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This week we’ll make better use of our time by handicapping the remaining action at the Las Vegas Summer League, which has already seen the cream of the crop separate themselves.

Sharp bettors may have already cashed in on riding the Lakers “homecourt” advantage at the Thomas & Mack Center or by fading the embarrassing Kings, who were outscored by 53 points over their first two games.

Because nearly 80 percent of the NBA’s teams are in Vegas, games are spread out and the first few contests serve to determine seeding for the 24-team tournament that begins this Wednesday.

Games are played on the Thomas & Mack Center floor and on another court at the Cox Pavilion and are being aired on NBATV and the WatchESPN mobile app. All action will be at Thomas & Mack from the quarterfinal on, concluding with a championship game July 18.

San Antonio won last year’s event and has to be considered the favorite since the top two players off that team, Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons, return in prominent roles. Rookie first-round pick Dejounte Murray, who slipped and might be the steal of the draft, has looked impressive at guard.

The Celtics, who have been led by guard Terry Rozier, No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown and fellow forwards Jordan Mickey and Guerschon Yabusele, have impressive depth, so starting 0-2 in Vegas after going 3-0 in Utah shouldn’t discourage you going forward since they’ll likely be formidable.

Phoenix has looked extremely sharp, demonstrating great size and athleticism as first-round selections Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss both look the part. Devin Booker may be the best player participating in Summer League play and averaged 26 points through the first two games while meshing with rookie point guard Tyler Ulis. Backing the Suns appears a solid play.

Denver has a formidable group in play since starting guards Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris are participating, joined by rookie shooter Jamal Murray and foreign imports Petr Cornelie and Juancho Hernangomez. The Nuggets may elect not to play their actual starting backcourt for the duration of this event, so you have to monitor their availability before placing any wagers.

The Los Angeles Lakers really took advantage of the homecourt feel Las Vegas affords them, since their fan base always shows up to embrace the Purple and Gold. Building blocks DeAngelo Russell and No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram are playing their first games together.

Forward Larry Nance Jr. and rookie center Ivica Zubac have shown they can be solid rim protectors, so this group is going to be a tough out.

Other teams that have looked impressive include Norman Powell-led Toronto, as the former UCLA star continues his steady ascent with the Raptors, flanked by former University of Utah standouts Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright. Chicago started well thanks to a deep group led by lottery pick Denzel Valentine and the promising Bobby Portis, while teams from Atlanta and Dallas also seem to have more depth than others in the field.

No. 1 pick Ben Simmons lost each of his games with the 76ers, but definitely looks like he’s going to be a dominant pro, blessed with superior vision and passing skills to go along with a terrific frame.

The Kings have been the team to fade, but New Orleans has also looked rough since Buddy Hield has packed a shooting slump with him as he’s embarked on his pro career. The Timberwolves have unexpectedly struggled despite rookie Kris Dunn’s brilliance, but I wouldn’t pick on them in a one-and-done scenario.


About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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