Frequently Asked Questions: Summer League Frequently Asked Questions - Summer League

July 8, 2013

With the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas taking place July 12-22, it’s time to empty out the Twitter mailbag and try to address (in far more than 140 characters) some of fans’ most common questions. The Pelicans and New York Knicks open the league’s 61-game slate on July 12 with a 1 p.m. local tip-off (3 p.m. Central time).

Pelicans Summer League Central How does a team compile its roster?
Step 1 in stocking a summer roster is to get commitments from players with previous team experience who are working on developing their games. For the Pelicans, that includes 2012 lottery pick Austin Rivers, 20; second-round pick Darius Miller, 23; and backup forward Lance Thomas, 25. At 27, backup point guard Brian Roberts will be one of the older players at summer league, but he’ll look to continue to build on his stellar finish to the 2012-13 regular season. The remainder of teams’ rosters is comprised of rookie draft picks and free agents with overseas or D-League experience.

Is everyone on the roster “property” of the Pelicans?
No. Many players are assured of being with New Orleans only for summer league, with no commitment beyond that. Excluding players like Rivers – who is entering the second guaranteed year of his rookie contract – most roster members are free agents, able to sign with any NBA team. In fact, there are instances where a player has suited up in the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues, for two different teams. This month, for example, undrafted Temple wing Khalif Wyatt will play for the Philadelphia 76ers (in Orlando) and Dallas Mavericks (in Las Vegas). The Orlando league is from July 7-12, meaning it overlaps only one day with the Las Vegas circuit.

Can the Pelicans sign their summer players to contracts?
Yes, but technically they have no advantage on any of the other 29 NBA teams when negotiating with their own summer-leaguers. Sure, loyalty to the team that gave a player his summer-league opportunity may factor into decisions by a player and his agent, but that’s not always the case.

To use one real-life example, during the 2008 Las Vegas league, point guard Bobby Brown excelled as a New Orleans summer player. Although New Orleans had interest in signing him to an NBA deal, when the Sacramento Kings offered Brown a two-year guaranteed contract, the Cal State-Fullerton product quickly signed. Unfortunately for Brown, after playing in the NBA those two years from 2008-10, he’s had to continue his pro career overseas.

Conversely, Roberts was invited to play for New Orleans’ summer squad in 2012 and performed well enough for the team to invite him to fall training camp. Roberts spent the entire 2012-13 NBA season with New Orleans, appearing in 78 games and logging 1,324 minutes.

What’s the goal of summer league?
It’s primarily about player development. Of course, all competitive coaches and athletes want to win, but that’s generally been of lesser importance compared to seeing players improve and work on specific aspects of their skill set in game situations.

The 2013 format for Las Vegas summer league has a new wrinkle, though, which could influence teams to put slightly more emphasis on winning. After pool play that will take place from July 12-16, the 22 teams will be seeded from 1 through 22, setting the stage for a single-elimination tournament that commences July 17. On July 22, a summer league champion will be crowned, in a prime-time title game broadcast by NBA TV. Although it remains to be seen how much coaches will alter their decision-making and playing-time allotments based on the carrot of a championship, the brand-new setup should give the event a clearer overall direction. In past years, teams that went undefeated at 5-0 could take pride in doing so, but that was about it. Crowning a champion should make the games and tournament outcome at least somewhat more noteworthy.

Who are some of the non-obvious Pelicans players to watch?
Jon Brockman spent last season overseas, but prior to that he was in the NBA for three consecutive years, with Sacramento and Milwaukee. He is the University of Washington’s all-time leading rebounder … Montana product Will Cherry was deemed an intriguing NBA prospect during a stellar career at the Big Sky Conference school, but a broken foot negatively impacted him as a senior. He was the 82nd-ranked prospect on’s “Big Board,” but went undrafted last month. … Tamir Jackson was a top-200 high school prospect in the 2009 class and wrapped up his college career at Rice as the program’s sixth-leading scorer of all time. … Elston Turner Jr. finished third in the SEC in scoring average in 2012-13, ranking behind only the mercurial Marshall Henderson of Ole Miss and Detroit Pistons lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Georgia.