NBA Summer League 2018: Previewing Biggest Games on Las Vegas Schedule

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 25, 2018

Arizona's Deandre Ayton, right, poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after he was picked first overall by the Phoenix Suns during the NBA basketball draft in New York, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
Kevin Hagen/Associated Press

While the stars of the NBA are off enjoying their summer vacations, putting in long days in the gym and trolling the rest of the league on social media (Yes, we're talking about you Joel Embiid), the future stars of the game will be showcasing their talents in the Las Vegas Summer League.

The opening set of games will be played at two venues in Las Vegas over five days, starting July 6, before the teams are seeded into a tournament-style bracket. 

Throughout the first five days of the Las Vegas Summer League, there are plenty of intriguing matchups in which first-year stars will try to impress in an attempt to earn roster spots. 

On the other end of the spectrum are the first-round picks ready to show off their talents for the first time in an NBA uniform.

Below is a look at three of the top games to watch from July 6-10 at the start of the Las Vegas Summer League.


Biggest Games on Las Vegas Summer League Schedule

Dallas vs. Phoenix (Friday, July 6, 9:30 p.m., ESPN) 

Deandre Ayton's Las Vegas Summer League debut comes in primetime on the first night of the competition, but he'll be the only high-profile first-round pick on the floor at the Thomas and Mack Center. 

Dallas is going to rest Luka Doncic after a long European season with Real Madrid, per ESPN's Tim McMahon.

Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon

A Mavs source says Luka Doncic is unlikely to play in the Las Vegas summer league. The Mavs don’t want to overwork Doncic in the wake of a long EuroLeague season that ended earlier this week.

Even without Doncic on the floor, the Suns-Mavericks clash is going to be intriguing to watch, especially from the Phoenix perspective. 

In addition to Ayton, the Suns will get their first look at Mikal Bridges, who was sent to Phoenix in a draft night trade with Philadelphia, and Elie Okobo, a French point guard who was taken with the first pick of the second round. 

How Ayton, Bridges and Okobo combine will be worth watching, as they look to boost the Suns out of the bottom of the Western Conference in the regular season alongside a young core led by Devin Booker and Josh Jackson. 

Bridges will go to head-to-head with his former Villanova teammate Jalen Brunson, who went 33rd overall to the Mavericks.

Brunson will be fighting for playing time at point guard, and the Summer League will a nice springboard for his professional career. 


Memphis vs. Orlando (Sunday, July 8, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2) 

A pair of lottery selections face off in the clash between Memphis and Orlando at the Thomas and Mack Center.

No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. should feature in a starring role for the Memphis Grizzlies, while No. 6 selection Mo Bamba headlines Orlando's roster. 

Eric Gay/Associated Press

The pair of rookie big men could go head-to-head in the paint on numerous occasions, and it will be a nice test for them so early in the Summer League campaign. 

The supporting cast of both teams should be fun to watch as well, as point guard Jevon Carter joins Jackson and Melvin Frazier, who was an underrated second-round selection out of Tulane, teams up with Bamba.

Carter might end up as one of the steals of the draft, as he carries a wealth of experience from his time at West Virginia dealing with the rigorous Big 12 schedule. 


Atlanta vs. Chicago (Tuesday, July 10, 6 p,m., NBATV) 

The Trae Young experience has a chance to captivate audiences in Las Vegas, as the rookie point guard looks to impress during Summer League with the Atlanta Hawks. 

BROOKLYN, NY- JUNE 21:  Trae Young speaks with the media after being selected number five overall during the 2018 2018 NBA Draft on June 21, 2018 in Brooklyn, NY. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this
NBA Photos/Getty Images

Young is one of a few players the Hawks added during the draft, as they also brought in shooting guard Kevin Huerter from Maryland with the 19th pick and Omari Spellman out of Villanova with the 30th selection.

How Young, Huerter and Spellman operate in the Hawks' system will be interesting to watch, as they all enjoy shooting from beyond the arc, especially Young and Huerter. 

Chicago possesses a nice group of first-year players as well, as first-round picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison should end up as complementary pieces to Lauri Markkanen. 

The showdown between the Hawks and Bulls takes place on the final day of the first set of games in Las Vegas, which means by the time they step on the floor at Cox Pavilion, Young, Carter and the rest of the rookies should have a level of comfort within their respective systems.


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