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NBA Summer League Set to Tip Off in Las Vegas With Six Games on Friday

Ben Simmons

As NBA Summer Leagues wrap up in Orlando and Utah this week, the Vegas circuit is about to begin with 23 of the 30 teams represented along with an D-League Select squad. Six games will get the action going on Friday, starting with the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers facing the Milwaukee Bucks at 3 p.m. (PT).

The Cavaliers and two-time defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors will both have teams in Vegas, although fans and bettors should not expect to see any of the team’s stars. That includes the newest Warrior Kevin Durant, who agreed to join the team on Monday, making Golden State an even stronger favorite to win the 2017 NBA championship. Instead, names like second-round draft pick Patrick McCaw from local school UNLV and former Stephen F. Austin star Thomas Walkup will try to make a positive impression on the coaching staff of the Warriors during league play.

Cleveland will have second-round pick Kay Felder on its roster after he was acquired in a draft night trade with the Atlanta Hawks. Felder was selected 54th overall by the Cavs, who purchased the pick from the Hawks for $2.4 million. He is expected to back up starter Kyrie Irving and averaged 24.4 points per game for Oakland last season.

The San Antonio Spurs are the defending Vegas Summer League champs and will be led again by former UCLA forward Kyle Anderson, who averaged 21 points and six rebounds last year as MVP. Anderson made San Antonio’s regular-season roster and ended up playing in 78 games, averaging 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds in 16 minutes.

One of the players most are looking forward to seeing is Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Simmons made his debut in Utah on Monday and was forced to leave in the fourth quarter with cramps in both legs. He scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists in just under 24 minutes as the 76ers lost 102-94 to the Boston Celtics. Philadelphia kept Simmons out of the lineup against the Spurs on Tuesday as a precaution.

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The San Antonio Spurs may have fallen short in their quest for their sixth NBA title this season, but they will start Vegas Summer League play as the defending champions when games get underway on July 8 at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion. The Spurs saw assistant coach Becky Hammon lead them to the championship, and they are 27-15 (.643) all-time in the Vegas Summer League, which is the second-best winning percentage ever behind only the Houston Rockets at 31-12 (.721).

Some of the league’s top rookies, second-year players and veterans fighting for roster spots will represent 24 teams overall this year, including the two current NBA finalists, the defending champion Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry of the Warriors played in the Vegas Summer League before his first season, as did the last two NBA Rookies of the Year in Karl-Anthony Towns (2015-16) and Andrew Wiggins (2014-15) of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Vegas Summer League is played with a tournament-style schedule, totaling 67 games over 11 days and concluding on July 18. Of the 24 teams that will be in action, half currently hold lottery picks in the NBA Draft on June 23. Each team will play preliminary games first before being seeded for the tournament. Bettors may also be surprised to find out that they can actually wager on the games at some sportsbooks.

Teams to watch in the 2016 Vegas Summer League include the Timberwolves, who are now coached by Tom Thibodeau. While Thibodeau may not coach his new players in Vegas since that job is typically handled by assistants, he will no doubt be present and offering insight to them along with his staff. The former head coach of the Chicago Bulls is also the president of basketball operations and inherits one of the best young teams in the NBA led by Towns and Wiggins, neither of whom will likely be taking the court this year in the Vegas Summer League. The Rockets are another intriguing team due to their past success in Vegas and new head coach Mike D’Antoni taking over this season.

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