Are you already jonesing to bet on NBA basketball action with the Finals in the rear-view mirror? Well fear not, grasshopper, as summer league action is right around the corner. Should you bother wagering on those games? Let's take a look.
Breaking Down Summer Ball
There are three summer leagues this year. You have Orlando from July 4-10, Salt Lake City from July 6-9 and Las Vegas from July 10-20. The latter one, held at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion on the UNLV campus, is the biggest with 24 teams.
The Nets, who last competed in Las Vegas in 2005, and the Celtics, who last appeared in 2012, join 21 returning NBA teams (Hawks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Nuggets, Rockets, Warriors, Lakers, Heat, Bucks, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Knicks, Suns, 76ers, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz and Wizards) and an NBA D-League Select team this year in Vegas. Teams will compete in three preliminary round games from July 10-14 before being seeded in a tournament running through the championship game. Each team will play at least five games.
Is it Worth it?
Does Summer League success mean squat when it comes to regular-season success? Well, the Sacramento Kings were last season's Summer League Vegas champs and they stunk in the regular season. The Warriors won the 2013 title in Vegas led by Draymond Green, one of this season's breakout stars. The leading scorer and MVP of the 2014 Vegas Summer League was Washington's Glen Rice Jr. at 25.0 points per game. He appeared in only five regular-season games this past season for the Wizards. Cole Aldrich of the Knicks was the top rebounder in Vegas last year at 15 per game. He played in 61 games as a reserve for the Knicks in 2014-15. The Pelicans' Russ Smith was the top assist man at 6.4 per game. He played in just 12 combined games for New Orleans and Memphis in the regular season. Current stars such as Damian Lillard, John Wall and Blake Griffin were former Summer League MVPs.
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You aren't going to see the big stars in Summer League action. They have no incentive to play. Why risk injury? But you will see plenty of rookies and fringe guys trying to make rosters. For example, the Bulls will have Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis on their Summer League team. McDermott played really well last Summer League but couldn't get any playing time under former coach Tom Thibodeau in the regular season. He figures to under new coach Fred Hoiberg, who is installing a more offensive system. Portis was Chicago's first-round pick in last week's draft. Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins and Milwaukee's Jabari Parker, the top two picks in the 2014 draft, played in Summer League a year ago. Wiggins of course was the NBA Rookie of the Year, the eighth winner in the last 10 years to participate at Summer League.
Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns, the first pick in this year's draft, will make his pro debut July 10 in the Las Vegas Summer League, matched up against the Lakers and No. 2 pick D'Angelo Russell. The next night, Russell will go up against No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor of the 76ers. We get our first look at Knicks top pick Kristaps Porzingis on July 11 against the Spurs. I don't think he will be booed there as he was in Brooklyn last week after the pick was announced.
The Warriors, incidentally, are going for the treble: D-League, Summer League & NBA champions in the same season. The Kings will go for the repeat. They beat Houston 77-68 in last year's championship game behind 29 points from Ray McCallum. Games aren't 48 minutes long like in the regular season but 40 -- four 10-minute quarters.
So what is the best betting strategy here when it comes to basketball picks? Obviously make sure to scour each team's roster. If you've got good young NBA talent on some of them, like the Kings did last year with McCallum and Ben McLemore, then obviously you would prefer that team over some made up of all undrafted guys. I would have loved the 76ers to win this year's Summer League title if Joel Embiid were playing alongside Okafor but Embiid had had an injury setback and now won't. The Sixers' Nerlens Noel was one of the best players in Summer League last year but isn't expected to return.