The NBA has a few summer leagues -- the ones in Utah and Orlando have already happened -- but the 11-day event in Las Vegas is the place to be for the best summertime basketball action. The Raptors will be one of 24 teams (23 from the NBA, and 1 D-League select team) competing in this summer's tournament, with a roster featuring some familiar names and new faces.
Here's what you need to know going into this year's event.
Where is it?
Las Vegas, Nevada. That part is obvious, it's right there in the name. But to get specific: all of the tournament's games are held in the Thomas & Mack Center or Cox Paviliion (in the same complex). Rather fortuitously, the entire center is just across from the main Vegas airport. Convenient!
When is it?
The tournament runs from July 8th (tomorrow!) to July 18th. The first five days are set for round robin play, with three to four games happening daily. Then, the tourney gets serious and the knock out rounds begin on July 13th.
See here for the full schedule of games.
Who is there?
As mentioned, 24 teams are at this year's summer league. The list is as follows:
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers
NBA D-League Select
New Orleans Pelicans
Portland Trail Blazers
San Antonio Spurs
As you'll notice, the roster of teams includes the Raptors (and, again, one D-League select team).
Will my favourite player be there?
That depends. For the most part, the Vegas Summer League, like the rest of the NBA's summer competitions, is dedicated to players in the first three years of their NBA career. This means a lot of young players are usually there, including newly drafted rookies who have yet to play a single second of actual NBA time. This divides the players there into three distinct groups: the highly-touted rookies, the young guys who may be good, and the journeymen.
It breaks down like this: If you're a fan of, say, the Sixers, your new favourite player Ben Simmons will be there. If you're a fan of the Raptors, get ready to cheer for Norman Powell again. And, if you're a fan of chaos, get ready for the host of D-Leaguers and international journeymen who will descend on Vegas looking to crack into the NBA. Maybe Adam Morrison will show up again!
Who is on the Raptors' squad?
I'm glad you asked. This year is an interesting one for the Raptors because of the sheer number of prospects they've got on hand. Familiar faces include a returning Bruno Caboclo (of course), and second-year men Delon Wright and the aforementioned Powell. You may also recall DeAndre Daniels, the Raptors second round pick from 2014.
Adding to this mix, however, are the Raptors two new rookies, Jakob Poeltl (selected with the ninth pick) and Pascal Siakam (taken 27th). To say we are interested to see these guys play against NBA competition is an understatement.
Here's the full roster from the official site:
|15||Berry, Davion+||G||6-4||185||Weber State, USA|
|20||Caboclo, Bruno+||F||6-9||218||Pinheiros, Sky Sao Paulo, Brazil|
|11||Crawford, Drew+||G||6-5||215||Northwestern, USA|
|22||Daniels, DeAndre+||F||6-9||196||Connecticut, USA|
|12||Jones, Jalen+||F||6-7||223||Texas A&M, USA|
|53||Kirk, Alex+||C||6-11||252||New Mexico, USA|
|13||Moreira, Yanick+||C||6-11||220||SMU, Angola|
|42||Poeltl, Jokob+||C||7-0||248||Utah, Austria|
|24||Powell, Norman+||G||6-4||215||UCLA, USA|
|43||Saikam, Pascal+||F||6-9||230||New Mexico State, Cameroon|
|25||Singler, EJ+||F||6-6||215||Oregon, USA|
|32||Smotrycz, Evan+||F||6-9||235||Maryland, USA|
|2||Upshur, Quinton+||G||6-5||207||Northern Arizona, USA|
|23||VanVleet, Fred+||G||6-0||186||Wichita State, USA|
|55||Wright, Delon+||G||6-5||183||Utah, USA|
Yes, we all note that Lucas Nogueira is not on the team this year. He's played in the Las Vegas Summer League three times now (once for Atlanta, twice with the Raptors) and is technically exempt from going again. Word has it he'll be in town to work out with the Raptors staff and such.
Basically, I hope we get some Bebe sightings in Vegas in some capacity.
So what's the point of all this?
First of all, settle down. Second, the point is two-fold. For NBA teams, it gives them a chance to mix-and-match some of their developing players, to test out who can do what and how, and to see how their newest recruits do against some (young) NBA competition. (e.g. one year Caboclo got dunked on and cried afterwards -- it may have been a sign of things to come.)
The second component to this is, as mentioned, a chance for players trying to make it into the NBA to show their stuff. A good showing in Vegas can secure a player a spot on a D-League roster, which is the next step towards a potential call-up to the big show. Yes, it's quite a journey to go on, and even the exceptional plays here will always have the caveat "yeah, but it's summer league," but tell that to a young man trying to make his dreams come true.
Is there anything to win?
Like every tournament, the Las Vegas Summer League has an MVP award, a championship title on the line, and even a championship MVP award. This is serious business. Past winners include the Golden State Warriors in 2013 (when their very own Ian Clark won the championship MVP), the Sacramento Kings (they won something!) in 2014, and the San Antonio Spurs (does their dominance ever end???) in 2015.
And before you get all glum and say the Raptors never win anything, remember: Jonas Valanciunas won the league MVP back in 2013. What a highlight!
(An aside: Norm Powell has let it be known that he'll be gunning for the MVP honours this year. Let's get turnt.)
OK, I'm turnt. How do I watch?
As you would expect, NBA TV and ESPN will bring you full coverage of the events out in Vegas. Check out the info here for the full schedule and some notes on TV channels. I hope you've paid up for ESPN2 and 3, and whatever the hell ESPNU is!
There's also info here on the NBA website for TV listings on NBA TV.
Here's another link for game times and TV schedules. There's really no excuse to miss any of the action.
As luck would have it, your humble Raptors HQ correspondent (that's me) will be in Las Vegas this year for the festivities. That's right, from July 8th to 13th, I'll be bringing you, the reader, as many Raptors updates as I can, directly from the Vegas scene.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find my sunglasses.