What is the NBA Summer League?
When is the NBA Summer League?
Following the NBA Draft, usually in mid-to-late June of each year, the NBA Summer League competition is run from the start to mid-July. However, due to delayed NBA season in 2020, the 2021 NBA Summer League may be cancelled for the first time since its official launch in 2002.
How is the NBA Summer League Different?
Compared to the standard NBA season, the NBA Summer League has a keen focus on showcasing the top draft picks, young NBA players and free agents from around the world. It’s the ideal opportunity for rookies to show off their talents to fans and talent scouts.
Likewise, free agents, players who are not tied to a particular team such as those not chosen as a draft pick, can also play. This means that teams who want to see a free agent in action before offering them a contract can do so in the early games of the NBA Summer League.
This has happened a number of times, notably for Jeremy Lin and Gary Neal in 2010. Lin played as a free agent for the Dallas Mavericks in the Summer League, which he was then offered for by the Golden State Warriors after his performance. Similarly, Neal donned the Spurs jersey in the Summer League which they then offered him a contract after his breakout game.
Coaches are also able to get to know their new recruits better during the Summer League—giving them a better, more hands-on understanding of a new draft pick’s playstyle, strengths and weaknesses.
Alongside the focus on rookies, there are a few key differences between the standard and summer NBA leagues:
- NBA Summer League games are 40 minutes long, unlike usual NBA matches which are 48 minutes.
- Multiple 5-minute overtime periods can be added to the game, the first being played in its entirety and the rest true sudden death.
- An MVP and winning team are named in the final tournament in Las Vegas; however, the focus is still on individual player performance.
How Does the NBA Summer League Work?
Unlike the standard season, the NBA Summer League is actually a series of smaller tournaments. Coinciding at the same time at the start of July, the Salt Lake City Summer League and California Classic offer round-robin exhibition matches for their involved teams.
Once the first two summer leagues have finished, the Las Vegas Summer League features all 30 NBA teams. Each team is guaranteed five games, giving rookies an opportunity to showcase their talents. Based on the number of wins a team has in these opening rounds, eight teams are then chosen to a single-elimination playoff.
How Much Do Players Get Paid for Participating in the NBA Summer League?
While players who participate in the NBA Summer League are not paid a traditional salary, they are reported to have their room, board and transportation costs covered by the sponsoring club. Likewise, players are also given compensation for food costs during the competition.
The NBA Summer League offers young players, free agents and aspiring rookies the opportunity of a lifetime to get on the hardwood in front of talent scouts, prospective teams and die-hard fans. Many of these recruits are sure to become household names amongst the greats in years to come.
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