as these players compete for roster spots, every win counts.
Being a key member of the best team in Las Vegas would certainly help raise his profile to a point in which a free agent could play his way into the NBA.
For the young players that have already guaranteed themselves roster spots, building momentum is critical. If rookies or second-year stars are able to set a tone for themselves entering training camp, the results they see will be significantly better.
If you don't buy into all of that, how about this: Everyone in the NBA is a fierce competitor, and if he weren't, he wouldn't have made it. If you think a Dion Waiters or Draymond Green is going to let the opportunity to defeat an opponent slide, you're off your rocker.
Be prepared for some memorable games.
1. Future Stars
The most common misconception about the NBA Summer League is that you'll only find players whose NBA future is uncertain or limited in terms of their general upside. The truth of the matter is, some of the NBA's brightest young stars are playing in these games.
That alone is reason to tune in and take notice.
Top-five draft choices Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors, Dion Waiters of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cody Zeller of the Charlotte Bobcats are all active. More importantly, each player is flashing his upside and expanding his game.
Why not tune in to see the players who will shape the NBA for years to come?
Zeller and the red-hot Jeffery Taylor will lead the Bobcats against an NBA D-League team that has gone undefeated. Matched up against that cast of top D-League players, both will be put to the test.
How they perform will be an indication of where they are entering the 2013-14 season.
Waiters and Tyler Zeller will lead the Cavaliers against a Miami Heat team with NBA-caliber prospects in James Ennis and Jarvis Varnado. Waiters has established star potential while Zeller is competing for the starting center spot, so a win against lesser competition is needed.
Just don't forget that anything could happen at the NBA Summer League.
The game that should truly catch your attention will see the Raptors and Phoenix Suns go to battle. Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy lead the Raptors against Archie Goodwin, Kendall Marshall, Marcus and Markieff Morris, and P.J. Tucker of the Suns.
If you're looking for NBA action during the summer, this game is about as close as you'll find—so why deprive yourself of basketball when an opportunity has presented itself?