NBA Summer League play began on Saturday with the California Classic. On Monday, four teams – Memphis, Philadelphia, Utah and Oklahoma City – will begin play in Salt Lake City. 

The Las Vegas Summer League – which includes all 30 teams – tips-off on Friday evening, and as usual we can bet on the winner of the entire league.


For those unfamiliar with the format, let’s go over the basics.

Each team will play four scheduled games in Las Vegas, the top four teams will advance to the playoffs. 

With such a small sample size of games it is likely multiple teams will be tied once the four games conclude. The tiebreakers will be settled as follows:

Two-team tiebreakers

  1. Head-to-head record
  2. Point differential
  3. Total points
  4. Random drawing

Three or more team tiebreakers

  1. Point differential
  2. Total points
  3. Random drawing

This format certainly opens the door for some tough luck, which presents a challenge when betting the event. There is a chance that a team finishes with a 3-1 record and misses the playoffs entirely.

Still, if we can evaluate these rosters properly we can find some opportunity in the futures market. We are still waiting for odds to win the league, because not every team has announced its roster for Las Vegas.

Until then, let’s discuss some of the characteristics I look for in a Summer League team.

A young player with minutes logged in the NBA

This is the most important factor when evaluating Summer League rosters.

In the 2022 Summer League the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the New York Knicks in the championship game. Portland was led by Trendon Watford and Keon Johnson. 

Johnson had played 37 games in his first season and averaged 18.8 minutes. Watford played in 48 contests and averaged 18.1 minutes. They led the Trail Blazers in scoring that summer with a combined 27.8 points per game.

Quentin Grimes was the Knicks’ leading scorer in Las Vegas at 22.6 points per game. He also averaged four assists. That was after a rookie season in which he played 46 games for New York and averaged 17.1 minutes.

Last summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the title thanks to massive performances from Sam Merrill and Isaiah Mobley.

Merrill had played 41 regular season games to that point in his career. Mobley had played just 22 games in two seasons, but had been on the floor and seen live action. That is an advantage in a setting like the Las Vegas Summer League. Both combined to average 38.2 points per game on the way to the championship.

One roster that sticks out when it comes to players with playing time under their belt is Golden State.

Brandin Podziemski, Gui Santos and Trayce Jackson-Davis are all listed on the announced roster. If they see extended playing time in Las Vegas, the Warriors will be one of the best teams in the Summer League. But, remember that players will be named to the roster in order to fit in extra practice time. They are not guaranteed to see the court.

For example, Brandon Miller for Charlotte has been listed on the roster. I highly doubt Miller plays more than a game – if that – in Vegas.

Other young players who have played regular season games that could succeed in Las Vegas: Jalen Pickett and Julian Strawther (Nuggets), Noah Clowney (Nets), Jarace Walker (Pacers), Maxwell Lewis (Lakers) and Ricky Council IV (76ers).

High-end rookie talent

The runner-up last season – Houston – is a perfect example of this characteristic.

Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason dominated in the two games they played last summer, but it was the rookies that carried the Rockets to the championship game.

Cam Whitmore – one-time projected top-five pick – carried the Rockets in the Summer League. Whitmore averaged 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals on the way toward winning Summer League MVP.

Paolo Banchero scored 40 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished 12 assists in his two Summer League games before being shut down. Bennedict Mathurin averaged 19.3 points per game his first summer in Las Vegas, and in that same season Keegan Murray won MVP with 23.3 points per game.

The top tier rookies always carry some risk. They generally get shut down early, especially if there is any fear of a bump or bruise. But, some do play throughout the event and it is always good to have one on the roster.

These are players drafted near the top of the draft for a reason. Generally, they are more talented than their contemporaries in the Summer League. Their presence will give their teams a leg up on the competition. 

Veteran college players

This is the least important of the factors, but having guys who are older on the roster does help. Players who have physically matured can have an upper-hand on some of the younger rookies that were late selections and are considered developmental.

Murray is a good example. The former Iowa Hawkeye was 21 years old when drafted by Sacramento and in his first Summer League. That maturity helped him hit the ground running two seasons ago.

Javon Freeman-Liberty scored the second-most points in the Summer League in 2023. Freeman-Liberty came out in the 2022 draft as a senior. He participated in his second Summer League with Chicago last season and averaged 21.2 points per game. Not only had he participated in the event before, but he was physically more mature than many of the other players, which showed on the floor.

Zach Edey (Purdue), Jack Gohlke (Oakland) and Drew Timme (Raptors) are some names who fit the profile of older players with a physical advantage.