The Las Vegas Summer League is a basketball oasis. It's a place for elbows to be rubbed, for deals to be brokered, for top draft picks to display their skills and for guys chasing the dream to show someone -- anyone -- that they can play in the league. Here's a look at the names to know in the Western Conference. The East is here.
Jae Crowder: A much better offensive player than initially advertised, Crowder is a guy who can knock in a 3 and cover three positions on the other end. Crowder plays with a certain kind of chaotic poise, which fits perfectly with the oxymoronic nature of summer league.
Ricky Ledo: You’ll hear plenty of alumni shout, “he should have stayed another year!” But no one can kvetch quite like the fine folks in Providence, who didn’t even get to see Ledo play once due to academic probation. A basketball vagabond in high school, Ledo is one big question mark.
Shane Larkin: The son of Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin has some silly athletic genes, as he blew everyone away by registering a 44-inch vertical at the combine. Larkin is a pick-and-roll ready point guard in the half court and a speed demon in transition, and this may be his best chance to show off his stuff with Jose Calderon and Devin Harris blocking his playing time once he leaves Las Vegas.
Evan Fournier: When Fournier was finally able to crack George Karl’s rotation last season, he scored in double digits in six of his last nine games. With Andre Iguodala gone and a new regime taking over in Denver, it’s Fournier’s time to prove that he's indispensable as a potent offensive option on the wing.
Erick Green: Twenty-five points a night in the ACC just doesn’t buy you what it used to, does it? The ACC co-player of the year and 46th pick of the draft is a low-mistake, high-usage combo guard who could turn into a killer sixth man down the line.
Jordan Hamilton: The Nuggets have a ton of promising young prospects on their roster, and Hamilton is yet another guy who can get hot in a hurry. He’s also a sneakerhead who appears to be starting a shoe room..
Craig Smith: The powerful 6-foot-5 big man is one of the most unique players you’ll ever see – he’s built like a rhino (hence the nickname), but he possesses a feathery soft touch around the rim. After playing overseas last year, Smith could make a return to the NBA if his back cooperates.
Kent Bazemore: No one provides a better blueprint for how to make it on a roster than Bazemore. He defends his tail off, he plays with a ton of energy and he’s a wonderful teammate. In fact, "Bazemoring" on the bench is coming to a video game near you.
Nemanja Nedovic: Nedovic has a knack for getting to the tin and throwing down some big time jams, causing some scouts to dub him the “European Derrick Rose.” Give the rook credit for a smart deflection on that front.
Reggie Bullock: Everyone wants to cheat off San Antonio's paper, and in an effort to find the next Danny Green, the Clippers decided to go straight to the supplier. Bullock is a big “3 and D” guy with the same Carolina blue in his veins, but as Green would tell you, the path to finding playing time as a role player isn’t always easy.
Brandon Davies: You probably remember Davies getting suspended for breaking BYU’s honor code, but he’s flown under the radar since then. A classic paint scorer and boarder, Davies has the profile of a rotation-quality big man.
Jerome Randle: Very few point guards shoot over 50 percent from the field for an entire season, but Randle did it once at Cal, once in the D-League and once for a top-level Belgium team with a logo that appears to be Calvin from “Calvin and Hobbes” in some kind of chef’s coat holding a basketball.
Robert Sacre: High-energy 7-footers who hit free throws always have a spot on an NBA roster, but Sacre's extracurricular activity is what makes him fun to watch. What will happen when Sacre plays for Lakers summer league coach and expert celebrator Mark Madsen? Hopefully the answer is dance-offs.
Chris Douglas-Roberts: If the Lakers are getting the band back together to pacify Kobe Bryant, they had might as well add versatile wing Chris Douglas-Roberts to the equation. Although CDR’s time with the Lakers was brief, he wrote candidly (or humble flashy?) about his time under Kobe's wing here.
Souleyman Diabate: Everyone go home -- we have a runaway winner for best name at summer league. Souleyman is a 6-foot point guard coming off his best season in France, but he’ll have a hard time getting shine over reigning summer league co-MVP Josh Selby. Still, he could probably fill the name gap Metta World Peace left behind.
Jamaal Franklin: He plays in long sleeves, he throws full speed alley-oops to himself off the backboard, he rebounds at a rate similar to that of Nerlens Noel and he wants to win more than anyone Steve Fisher has ever coached. Jamaal Franklin will grit and grind just fine.
Tony Wroten: Are the Grizzlies ready to trust Wroten with backup point guard duties and not sign a player on his last legs (Gilbert Arenas, Keyon Dooling) to play over him? Wroten could help his case by actually using his right hand more than once or twice a game, but it’s hard to deny that he usually gets where he wants to go.
