The 2018-19 season concluded only a couple weeks ago, but fans are already eager to take in the 15th annual NBA Summer League in Las Vegas – an event that will include most of the highly touted draftees analysts believe will take the league by storm.
Names like Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett have already become ubiquitous in the basketball world long before their professional debuts. After being selected with the top three picks in the 2019 draft, the trio is headlining a fresh, highly anticipated pool of talent that is poised to make this Summer League the most popular yet.
The 11-day tournament gives rising stars an opportunity to showcase their skills for their new team and allows unproven players a chance to impress a prospective club. The event is scheduled to begin July 5 and culminate with the championship game on July 15. Each team will play between five and seven games depending on their performance.
For the second straight year, all 30 NBA franchises will field teams at the MGM-sponsored event held at UNLV. The Croatian and Chinese National Teams will also be in attendance, marking the first time that two international teams will compete.
Since the Summer League began in 2004, TV ratings and attendance have continued to climb. Last year’s event, which featured nine of the top 10 players selected in the 2018 draft, set new attendance records and created massive amounts of social media buzz. Almost 140,000 attended Summer League games last year, a 9.5 percent increase from the 2017 record of 127,843. The second day of the tournament also featured the second single-game sellout in the event’s history with 17,500 attendees.
ESPN will air 43 games across its networks and every game on the ESPN App, while NBA TV is broadcasting 40 games to cater to the increasing demand after last year’s tournament was the most-watched yet, with a staggering 30.4 million hours viewed between the networks. There was a total of 565 million video views across all social media platforms, a 35 percent increase from 2017. Those numbers figure to increase with Williamson expected to make his debut with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Williamson and his former Duke teammate Barrett are slated to face each other on the event’s first day when Pelicans take on the New York Knicks. The following day, New Orleans will play the Washington Wizards and Rui Hachimura – the first Japanese-born player to be taken in the first round of the draft. Michael Porter Jr., the Denver Nuggets’ 2018 first round pick, is expected to make his eagerly awaited debut after missing the entire 2018-19 season due to injury.
For the second straight year, STATS will be there to track all of the action. STATS will collect live, in-game statistics and updates during each game and distribute the information via its industry-leading data feeds. Digital media outlets will be able to provide millions of fans up-to-the-second updates through customizable delivery methods on mobile devices. Fans will also remain engaged leading into the following day’s matchups with updated standings, team and player statistics, and much more.
Last year, the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the Summer League title game. Portland’s K.J. McDaniels took home MVP honors in the contest, while recently traded Laker Josh Hart was named Summer League MVP. Awards and performance in the event have shown to be a good indicator of future success as All-Stars such as Blake Griffin, Damian Lillard and John Wall have won Summer League MVPs. NBA MVPs Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook have each participated in the tournament.
STATS will be collecting and delivering data on every possession for the star-studded event.