Vegas Summer League Schedule: Previewing the Biggest Upcoming Games

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2012

July 18, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA;   New Orleans Hornets forward Lance Thomas (42) and Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Landry (40) during the first half of the game at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

If you thought you'd have to wait a few more months to see some NBA action, think again.

Some of the league's most promising young stars are working to prove themselves and develop their skills in the NBA Summer LeagueThe schedule has a number of games remaining through this Sunday, but some are more interesting than others.

Of course, these games aren't really about who wins or loses. For once, that isn't just lip service.

These guys are trying to get better, learn their team's systems and earn themselves some opportunities. Even if you don't have a stake in the outcome, there's plenty to keep a true hoops junkie interested.

Here are three games that shouldn't be missed.


Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets (Friday, July 20 at 6 p.m. ET)

Weber State product Damian Lillard is already proving why Portland was willing to take a chance on him with the sixth overall pick in June's NBA Draft. The point guard is the second leading scorer in the Las Vegas Summer League thus far, averaging 26 points per contest to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

Lillard has already attempted 42 field goals in his first two games, and that shouldn't change anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets feature second-year players Jordan Hamilton and Kenneth Faried, along with French rookie Evan Fournier. Hamilton is averaging 19 points through his first three games, while Faried is the Summer League's second-leading rebounder with 11.5 boards per game.


San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat (Friday, Jule 20 at 8 p.m. ET)

If only this were a regular season game.

Still, these two clubs are both in need of some youthful rejuvenation, and 2-1 Summer League starts suggest them to be in pretty good shape.

Second-year Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is averaging 25 points and six rebounds through two games, and second-year guard Cory Joseph is chipping in 19.3 points through three. Leonard showed enough signs of life to win a starting job from head coach Gregg Popovich, and he could be in store for an even better season this time around.

Heat fans have their eyes on point guard Norris Cole, who looked like he might threaten Mario Chalmers for the starting job at times last season. He's put up 13.7 points and five assists in his first three Summer League outings and looks to remain a dangerous contributor for Miami.


Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Hornets (Saturday, July 21 at 6:30 p.m. ET) 

The Golden State Warriors have a wealth of young talent, and they have a chance to show it off against a youthful but depleted Hornets squad.

Second-year guard Klay Thompson has put up more than 20 points per game through his first two contests for the Warriors, a good sign given how much the team will rely upon him this year. With Monta Ellis in Milwaukee, the shooting guard position belongs to Thompson, and he'll be expected to produce.

Small forward Harrison Barnes will also be asked to do big things, and not only because he was taken with the seventh overall pick in this summer's draft. The UNC standout is also in line for a starting job after Dorell Wright was shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Hornets lineup is less exciting with Anthony Davis preoccupied by the Summer Olympics, but it's still an important test for Austin Rivers, who was taken this year with the 10th overall pick after a successful freshman campaign at Duke.

Rivers has already missed one game due some ankle soreness, but the bigger question mark is whether he can learn how to play the point.

With Eric Gordon back as the starting 2-guard, Rivers' playing time will depend largely on how well he adjusts to the new position.