The presence of a star-studded draft class headed by Lonzo Ball (not to mention the accompanying circus created with his dad, LaVar) sparked record-breaking crowds for last year’s NBA Summer League.
There is no such noted father-son presence this year, but interest is higher than ever.
Albert Hall, Summer League co-founder and vice president of business operations, said ticket sales are up 5 to 8 percent over this time last year. This year’s Summer League is July 6-17.
“We definitely encourage people to get tickets in advance just to avoid it being sold out the first couple of days,” Hall said. “People have realized it’s a great event, No. 1, and a great value. And No 2, they realize that this draft class has a lot more to offer than originally thought.”
Other than guard Luka Doncic, Hall said he expected every first-round draft pick to participate, and he wouldn’t confirm whether Doncic would play or not. ESPN reported that Doncic, the No. 3 overall pick who was traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Dallas Mavericks, will not play because he is coming off a long EuroLeague season.
There is plenty of talent otherwise, led by first overall pick and 7-footer Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns. The Suns also acquired forward Mikal Bridges on a draft-night trade with the Philadelphia 76ers — who took him 10th — and selected noted French point guard Elie Okobo at the top of the second round.
One of the more glamorous matchups will take place July 7 when the Suns face the Sacramento Kings at 4:30 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack. It will be a meeting of the draft’s top two choices, with Ayton going directly against Kings center Marvin Bagley III.
The Summer League drew an announced record of 127,843 fans over 11 days last year to see 24 teams take part. In addition to Ball, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, Dennis Smith Jr. of the Mavericks and De’Aaron Fox of the Kings drew the most interest.
Now the Summer League will have six extra teams and an additional day.
“Of those first five days, a lot depends on our walk-up, but we could see multiple sellouts,” Hall said.