NBA Summer League 2021: Dates, Times, TV Schedule, Live Stream and More

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 7, 2021

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 3: Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons poses for a portrait on August 3, 2021 at the Pistons Performance Center in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The NBA is back.

OK, it's not the real NBA as we all know it, but it is the Summer League version that never runs short on compelling storylines and high-drama hoops.

So far, basketball junkies have subsisted on the four-team mini leagues in Sacramento and Utah. But when the action shifts to Las Vegas on Sunday, that's when all 30 clubs get involved and a champion is eventually crowned.

It's arguably as good as basketball gets this side of the Association's actual season, so let's break down everything you need to know about what lies ahead.


NBA Summer League 2021

When: August 8-17

Where: Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas

When: Games tip between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN Networks and NBA TV

Live Stream: ESPN App


Teams to Watch

Detroit Pistons

More than anything, summer league hoops are a showcase of the league's best and brightest young players. That's why it makes sense to pay extra attention to the Pistons, who are suddenly sitting on a small army of talented youngsters.

The headliner, of course, is this year's top overall pick, Cade Cunningham. The 6'6" guard boasts a deep, versatile skill set that allows him to play whatever role his team needs. He can be a go-to scorer, a primary playmaker or both at once, all while defending multiple positions and splashing long-range shots. Despite boasting standout skills, though, the incoming rookie is more concerned with fitting in.

"I know what the No. 1 pick perception is coming in, so I think the biggest thing for me is coming and reassuring the team that I'm about playing winning basketball and not living up to the hype or whatever," Cunningham told reporters. "I want to be able to blend in."

Those coming to watch Cunningham should stay to see Detroit's other up-and-comers. That includes fellow freshman Luka Garza, last season's consensus player of the year in college basketball, and sophomores Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee.


Houston Rockets

The next era of Rockets basketball starts now.

James Harden is out. A swarm of high-potential prospects are in, starting with this year's No. 2 pick, Jalen Green. The 6'6" scoring guard is an offensive machine who spent the past year honing his point-producing talents with the G League Ignite.

But the Rockets' rookie class reaches far beyond Green.

There's also Turkish big man Alperen Sengun, who plays a throwback game on the interior and has an intriguing penchant for passing. There's Spanish forward Usman Garuba, who could make an argument as being the draft's top stopper. And finally, there's gifted swingman Josh Christopher out of Arizona State, who needs more polish but has a sky-high ceiling with athleticism, shot-making and defensive potential.

"All these guys I think are really, really talented, and they're all players who do things already," general manager Rafael Stone said. "I think they're likely to already be good NBA players. And so given their age, they're all 19, that's really exciting because I think they're at an age where you can really improve."


Portland Trail Blazers

This is, admittedly, an off-the-grid selection, as the Blazers don't have the pedigreed prospects typically attached to a can't-miss summer league club.

But the more I study this roster, the more I'm fascinated by it.

That's primarily because Portland has three players looking to reignite NBA careers that spanned at least five seasons. Michael Beasley, the No. 2 pick in 2008, is eyeing a path back to the league after being out of it since 2019. Kenneth Faried, the 22nd pick in 2011, has been out of the NBA just as long. Emmanuel Mudiay, the fifth pick in 2015, played 54 games in 2019-20 but couldn't crack a roster this past season.

As fun as it is to watch NBA neophytes find their footing, seeing someone fight for his career is a different kind of compelling.

Oh, and if you are all about the youngsters, Portland has a couple of fascinating ones in third-year forward Nassir Little and rookie swingman Greg Brown III. Both are incredibly gifted athletically and hint at towering ceilings if they can fully harness their physical tools, but both need plenty of polish to capitalize on that upside.