NBA Summer League 2021: Previewing Biggest Games on Las Vegas Schedule

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIAugust 5, 2021

NBA Summer League 2021: Previewing Biggest Games on Las Vegas Schedule

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The NBA Summer League is underway, but not for every team quite yet. There is some action taking place in Sacramento and Salt Lake City, though not every NBA organization is represented in these early games.

    However, things will be picking up soon, because the NBA Summer League will be heading to Las Vegas beginning Sunday. All 30 franchises will send players to the league, which will run through Aug. 17, and there will be plenty of talent in action.

    You won't get to see the big-name stars in Vegas, as most top players don't participate. But there will be incoming rookies and other youngsters looking to prove themselves while trying to make the roster for the 2021-22 season. And there will be a few veterans looking to do the same, too.

    Here's a look at a few Summer League matchups you're going to want to catch over the next couple weeks.

Detroit Pistons vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, Aug. 8 at 8:30 p.m. ET

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Detroit Pistons used the No. 1 overall pick to select Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham in the 2021 NBA draft one week ago. And it won't be long before they get to see him in action, considering he'll be on their Summer League team that begins play Sunday against Oklahoma City.

    The results for these games don't matter to most, but the 19-year-old wants to lead his new team to success, even though the Summer League championship isn't exactly comparable to the NBA title.

    "I mean more than anything we want to win Summer League," Cunningham said, per Lauren Williams of MLive.com. "We want to go undefeated, as a team. On top of that, we want to just take a step forward as far as gelling as a young core, being together, playing for each other, things like that."

    In addition to Cunningham, the Pistons' Summer League roster features center Luka Garza (second-round draft pick out of Iowa) and guard John Petty Jr. (undrafted out of Alabama) as notable rookies looking to perform well. Second-year players Saddiq Bey and Killian Hayes will be playing, as will Sekou Doumbouya, a 2019 first-round pick.

    The Thunder have an exciting roster as well, with 2021 first-round draft picks Josh Giddey (No. 6 overall) and Tre Mann (No. 18) set to play. Theo Maledon will also be in action looking to build off his solid rookie NBA season.

    This Pistons-Thunder matchup will tip off on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Aug. 11 at 10 P.m. ET

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    While the Summer League is typically for incoming rookies and less-proven players, there are some notable names on the Knicks' roster who you may not have expected to see heading to Las Vegas. That includes guard Immanuel Quickley and forwards Obi Toppin and Kevin Knox.

    Quickley and Toppin were both rookies last season, so they're not huge surprises. But Knox already has 182 games of NBA experience over three seasons. However, the 21-year-old told the Knicks that he wanted to participate in Summer League, according to SNY's Ian Begley.

    New York will also get its first look at rookie guard Quentin Grimes, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the No. 25 overall pick in the draft and then traded to the Knicks.

    On the other side, the Lakers won't be sending many of their notable players, considering they have a lot of veterans on their roster. But one notable name suiting up for them is former Gonzaga guard Joel Ayayi, who went undrafted and then signed a two-way contract with the Lakers.

    This Knicks-Lakers matchup will tip off on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Indiana Pacers, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. ET

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Neither Michael Beasley nor Kenneth Faried has played in an NBA game since 2019. However, both veterans will be on the Trail Blazers' Summer League roster as two of the most experienced players in action in Las Vegas. But they also have a lot to prove.

    Beasley played 11 NBA seasons, but his production waned later on. The forward is still only 32, though. Meanwhile, Faried is 31 and has eight years of NBA experience himself.

    It will be interesting to see how the two look on the courts and whether they can still contribute for an NBA team, be it Portland or somebody else.

    The Trail Blazers have some other notable players on their roster, such as rookies Greg Brown and CJ Elleby, both of whom were second-round draft picks, as well as forward Nassir Little, who is entering his third NBA season.

    This matchup will also give fans the opportunity to see Pacers rookie guard Chris Duarte, who was selected with the No. 13 overall pick out of Oregon. He will be an older rookie at 24, but that could help him outperform some of the less-experienced players in the Summer League.

    This Trail Blazers-Pacers matchup will tip off on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET on NBA TV.

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