On Friday night, Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers take the court in Las Vegas to tip-off their 2017 NBA Summer League campaign.
Ball expects to lead the Lakers for the foreseeable future as the new face of the franchise, and Friday night in Nevada is the first look at the no. 2 pick playing point guard and leading the Lakers--even if it is only the Summer League.
Unquestionably, Ball is the star attraction in the desert tournament, as the Lakers take on the LA Clippers on Friday night and the Boston Celtics on Saturday night in what has recently turned into a premier Lakers' off-season attraction. Fans of the team make the annual pilgrimage from far and wide for the event.
With the Lakers landing the no. 2 pick in back-to-back-to-back seasons and spending four straight years in the NBA lottery, fans have increasingly flocked to Las Vegas every July to fill up the Thomas & Mack Center with purple and gold jerseys. With Ball and Ingram in the lineup, Saturday promises a big crowd that should force open the upper deck of the arena for the second straight year.
Traditionally, the NBA Summer League is only reserved for first and second-year players, along with a select number of young talents from the NBA Development League, which recently re-branded to the NBA G-League. The Lakers feature one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, so LA has a stacked roster with Ball and Ingram making the Lakers favorites in a town where that sort of claim requires numbers to back it up.
As of July 1, the Lakers and Phoenix Suns were co-favorites to win the tournament with 6/1 odds. As the crowds and money flow in over the weekend, the Lakers should edge the Suns as outright favorites. The LA Clippers, meanwhile, were 20/1 to win the NBA Summer League.
Despite notoriously underperforming in Las Vegas, the Lakers have a strong enough roster to justify their status in 2017. Ball and Ingram may be the headliners, but Ivica Zubac returns after standing out in the summer games a year ago. LA also has the 2017 NBA D-League MVP in Vander Blue on the roster, so the team features some of the more polished talent in the field.
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Add in David Nwaba to go along with three rookies in Kyle Kuzma, Thomas Bryant and Josh Hart--two of which stayed in school long enough to become upperclassmen--and the Lakers should have arguably the strongest squad in Las Vegas.
Anything short of winning the tournament would be a disappointment considering the talent, but ultimately, the Summer League is about watching particular players shine, so results of the games ultimately do not matter. That said, no one is playing to lose, and the Lakers will have the crowd in the stands and talent on the court on their side.
For the local Pac-12 fans, the Lakers' Summer League squad also features former UCLA Bruin Travis Wear and former Arizona Wildcat Gabe York.
The Lakers and Clippers tip-off at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time with the game broadcast on ESPN and Spectrum SportsNet.