NBA Summer League games begin Friday in Las Vegas, which is like the opening day of the NCAA Tournament for fans who can’t get enough of watching NBA prospects fighting for roster spots. Lottery players vs. undrafted nobodies, the guaranteed vs. the scrappy. It’s a preview of the next young crop of players who will shape the league. Off all the 23 teams and all of around 300 players involved who aren’t the top pick Anthony Davis, these are the top five most interesting players to watch.
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5. BERNARD JAMES, DALLAS
As one of the most inspiring stories of the NBA Draft and one of its most raw players, James is a player most effective on defense. I want to see his development getting touches on offense, though. At Florida State he and Chris Singleton helped frustrate opposing defenses two years ago, and last year he became the floor general (military pun intended). What is most intriguing about James is the dynamic he’ll be surrounded with as a 27-year-old rookie with intense discipline from his military days. He’s 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan and could be challenging shots all the time in Las Vegas.
4. ROYCE WHITE, HOUSTON
Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and White are going a very fun trio to watch when they open Friday against Toronto. While Houston is doing everything it can to get Dwight Howard still, they’ve got a promising young forward in White to keep an eye on. White held his own against Kentucky in Iowa State’s NCAA Tournament matchup, which would bode well for his first appearance of pro ball considering Kentucky’s talent last season. Regardless of what Houston does with its nearly 20 players, White is the most interesting pick of the three because of his maturity and roughshod playing style.
3. WILL BARTON, PORTLAND
The 40th pick out of Memphis has already gone on record as saying he is not happy that he fell to the second round of June’s NBA Draft. As far as Portland’s summer league management is concerned, no more motivation should be needed for the Conference USA player of the year. Seeing lottery pick Damian Lillard go against non-Big Sky Conference opponents will be of interest for Portland fans just as much, but Barton could go off. He averaged 18 points and six boards a game for Memphis last season and I expect him to be in that range again beginning Sunday against New Orleans.