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A Mid-Summer Dream: Watch the NBA Summer League


Courtesy of USA Today Sports
Courtesy of USA Today Sports

After the confetti has fallen and the champagne showers have completed it’s on to the NBA draft. The Woj bombs, the draft day trades, and the “anticipation” of the number one overall pick keeps us engaged for about 30 minutes of the two-hour showcase.

The free agency frenzy can be entertaining. Everyone is glued to Twitter and the ESPN affiliates just to find out what sources has to say next.

But the real summertime gem is the NBA Summer League. This is usually reserved for basketball junkies to have something to chew on. It takes a certain amount of convincing to get a casual fan to tune in. Here are five reasons that you should.

Ummm, It’s Still Basketball

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The summer league allows the uber basketball fan to enjoy some competition. The games usually lack sustenance. And the games at times can be unpalatable. However, what the games lack in nuance they make up for in enjoyment. There’s something about watching otherwise unknown NBA players sense their opportunity and having the desire and competitive drive to go out and take it. Oklahoma City Thunder Guard Cameron Payne is far from an unknown. Hitting a game-winner in this fashion is sure to boost his confidence. This wasn’t just a lucky shot after a last minute heave. That was a shot that was beget from sublime execution in crunch time from the players. To a basketball puritan there is nothing greater. Exciting right?

First Look at Special Potential 

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The NBA Draft Lottery is always an intriguing part of the draft. Days, even weeks before the draft each pick is scrutinized and debated. The expectation of course is on the top picks, but there are some later lottery picks that can steal the show. Whether it’s a record setting three-point barrage or a total obliteration of the competition, summer league is your first chance to see a player present the prologue to his career. Last year in the Las Vegas Summer League, 14th overall pick Devin Booker put on an absolute show with 31 points and nine rebounds. His well-documented shooting ability was on full display. Once he got his chance during the regular season, all that witnessed his breakout had no choice but to think back to that performance.

Exciting Finishes

Per, the rules of Summer League are as follows: Two minute overtime period, each team is allowed one timeout, each team is allowed one advance, penalty begins on the second team foul, the second overtime period is sudden death (first team to score a point wins). Sudden Death.

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Can this be moved to the NBA? The very idea of Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard with the ball in their hands in such a situation is something hoop-heads can only dream of. Watching it play out in Summer League is the next best thing, and it doesn’t take way from the excitement.

Close-knit Environment
One of the best things about summer league is the intimacy of the event, specifically the Orlando Summer League. It’s just pure unadulterated basketball. The pomp and circumstance of a regular season NBA game is amazing, but the setup of summer league matches the time of year.

Devin Booker (1) put on a show in the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League. Courtesy of USA Today Sports
Devin Booker (1) put on a show in the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League. Courtesy of USA Today Sports

The exceptionally low-key environment augments that the focus is all on the players and the action of the game. When the ball-handler calls out an offensive set, you can almost see the wheels turning as the players are trying their best to execute. The audibility of defensive coverages gives you an inside track of sorts.  You can’t get much closer to the game than in summer league.

Even if they lose, Teams still have a chance at the Championship 

The Summer League at its heart is still a competition. Each player on a team is competing for, not only a roster spot, but also a championship. The two previous champions have been the Sacramento Kings in 2014 and the San Antonio Spurs in 2015 of the Las Vegas Summer League.

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Each team has the opportunity to accrue points as the tournament goes along. There are 8 points available from each game. Four points for winning the game, and 1 point for each individual quarter won. The two teams that have accumulated the most points will play in the championship game. This adds to the drama of the tournament in nail-biting fashion. Winning a matchup doesn’t guarantee a place in the championship game.

All in all the Summer League is the biggest basketball event of the summer outside of USA Basketball. It’s something to look forward to when the headliner games run dry. But I’m sure you don’t need much convincing by now.

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