John Locher / AP
Thursday, July 5, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The NBA Summer League is populated by all kinds of players. There are rookie hotshots looking to show what they can do, young veterans who have been around the block trying to keep their foot in the door, and unheralded kids who are just trying to catch the eye of a team that will give them a chance and maybe extend a training camp invitation.
For local basketball fans with Vegas-centric rooting interests, every conceivable archetype will be represented at the Thomas & Mack Center over the next 11 days. As the league begins its 82-game schedule on Friday, a look at some notable players to watch and where you can catch them over the first weekend:
Troy Brown, Washington Wizards
If Brown, a former Centennial star, is to make the transition to NBA star, showing some flashes this week would be a great start. He’s certainly excited to get started — Brown was selected No. 15 overall by Washington in the NBA draft a few weeks ago, and one of the first things the 6-foot-7 swingman said after hearing his name called was that he couldn’t wait to get back to Vegas for summer league to play in front of his hometown fans.
Games: Friday, 6 p.m. at Cox Pavilion vs. Cleveland Cavaliers; Sunday, 12:30 p.m. at Thomas & Mack vs. San Antonio Spurs.
Brandon McCoy, Milwaukee Bucks
There is a lot on the line for McCoy this summer. He took a lot of heat from UNLV fans when he declared for the NBA after one productive season with the Runnin’ Rebels, and the 7-footer was not selected on draft night. Now Milwaukee is giving him a chance to prove he belongs, and if McCoy can make a few outside shots and defend the rim in summer league, he’s got a good chance of earning a camp invitation for a Bucks team that is light on big men. He is playing for his NBA future.
Games: Friday, 4 p.m. at Cox Pavilion vs. Detroit Pistons; Sunday, 4 p.m. at Cox Pavilion vs. Dallas Mavericks.
Zach Collins, Portland Trail Blazers
Former Bishop Gorman big man Collins was a lottery pick two years ago, and after a promising rookie season with the Trail Blazers (4.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 15.8 minutes per game), he’s looking for a breakout summer performance to launch him into his sophomore campaign. Collins is the clear focal point of Portland’s summer roster and should get every opportunity to showcase his inside-outside game.
Games: Saturday, 12 p.m. at Cox Pavilion vs. Utah Jazz; Sunday, 2:30 p.m. at Thomas & Mack Center vs. Atlanta Hawks.
Derrick Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Ike Nwamu, Miami Heat
The Heat are rostering three former Runnin’ Rebels, but not all are on equal footing. Nwamu is trying to crack an NBA roster for the first time after two productive years in the G-League, and Vaughn is trying to make it stick with his fourth NBA team since being drafted in the first round in 2015. Jones, however, appears to have found a home. After going undrafted in 2016, he has bounced between the NBA and the G-League for two years, but last week he finally signed a guaranteed NBA contract with the Heat worth $1.5 million for the 2018-19 season. Jones celebrated by doing this in the California Classic summer league a few days later:
Even if they weren’t former Rebels, Nwamu and especially Jones are worth the price of a day pass just for their dunking ability alone.
Games: Saturday, 2 p.m. at Cox Pavilion vs. New Orleans Pelicans; Sunday, 2 p.m. at Cox Pavilion vs. Charlotte Hornets.
Khem Birch, Orlando Magic
Like Jones, Birch is a former Rebel made good. He left school a year early and went undrafted in 2014, and after three years of bouncing around various developmental leagues he finally caught on in Orlando, suiting up for 42 games last season. Last week, the 6-foot-9 power forward inked a guaranteed $1.38-million deal for the 2018-19 campaign with the Magic. Now that he’s got some amount of career security, Birch can use the summer league to get up to speed with the Magic system and enjoy rejecting shots at the Mack again, as he ranks No. 2 on UNLV’s all-time blocks list.
Games: Friday, 2 p.m. at Cox Pavilion vs. Brooklyn Nets; Sunday, 6:30 p.m. at Thomas & Mack Center vs. Memphis Grizzlies.