It doesn’t matter that LeBron James and Lonzo Ball won’t be suiting up. Interest still remains high in what is essentially Las Vegas’ hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA Summer League organizers made sure to put the Lakers in prime time when making out the schedule, but the lack of star power is the reason they aren’t on this list of games to watch.
The ones listed feature top draft picks and other players of intrigue. They are the essence of what the Summer League is about, a glimpse into the future of the players who will have the responsibility of moving the NBA forward.
Here are the top five matchups to watch during the 12-day event that begins Friday, before tournament play begins Wednesday.
1. Phoenix vs. Sacramento, 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Thomas & Mack Center
If this were the regular season, this matchup wouldn’t even make the top three on a Tuesday night. But for the Summer League, Suns-Kings pits the top two overall draft picks. Even better, the Suns’ Deandre Ayton and the Kings’ Marvin Bagley III play the same center position. The Suns by themselves are worth watching to see how rookies Mikal Bridges and Elie Okobo mesh with Ayton.
2. Cleveland vs. Washington, 6 p.m. Friday, Cox Pavilion
Now that LeBron has moved on, the Cavaliers are having to start over. Their rebuilding could be around No. 8 overall pick Collin Sexton, who makes his Summer League debut in this game. On the other side will be the Wizards’ first-round selection, former Centennial High School standout Troy Brown Jr., who was taken 15th and will have the opportunity to show off his versatile game.
3. Orlando vs. Phoenix, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Thomas & Mack
Another matchup of lottery-level big men, this time with Ayton facing No. 6 choice Mo Bamba of the Magic. Bamba has a wingspan of 7 feet, 10 inches, the longest measured in NBA history.
Joining Bamba on the Magic is former UNLV player Khem Birch, who has had quite the journey after spending time in Greece and Turkey among other places.
4. Sacramento vs. Memphis, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thomas & Mack
The Grizzlies’ No. 4 overall pick, Jaren Jackson Jr., got off to a hot start at the Summer League in Salt Lake City with 29 points against Atlanta on Monday. Not to make too much of one game, but he looks like a star in the making. The Kings not only feature Bagley, players such as Harry Giles III, Justin Jackson and Frank Mason III are on the roster and definitely worth a look.
5. Atlanta vs. Chicago, 3 p.m. Tuesday, Cox Pavilion
Trae Young, the No. 5 pick, is out to show the Hawks were smart to trade for him on draft night, but questions about his ability to shoot are likely to follow him to Las Vegas. He goes against a Bulls team that features No. 7 selection Wendell Carter Jr. as well as No. 22 Chandler Hutchison, the Boise State product who was voted by the media as the Mountain West Player of the Year.
Coming this week:
Video updates from NBA Summer League
The Review-Journal’s reporting staff will offer two video updates every day at the NBA Summer League on our Facebook page as well as at reviewjournal.com/videos. The updates will include:
— Postgame interviews and reaction, plus nightly wrapups on each day’s action.
— Highlights and insight from hosts Bryan Salmond, Adam Hill and Justin Emerson.
— Interaction with fans at our Review-Journal Sports Facebook page.
The NBA Summer League starts Friday and runs through July 17 at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.
NBA Summer League
Who: NBA rookies and underclassmen from all 30 teams
When: Friday through July 17
Where: Thomas & Mack Center, Cox Pavilion
Tickets: $35 for adults per session, $25 for children and seniors; available at NBATickets.com