The 2014 Vegas Summer League kicks off on Friday, and there are a couple games out of the six on tap that stand out as the most worthy of watching.
They are pretty obvious, too. Summertime NBA hoops aren't often the most exciting or feature many of the best players, but several top draft picks will take the hardwood for the very beginning of their pro careers. It's a landmark occasion, albeit an infinitesimal dose of what to expect from the Association's future stars.
Below is a look at the complete schedule for Friday's tip-off, along with a breakdown of the best contests to monitor.
|2014 Las Vegas Summer League Opening Day Schedule|
|1||New York||Dallas||4 p.m.|
|2||Toronto||LA Lakers||6 p.m.|
|4||Golden State||Charlotte||8:30 p.m.|
|5||Sacramento||San Antonio||10 p.m.|
|6||NBA D-League||New Orleans||10:30 p.m.|
Toronto Raptors vs. Los Angeles Lakers
After a run to the NCAA title game in his only year with the Kentucky Wildcats, Julius Randle's debut with the Lakers will be on hold. Before he gets to play with Kobe Bryant and Co., he will have the opportunity to prove himself this summer, but not until LA fleshes out its plans for the offseason more clearly.
Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reports that Randle's delayed signing can save the Lakers $500,000 as they try to lure marquee free agents.
Also contained in that report is testimony from point guard Kendall Marshall regarding the effort he's put in since the 2013-14 campaign ended.
"I've been doing a lot of individual work, so I'm excited to get some five-on-five stuff going and put what I've been working on into action," said Marshall. "Using my body more, that's the main thing. Taking advantage of my size. And, of course, shooting the basketball."
The Lakers will see if Marshall honing his craft pays dividends in Vegas. Playing in Mike D'Antoni's uptempo offense this last season, Marshall redeemed what was an extremely disappointing young career by posting exceptional numbers, including 8.8 assists in 29 minutes per contest.
There will be competition between Marshall and second-round pick Jordan Clarkson out of Missouri. Marshall may be a more gifted, pass-first floor general, but Clarkson is lightning-quick, can get to the rim in a hurry and is a streaky but superior shooter.
This is also a chance for LA to glimpse at what it could have on what's currently a thin roster. Only Bryant, an aging Steve Nash and unproven center Robert Sacre have guaranteed contracts.
Taking on the likes of Marshall and Clarkson will be a stern test for Toronto's Scott Machado, but he'll have some help.
The Raptors made an obscure pick in choosing Brazil prospect Bruno Caboclo in the first round, but he occupies Toronto's roster, along with Connecticut national champion DeAndre Daniels in Round 2. LA will have its hands full down low, too, with Caboclo's teammate and compatriot, 2013 No. 16 overall pick Lucas Nogueira, a seven-foot center.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Much of the buzz surrounding the Cavaliers right now has to do with LeBron James. Until the superstar makes a decision, though, it's anyone's guess as to what will happen.
In the meantime, Cleveland fans can get excited to see No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins battle it out with the Milwaukee Bucks. Jabari Parker was selected just after Wiggins in the recent draft, and the Association didn't schedule the two to tangle right away by accident.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is among those eager to see Wiggins rock the wine and gold:
While Parker is widely viewed as the more pro-ready player, there's no denying Wiggins' upside and superior athleticism. That's taking nothing away from Parker, who's supreme in his own right, but this from FoxSports.com's Sam Amico provides an idea of the impact Wiggins can have:
Wiggins passes the eye test, but Parker seems ready to be a leader and embrace his role as the face of the Bucks franchise. Even amid the instability Milwaukee has endured recently, culminating in Jason Kidd taking over as head coach, Parker has remained supportive, per the team's official Twitter account:
The hoopla surrounding James' potential return to Cleveland, along with the concerns about Kidd's unceremonious departure from Brooklyn, will be on the back burner at least for a brief time.
Seeing the top two draft picks match up with each other is a great way to raise interest and awareness about Summer League play. Although both players seem more immediately suited for the small forward position, Cavs general manager David Griffin has said Wiggins will maximize his potential as a 2-guard, and the Bucks reportedly plan to deploy Parker at the 4.
That interesting divergence from their expected roles may be cast aside in this one, depending on what the coaches decide to do.
Whatever happens, Wiggins and Parker will be among the best players on the court, sure to steal headlines as the clear game of the day. Who comes out on top may also give some early insight into the type of competitors they are.