The NBA's Las Vegas Summer League is stacked with young talent looking to make an impression leading up to the regular season. Every player involved is trying to earn a roster spot, but a few clearly stand out from the rest.
Players selected in the 2014 NBA draft as well as last year's draft will invade Sin City for the next 10 days. They will be joined by some less-heralded players; however, all eyes will be on the rookies as they offer glimpses of what they could ultimately become at the next level.
Excellent or poor performances in the NBA Summer League aren't necessarily indicators of what will happen in the regular season. Even so, teams would rather see their new prospects get their careers started off on the right foot.
Here are three Vegas Summer League participants in particular who will have huge expectations hanging over them throughout the exhibition slate.
The Milwaukee Bucks selected Jabari Parker with the No. 2 overall pick out of Duke in this year's draft.
Parker was arguably the best freshman in college basketball this past season as he averaged over 19 points and nearly nine rebounds per game at forward. Parker is expected to be an instant contributor for the Bucks, and his NBA development starts in Vegas.
Milwaukee may very well struggle next season, since it is a young team that still has to jell. There is undoubtedly plenty of talent in place, though, and Parker leads the pack. He will be mentored by new head coach Jason Kidd, who made the surprising jump to Milwaukee from the Brooklyn Nets.
Kidd hasn't been the Bucks' head man for long, but he and Parker already seem to have a pretty good relationship, as evidenced by this photo courtesy of the organization's official Twitter account:
Parker himself has already expressed his satisfaction with Kidd and believes that he is a good fit for himself and the team as a whole, according to the Bucks (h/t C.F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel):
There already seems to be a comfort level for Parker with the Bucks, but now it is time for him to prove that he can be the guy who leads the team out of mediocrity. The expectation will be for Parker to dominate in Vegas, and he will have every opportunity to do so.
If Parker has a strong showing, then Bucks fans will be truly excited about the upcoming season for the first time in a long time.
There may be no bigger X-factor to come out of the 2014 NBA draft than Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum. The Australian star is extremely explosive and has all the tools to live up to his advanced billing, but it remains to be seen how he will perform against elite competition. Exum will get his first taste of that in Las Vegas.
The Jazz have built up a lot of young talent in recent years, and there is hope that Exum will be the player who brings it all together.
He figures to form an exciting backcourt combination with Trey Burke, and they will have an opportunity to work together during the summer league. If they are able to generate some synergy, that will bode well for the upcoming season.
Exum has shown an incredible amount of skill and possesses an arsenal of offensive weaponry that should fit well within Utah's offense. According to Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder is already excited about what Exum brings to the table:
The summer league usually has an offensive focus, so Exum will have plenty of room to operate. His defensive game still needs to come around and will be a work in progress throughout the season, but the Jazz need more offensive punch, and it will be interesting to see if Exum provides it in Vegas.
Few rookies in the NBA this season will boast as much pure athletic ability as Charlotte Hornets forward Noah Vonleh.
The 6'10" big man starred for the Indiana Hoosiers this past season and played his way into lottery consideration. Vonleh was ultimately drafted No. 9 overall and enters into a promising situation with the Hornets.
Charlotte qualified for the playoffs last season and appears to be a team on the rise. Vonleh figures heavily into the team's continued progression, but he may have to take on a big role more quickly than most anticipated.
Forward Josh McRoberts signed with the Miami Heat, which makes Vonleh a potentially huge part of the Hornets rotation immediately, per NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper:
As talented as Vonleh is, he is also quite raw. He could use some developmental time, but he may not be given that luxury in Charlotte. Because of that, Vonleh's performance in the summer league may be more important than that of many of his peers.
The NBA Summer League style of play should suit Vonleh well since he will be able to run the floor and create athletic mismatches. Vonleh has an opportunity to be the biggest breakout star in Las Vegas, so Hornets games will most definitely be worth keeping an eye on.
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