Now that another Vegas Summer League has come and gone, here are five takeaways of what transpired at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion from July 5 to 15:
1. Still a local spectacle
The Vegas Summer League drew more than 12,000 fans per game for first the time (12,199 to be exact), and who could have envisioned that when six teams played in the first event in 2004? It’s pretty remarkable strong crowds continue to show up for an event in which the vast majority of players won’t make NBA rosters. That support makes a compelling argument that Las Vegas deserves to one day serve as home to a team. If fans are willing to turn out to see the faux Los Angeles Lakers, they would pack the place the see the real thing.
2. Players sitting a concern
Zion Williamson mania led to the first two days selling out, and there was a buzz for his opening-night matchup with his New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks. But when Williamson injured his knee in the first half and then was ruled out for the rest of the event, the buzz dissipated. Even though Day 2 also was a sellout, there were considerably more no-shows. And it wasn’t just Williamson. Many top draft picks didn’t play or were one game and out. There is nothing organizers can do about that, but if fans aren’t sure whether they will be able to see the more notable players, it’s unlikely many more future sellouts will follow.
3. Earthquake management
The first night was disrupted by a 7.1 earthquake near Ridgecrest, California, that caused both arenas to shake and the scoreboard above the floor in the Thomas & Mack to sway. Officials erred on the side of caution by ending play and then took the necessary steps to make sure both buildings were safe. They couldn’t have handled the situation much better.
4. Is 32 enough?
With up 10 games some days, it meant the final one was played at 8 p.m. in Cox and 8:30 p.m. in the Thomas & Mack — if the schedule ran on time. So the final game didn’t end until around 10:30 p.m. Adding more teams would cause scheduling headaches the organizers don’t need.
5. Summer League mirage
The Memphis Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke played really well in earning most valuable player of the event and the championship game, and he looks like a steal as the No. 21 draft pick. No. 3 draft choice RJ Barrett of the Knicks had more than his share of struggles, his play already being dissected in the New York and national media. It’s too early to tell on these players and the others who played in the Summer League. Wait until they line up against the regular NBA players to get a better gauge of where they fit. Even then, some players don’t develop until three or four years later.