Day 3 of the Las Vegas Summer League generated the most buzz simply because it was John Wall's debut. The Cox Pavilion was sold out for the first time that I can remember, and the media scrum around Wall afterwards was bigger than most regular-season media scrums.
But Day 4 is probably when the real NBA Summer League begins. For the first time, both the Cox Pavilion and the bigger Thomas and Mack gymnasium are open, as 14 teams are in action. Here's a quick rundown of some things to watch today:
(Also see: Ridiculous Upside's preview).
4:00 p.m. EDT: Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks
So far in Summer League: The Lakers are 0-2, losing 89-84 to the Pistons on Friday and 92-74 to the Nuggets on Saturday. The Knicks are 0-1 after a 100-90 loss to Denver on Sunday.
Best player for each team: Derrick Caracter is proving to everyone why the Lakers got a steal with the third-to-last pick of the 2010 Draft. Caracter had his second straight double-double against the Nuggets on Saturday and is showing a remarkable ability to adapt even to the Summer League version of the Triangle offense. He's also extremely mobile changing ends and can finish with either hand.
Toney Douglas emerged at the end of last season for the Knicks, and he carried that momentum over to Summer League. Going up against Denver's super-quick Ty Lawson, Douglas dropped 27 points and carried the Knicks' offense the entire night. He struggled defending Lawson, but offensively, he was spectacular.
Key players to watch: LA's Devin Ebanks looks like former Lakers' small forward Trevor Ariza and plays like him too. Ebanks has flashed an improved jump shot and continues to show his defensive versatility. He has an interesting matchup today in New York's Bill Walker, who struggled big-time yesterday.
Two guys you might not know: DJ Strawberry has starred in Summer League before, but hasn't been able to stick in the league. The Lakers might be his best and last chance, considering he's a combo guard and combo guards do well in the Triangle offense. For the Knicks, keep an eye on second-round pick Andy Rautins, who can really shoot, but needs to prove he can do other things too.
6:00 p.m. EDT: Sacramento Kings vs. Detroit Pistons
So far in Summer League: The Kings are playing their first game. The Pistons are 2-0, having defeated the Lakers 89-84 on Friday and the Warriors 89-69 on Saturday.
Best player for each team: Detroit's Austin Daye and Sacramento's Omri Casspi are two very intriguing small forwards who were picked in the first round of the 2009 Draft. Daye has been very impressive thus far in Vegas, showing a smooth offensive touch and a diverse offensive game. He may have some trouble against Casspi, though. Casspi faded a bit last year after a great start to his rookie campaign, but he's also a creative offense player that is tough to defend.
Key players to watch: Obviously, DeMarcus Cousins is the guy for Sacramento. Today is the first chance we'll get to finally get some answers to many of the questions surrounding him. Is he in shape? Can he score and rebound like he did in college when going up against more athletic players? Will he play good defense or resort to fouling? Will he yell at his coach? Summer League is not the kind of game that lends itself well to post-up big men, which has to be considered if Cousins does struggle.
Speaking of struggling, Detroit's own lottery pick, Greg Monroe, has not looked particularly great in Las Vegas thus far. His lack of strength is killing him, particularly on the boards, and he's committed several careless turnovers. However, the Pistons coaching staff said they saw legitimate improvement in the second half of Saturday's game and are encouraged he can continue to improve. Going up against Cousins is going to be a challenge for him.
Two guys you might not know: Okay, so you probably know Donte Greene, but the Sacramento small forward is back out here again hoping to nail down a spot in the Kings' future. He had a very promising season last year and has dominated Summer League in the past.
Detroit's win over the Warriors was fueled by former Louisville point guard Edgar Sosa. Sosa did a great job of breaking down Golden State's defense, both in the half court and in transition. He was a bit too erratic at Louisville, but Summer League is his kind of game.
6:30 p.m. EDT: San Antonio Spurs vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
So far in Summer League: Both teams are playing their first game.
Best player on each team: DeJuan Blair is the clear headliner for the Spurs, so expect a lot of physical play, rebounding and toughness from him. Minnesota brings back point guard Jonny Flynn, who was very impressive here last season.
Key players to watch: The Spurs decided to bring back Alonzo Gee last year after the Wizards decided to let him go. He was very impressive in limited time in D.C. last year and has a ton of potential as an athletic swingman.
Fourth overall pick Wesley Johnson is the clear guy to watch for the Timberwolves. The knock on Johnson is that he's not a good ball-handler and struggles to create his own shot. With Flynn on the team, we probably won't get many answers to those questions, but Johnson does need to prove he deserved to be picked ahead of Cousins and so many other acclaimed big men.
Two guys you might not know: The Spurs have historically been very high on former Maryland forward James Gist, but he hasn't quite broken through and earned a spot on the regular-season roster. This might be his last chance to showcase his skills for the Spurs.
Minnesota's frontcourt features two recent lottery disappointments in Cedric Simmons and Patrick O'Bryant. The Timberwolves don't have many other options up front, so both will have their chance to shed the bust label this summer.
8:00 p.m. EDT: Dallas Mavericks vs. Milwaukee Bucks
So far in Summer League: The Mavericks are 0-2, having lost 88-70 to Denver on Friday and 87-78 to Houston on Saturday. The Bucks are playing their first game.
