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 are the names to know from teams in the East. The West is here.
Dennis Schroeder: Three years ago, Schroeder lost his father to heart failure. Before he died, the German guard promised his dad that he would someday make it to the NBA to help support the family. It’s hard not to root for the electric young point guard to succeed.
John Jenkins: After a pretty solid rookie season in which he shot 38 percent from behind the arc, Jenkins will need to work on his pump-and-go game to become a well-rounded scorer. His nickname, Johnny Cash, might be the best at summer league.
Mike Muscala: There’s nothing that the four-year center from Bucknell does poorly on the court, but he doesn’t do anything great either. Jack-of-all-trades types usually have trouble filling roles, but Muscala is a consistent outside jumper away from being a solid stretch big man.
Cody Zeller: Another year at summer league, another new Zeller to watch. Cody is following in the footsteps of his brothers Luke and Tyler, and much attention will be given to how well he shoots. Al Jefferson is the mayor of the left block in every NBA city, so Zeller will need to add range and be good defensively to make the pairing simpatico.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: The Bobcats haven’t exactly been fun to watch over the past few years. MKG doesn’t help when he throws up that wounded duck of a jumper, but it’s wise to be patient so you can witness nasty jams like this one. He has a lot to fix, but the rebounding and defense should make MKG a valuable contributor soon enough.
Jamie Skeen: The former VCU big man may not get a ton of playing time in this setting, but perhaps that will push him toward another career. Like Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez and others before him, Skeen may look into making the transition from college hoops to the NFL.
Marquis Teague: Little brothers unite! Jeff Teague’s younger brother, Marquis, played well in limited time last season for the Bulls, so Chicago will see whether it can strike it rich again by inviting Tony Allen’s younger brother, Ryan, and Carlos Boozer’s younger brother, Charles, to Las Vegas. If Charles and Ryan are half as vocal as their brothers, we’re all in for a treat.
Erik Murphy: Sometimes player comparisons can get a little wacky, but Murphy is a Matt Bonner clone all the way. The stretch big man shot 45 percent from behind the arc in his final season at Florida, so he could be a useful situational player this season if his defense is up to par.
Tony Snell: Here’s another long wing defender with an underrated jumper for Tom Thibodeau to play with. That’s a frightening proposition for opposing wings out East.
Dion Waiters: Can a Waiters-Kyrie Irving backcourt work? Both players need the ball to really produce, which has led some to believe that Waiters should be more of a sixth man than a starting shooting guard. Waiters will be the rare player in summer league who could benefit from a “less is more” mentality. He simply has to get more efficient.
Josh Heytvelt: The former Gonzaga standout never really recovered his pro potential after an embarrassing drug suspension, but he’s had success overseas as an athletic big man who can stretch the floor. He's also the only player in Vegas to have ever dunked on me, so that's fun.
Matthew Dellavedova: Another West Coast Conference standout, Dellavedova worships at the altar of Steve Nash. The diminutive Aussie guard with the wild hair and the sweet stroke is also a big believer in the power of the high five -- just like Nash.
James Ennis: It’s all about that 3 and D. Ennis could fill a valuable role for the Heat off the bench as a great defender and athlete who doesn’t kill the spacing Miami so desperately craves. Miami is the only team to play in both the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues, and Ennis has already made an impression with many.
Jarvis Varnado: Respect the ring! Varnado won some jewelry with the Heat last season, but the big time shot-blocker will need to show some sort of offensive skills to warrant playing time in the future, lest he go the way of Joel Anthony.
Jackie Carmichael: This guy is a grinder. The battle for rebounds can get awfully ugly with everyone fighting tooth and nail for his shot, but not many guys will work harder or be more physical than Carmichael on the glass.
John Henson: If only Milwaukee’s frontcourt weren’t so crowded last season, Henson might have joined the discussion for the rookie of the year. Check out his per-36 numbers last season: 16.5 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks with an 18.2 player efficiency rating. That’s Anthony Davis territory.
Andreja Milutinovic: The Serbian wing can stretch the floor and be a complementary scorer, which might interest a Bucks team that lost Mike Dunleavy. He also apparently has a thing for taking pictures of road signs.
Ish Smith: Don’t be surprised to see the #FreeIshSmith hashtag on Twitter revived once again. Smith has bounced around the league a lot already, but he’s a natural passer with some freakish athletic ability. If only he could shoot ...
C.J. Leslie: How does a lottery-type talent fall out of the draft entirely? Teams are concerned about what’s above the shoulders more than anything else. Focus and desire is typically a requisite for guys scrapping for a roster spot, but this wouldn’t be the first time Leslie checked out mentally at a critical time.
Tim Hardaway Jr.: The swingman showed the chops of a competent role player at Michigan. He can shoot, he can defend, and he’s content with taking a backseat to other players. That’s a positive trait for a team that features J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony.
Jeremy Tyler: We’ve heard some of the success stories of players taking alternate routes to the NBA in the era of the age minimum, but Tyler is currently on the wrong side of the ledger. He skipped his senior year of high school to play overseas and has failed to make an impact since. At just 22 years old, there’s still time to turn it around.
Jonas Valanciunas: As Zach Lowe profiled in his look at Toronto’s analytics department, Valanciunas has the mobility and athleticism to make up for a ton of his positioning mistakes. Once Valanciunas gets a better grasp of where he’s supposed to be, the big man can be a force defensively and a great screener and active cutter on offense.
Terrence Ross: Let’s not pretend to be too good to enjoy a good old-fashioned dunk show. Last season's slam dunk champion is a phenomenal in-game dunker as well, and his ability to shoot the 3 makes him a constant threat to blow by his man and detonate at the rim. Watch this example, if for nothing else than the bizarre music choice.
Coby Karl: The league should have a Karl in it at all times. With his father, George, out in Denver, Coby may the fill the void. A summer league veteran if there ever was one, Karl is a 30-year-old point guard with NBA, D-League and overseas experience.
Otto Porter Jr.: A throwback to a time when things were a little simpler, Porter is probably the only American-born player at summer league to never play on the AAU circuit. His game is as old-school as his path to the pros; Porter likens himself to be a Tayshaun Prince, glue-guy-type player.
Glen Rice Jr.: The son of one of the most prolific behind the arc bombers of all time reinvigorated what looked like a dwindling career by averaging 25 points, 9.5 boards and 4.3 assists in the D-League playoffs. When Washington selected Rice with the 35th pick, he became the highest D-League pick in draft history.
Jan Vesely: The highest pick from the 2011 draft to be playing in summer league, Vesely has seen his career go downhill since that smooch in the green room and the proclamation that “Blake Griffin is the American Jan Vesely.” Just knocking in free throws (30.8 percent last year) and avoiding fouls (6.4 per 36 minutes) would satiate most Wizards fans at this point.