Vander Blue: Lots of players get summer league invitations because of their pedigree, so it’s probably time to give defensive wings from Marquette the same treatment. Wes Matthews, Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder have all made their marks, and Vander Blue might be next.
Marqus Blakely: Did you know the Harlem Globetrotters actually have a draft? Blakely’s had cups of coffee with the Clippers and Rockets since being drafted by the Globetrotters in 2010, and the exceptional athlete and former college dunk contest champion most recently played in the Philippines, where he did a lot of what he does in this clip from the video game PBA2k12.
Gorgui Dieng: Players who can pass out of the high post, knock down a 15-footer and defend the rim are in low supply and high demand right now, and Dieng projects to be excellent at all of those things. He might not be a star, but he’ll stay in his lane.
Shabazz Muhammad: Drown out all the noise around Muhammad and you have a high-maintenance yet capable scorer who requires post touches or off-ball screens to get loose. It should be interesting to see how Muhammad works in a setting where other players will have his interests a little lower on their list of priorities.
Elston Turner, Jr.: The son of former NBA player and Suns assistant coach Elston Turner has the smooth, effortless outside stroke you’d expect from a coach’s son. The younger Turner also has pretty excellent style (check the M&M hoodie) and a strong hatred for overpriced waffles.
Jon Brockman: Brockman was a fan favorite during his stops in Sacramento and Milwaukee, and his passion for hitting the boards and his opponents is tough to match. If a team is looking for Reggie Evans Lite and offensive rebounds wholesale, Brockman is their man.
Austin Rivers: How do you recover from one of the worst rookie seasons ever? Baby steps. Rivers may feel like he’s competing with Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday for playing time in New Orleans, but he’d better be focused on outplaying fellow summer league invite Brian Roberts first.
P.J. Tucker: The everyman’s player. Tucker hustles like there’s no tomorrow, defends physically with incredible focus and doesn’t concede the ordinary things most every other player does. Rumor has it that he also sports a backpack collection to die for.
Kendall Marshall: New front office, new head coach, new start for Kendall Marshall. Likely to get all the reps he can handle, Marshall needs to show that he can shoot enough to get by, while also displaying his highly touted abilities as a distributor. His Twitter game, though? On point.
Archie Goodwin: Running will help Archie Goodwin, as he’s a great athlete who just doesn’t have the range on his jumper quite yet. What he might have instead, though, is a serious chip on his shoulder after watching his stock fall in one lone year at Kentucky.
C.J. McCollum: How did an elite scoring guard who can shoot off the dribble, get to the rack and light up defenses designed solely to stop him end up attending Lehigh instead of a major school? It might have something to do with McCollum being 5-foot-2 and looking like this in high school.
Allen Crabbe: The Blazers second unit was atrocious last year, and Crabbe looks to help a bunch with his elite use of screens and sharpshooting from deep. Crabbe may be a little one-dimensional, but as the old saying goes: If you can shoot, you can play.
Meyers Leonard: It can be very difficult for big men to shine in this guard-dominated setting, but Leonard spent most of his rookie season blending into the pack the same way he did in last year's summer league. He’s still a project figuring it out, but defensively and on the glass, it’s fair to expect more from that monster frame.
Ben McLemore: There’s a fine line between being unselfish and passive, and McLemore toed it often during his lone season at Kansas. While it’s still up in the air whether he can be a top scoring option, McLemore is already a fantastic spot-up shooter, great athlete and plus defender. His floor is pretty high.
Nick Minnerath: A recovering drug addict laces up his $15 dollar basketball shoes and drives 800 miles to attend a junior college open gym in the hopes that he’ll impress the coaches and get his basketball career and life back on track. You won’t hear many redemption stories like Nick Minnerath’s.
Ray McCallum: Minnerath’s college teammate at the University of Detroit always displayed great athleticism and the ability to finish at the rim, but his shooting stroke was a little spotty. If McCallum can consistently knock down jumpers, he’ll be trouble at the next level.
Ryan Richards: Young, mobile 7-footers with sweet strokes don’t come along all that often. Richards is still developing a feel for the game, but the Spurs may be storing another second-round gem overseas. You know, typical Spurs being Spurs stuff.
Deshaun Thomas: Refusing to give his phone number out to the Spurs, like they have anyone in the organization who talks anyway, was a risky move, but it paid off. Thomas is a natural scorer who can do it from all over the court -- he’s a real threat to finish among the leading point scorers of summer league.
Dexter Pittman: Not many guys with championship rings suit up in Las Vegas, but the former Miami Heat center needs to show he’s in good enough shape to warrant a roster spot. Pittman’s skills have never been in question.