Best player on each team: Rodrigue Beaubois was much better on Saturday than he was on Friday, raining long three-pointers and showing his incredible quickness going to the hoop. Beaubois' passing off the pick and roll has to improve, but considering his rare combination of end-to-end speed and a quick first step, he's borderline unstoppable in some of these games.
The Bucks don't have a ton of top-level talent on the roster, so rookie forward Larry Sanders is probably the best player on the roster. The 15th overall pick in the 2010 Draft will have his chance to showcase his shot-blocking ability today.
Key players to watch: First-round draft pick Dominique Jones has really shown off his versatile all-around offensive game, whether it's running pick and roll, slashing to the hoop off someone else's penetration or even spotting up for long jumpers. Once his decision-making improves, he'll be even more lethal.
Second-round pick Darington Hobson has a wide range of skills, much like Ohio State's Evan Turner. With Milwaukee lacking a true point guard, Hopson could even get a chance to run the offense.
Two guys you might not know: Omar Samhan clearly is lacking in the athleticism department, but he's showing that his refined post game at St. Mary's may indeed translate well to the NBA. He had 17 points and six rebounds against Houston on Saturday, outdueling former lottery pick Jordan Hill at times.
Former first-round pick Alando Tucker hasn't stuck in Phoenix or Minnesota. Now, he's trying to stick for his hometown Bucks. Scott Skiles does love defensive-oriented wing players, so Tucker probably picked the right team to make his mark.
8:30 p.m. EDT: Phoenix Suns vs. NBA D-League Select
So far in Summer League: The Suns are 0-2, with blowout losses to Houston on Friday and Toronto on Saturday. The D-League select team is playing their first game. Ridiculous Upside has a full breakdown of the D-League roster, so we'll focus exclusively on the Suns.
Best player on each team: Earl Clark remains the most highly-acclaimed Suns player, but he has been very unimpressive in his first two Summer League games. He continues to shoot too many jump shots, and assistant coach Dan Majerle even called out his conditioning after Saturday's loss. With yesterday's acquisitions of Josh Childress and Hedo Turkoglu, it looks like Clark is sliding even further down the depth chart.
Key players to watch: We talked about Zabian Dowdell here. With Leandro Barbosa heading to Toronto, Dowdell has a real chance to make the roster in the fall.
Someone you might not know: The one guy who has impressed for Phoenix is Gani Lawal. Lawal's ability to score in the post is not surprising, but his tenacity on the boards is. He may not fit Phoenix's style of play, but he can definitely stick in this league somewhere.
10:00 p.m. EDT: Washington Wizards vs. Los Angeles Clippers
So far in Summer League: The Wizards won their Summer League debut 84-79 last night over the Warriors. The Clippers are playing their first game.
Best player on each team: For the Wizards, it's John Wall of course. Bullets Forever has more on his first game here.
For the Clippers, it's probably DeAndre Jordan. Jordan remains a project, but he's shown some flashes of brilliance on the NBA level.
Key players to watch: JaVale McGee was very impressive in the Wizards' first game yesterday, finishing several of Wall's lob passes with thunderous dunks. His defensive fundamentals still need work, but he also looks to be in much better shape and definitely showed consistent activity on both ends of the floor.
Tonight marks the debut for first-round picks Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe. It should be interesting for Bledsoe in particular, considering he's going up against his college teammate. That should be fun to watch.
Two players you might not know: Tiny Jerome Randle of California put on a nice little show in the second quarter for the Wizards last night, and while he might not play as much because Nick Young is expected to suit up, he will certainly make for some exciting moments if and when he does come on.
You should also keep an eye on the eclectic Clippers' frontcourt duo of Sofoklis Schortsanitis (aka Baby Shaq) and Rod Benson, the outspoken, hilarious big man prospect of Too Much Rod Benson fame.
10:30 p.m. EDT: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Atlanta Hawks
So far in Summer League: Both teams are playing their first game.
Best player on each team: It's possible O.J. Mayo is the best player to be playing in Summer League, period. So why is he here? The Grizzlies are going to ask him to play point guard and run the offense, and there's no better time to learn to do that than in Summer League.
He'll be going up against Atlanta's Jeff Teague, who got a little bit of playing time last year, but needs to make a good impression this summer to take the next step.
Key players to watch: First-round draft pick Xavier Henry will likely start alongside Mayo, giving Memphis a star-studded backcourt that could really be a terror defensively. If Mayo is indeed moving to the point, that opens up a spot in the regular-season starting lineup for Henry. This is his chance to seize that spot.
Speaking of shooting guards, this is the first time we'll see Atlanta's Jordan Crawford. He was able to score in bunches in college, but can he do the same in the NBA? One thing's for sure: the Grizzlies cannot leave him open behind the three-point line.
Two players you might not know: In a lot of ways, Maryland's Greivis Vasquez is stuck, because the Grizzlies have Mayo and Henry playing his position in Summer League. On the other hand, Vasquez has touted himself as the kind of guy who plays better with better teammates. This is his chance to show that.
James Augustin has been around the block, having played for Orlando, among other teams. The Hawks need extra big men, though, and he's the best one on the team's Summer League roster.