The New York Knicks might have whiffed in free agency but they’re the consensus favorites at Las Vegas sportsbooks to win the NBA Summer League, which tips off Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.
Zion Williamson is the headliner of the Summer League. But RJ Barrett — drafted third overall by the Knicks after Williamson, his Duke teammate, went No. 1 to the Pelicans — appears to be in better position to win the championship.
New York, which opens against New Orleans at 6:30 p.m. Friday, is the 10-1 favorite at the Westgate to win the July 15 title game and the 8-1 favorite at Caesars Entertainment.
Besides Barrett, the Knicks will feature 2018 draft picks Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson and former Findlay Prep star Allonzo Trier.
“Things can change but looking at rosters, they just looked like the starting point,” Westgate manager Jeff Sherman said.
The Pelicans are the 8-1 favorites at William Hill, 14-1 at Caesars and 16-1 at the Westgate, where New Orleans leads in ticket count. Besides Williamson, the Pelicans will feature former UNLV center Christian Wood and former Duke guard Frank Jackson.
“The tough thing for Zion Williamson and some of the Knicks guys is I’m not anticipating them playing in every game,” Sherman said. “When you have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, it’s not like he needs to play in seven games because the Pelicans are going to be concerned he doesn’t get hurt as opposed to helping them win the Summer League title.”
‘Not much separation’
Sherman said the odds to win the championship are more wide open than in the past.
“In previous years, the favorite was in single digits but this year the favorite starts in double digits,” he said. “There’s not much separation between these teams. Generally speaking, all the (game) spreads should be within 5½ points. There’s not much discrepancy.”
The only team with triple-digit odds to win the title is China at 100-1. Team Croatia, at 30-1, also is competing in the Summer League alongside all 30 NBA teams.
The Trail Blazers won the 2018 title over the Lakers, who claimed the 2017 Summer League crown over Portland behind Lonzo Ball.
The Blazers are the 10-1 second choice at Caesars to repeat as champs and are the 12-1 co-second choice at the Westgate with the Spurs and 76ers.
The Blazers return key 2018 Summer League players Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr., along with 2019 first-round pick Nassir Little and Skal Labissiere.
The Spurs, who won the 2015 Summer League title, are the 9-1 second choice at William Hill and 14-1 at Caesars. San Antonio features 2019 first-round pick Luka Samanic, 2018 draft picks Lonnie Walker IV and Chimezie Metu and several NBA G League alums, including former Kansas star Thomas Robinson.
Philadelphia features 2019 draft picks Matisse Thybulle and Marial Shayok and 2018 picks Zhaire Smith and Shake Milton.
Lakers long shots
The Lakers, who produced the past two Summer League MVPs in Josh Hart and Ball, are 40-1 long shots to win the 2019 title. Former Pacers point guard Joe “Joey Buckets” Young is the only player on Los Angeles’ roster with NBA experience.
Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell nailed a game-winning 3-pointer Wednesday in the Lakers’ 99-97 win over the Kings at the California Classic in Sacramento. L.A. also features UNR star Jordan Caroline and former Bishop Gorman star Rosco Allen, along with Purdue’s Dakota Mathias and Buffalo’s Nick Perkins.
The Boston Celtics (20-1) will feature 7-foot-6-inch Central Florida center Tacko Fall, as well as all four of their 2019 draft picks, including Purdue point guard Carsen Edwards.
The Miami Heat (20-1), featuring 2019 first-round pick Tyler Herro from Kentucky, has seen their Summer League stock rise after going 3-0 at the California Classic.
The Westgate also will offer wagering on the first quarter, first half and second half of each game and every game will be televised on NBA TV and ESPN networks.
“The action has been picking up now because every game is televised,” Sherman said.
NBA Summer League
Odds posted at Westgate sportsbook
Win championship game
Trail Blazers; 12-1
Team Croatia; 30-1
Team China; 100-1