© USA TODAY Sports

Longtime readers of mine (back to my RealGM days) will know that each year that I attended NBA Summer League, I came home with an overflowing notebook of items from talking to people around the NBA. These can be notes about players, teams, the league as whole or really anything related to the NBA.

Summer League is a very relaxed environment. The draft is done, free agency is largely done (especially this year!) and NBA folks are chatty. It’s also probably the most optimistic time of the NBA calendar. Everyone feels great about the work they did in the offseason and what it means for their club going forward. Admittedly paraphrasing, it’s very common to hear things like:

  • “We had him at the top of board.” (Note: This is said almost no matter what pick the team had.)

  • “The draft fell off right after pick X.” (Note: This is at whatever pick the team had, traded up to, or the pick after a pick they traded out of.)

  • “We were lucky he wanted to sign with us.” (Note: Said about almost every free agent signee.)

  • “We feel good about what we did, given our limited resources this summer.” (Note: Said by teams with cap space, teams without cap space, teams that only had veteran minimum deals to offer and teams that had multiple draft picks.)

With that in mind, the vast majority of the notes about players and teams will be positive ones. But that’s ok! Who can’t use a little more positivity in their life?

A few more notes:

  • All quotes are anonymous. Each one came from NBA team personnel (generally a front office executive, coach or assistant coach). In exchange for anonymity, you often get candidness.

  • Anything that is an opinion from myself will be noted as such with “Opinion: …”.

  • In the vast majority of cases, these notes and thoughts were collected through Tuesday, July 11. A handful of times, folks followed up after the fact with further thoughts, but most were collected while I was on the ground in Las Vegas.

All of that said, let’s start with some general NBA observations!

General NBA Observations


  • “It’s restricting, but you can see the impact already. None of the Warriors, Suns or Clippers signed anyone new for more than the minimum. That’s a good thing for balance.”

  • “Everyone is over the salary floor. That’s almost never the case. That’s a good thing, because those teams spent to lift themselves up.”

  • “The league already feels more balanced. No one team is spending tens of millions more than everyone else. No teams are sitting on piles of cap space.”

  • “The Second Round Pick Exception is a game changer. We were able to use it and use our MLE. That’s extra talent we added because we didn’t have to use the MLE to sign our second rounder.”

  • Opinion: The Second Round Pick Exception has been used to sign 13 players to four-year contracts. That’s already a huge win for teams, and most of those players got more guaranteed money than they would have otherwise. That’s a win-win situation.

  • “Extensions have changed the game. Of course, that happened before the new CBA, but the new rules make extensions even better for players. You’re not going to see too many guys actually hit free agency.”

  • “Trades are the way now, if you want to make a big splash. Maybe for a bad team, like Houston did, you can use space to get some veterans. But most teams aren’t in a spot to pay or overpay for guys. That means trades will be even more important than they were before.”

Depth of Talent

  • “This is the most talent the league has ever had. Look at the guys who are playing here in Vegas. These rosters are stacked.”

  • “We’ve never been in a better place as a whole. There’s incredible young talent in the league, and vets are playing longer than ever before. I tell our guys all the time ‘It’s hard to find a rotation spot now. If you aren’t playing, it doesn’t mean you can’t play. It’s just not your time yet.’ But the young kids don’t want to hear that. They get impatient and start looking for another situation. The grass isn’t always greener.”


  • “It’s time. Beyond time actually. We have too many good players not playing. And there are at least 50 guys playing outside of the NBA somewhere, in places like the G League or overseas, that are NBA-level guys.”

  • “There are cities who want it and we have enough talent. It’s time. I know they keep saying after the new TV deal, but the process should already be starting. We all know it’s coming.”

  • “I want expansion because I want more jobs for everyone. Players, coaches, medical staff, front office personnel, TV folks, all sorts of people. Expansion will add hundreds of jobs to the league. Too much talent not in our league that should be.”

  • “I’m against expansion. I’d rather have too many good players on each team than not enough. But I know it’s coming.”

  • Opinion: Las Vegas is buzzing about getting their own NBA team. Most folks assume it’s basically a done deal, even if nothing has been officially said, or even fully hinted at.

In-Season Tournament

  • “It’s fine. I don’t know. It’s fine.”

  • “I guess I don’t see the point. But we tell our guys all the time: If we have to play, we might as well win.”

  • “It’ll be fun. Those early-season games don’t have a lot of juice. This will get guys feeling competitive early. And by the time we hit the tournament phase, guys are going to want to win it.”

  • “We aren’t soccer. Stop trying to make us soccer.”

  • “I thought the Play-In Tournament was bad, but it’s been great. I’m sure this will be great too.”

  • “I’m a big soccer fan. This is going to be awesome. Eventually, we should open it up to the G League teams too and make it a real tournament. Unfortunately, no one is going to want to risk losing to a G League team. Imagine how bad that would make you look?”

Summer League

  • “I’ll repeat what I told you years ago: Summer League doesn’t tell you who can play, but sometimes it can tell you who can’t play. But don’t read too much into things, whether good or bad.”

  • “We use it to experiment with our second- and third-year guys. Some games we tell them that their goal is to shoot at least 20 times, with 10 off-the-dribble shots. Does that get messy? Sure. But that’s what Summer League is for.”

  • “I never thought this would get this big. It’s crazy how popular this has become.”

  • “Honestly, my favorite two weeks of the year. Everyone is here. We’re all working. Your young guys are in the gym getting better. Nothing beats it.”

  • “It should be one week long. Four games. One game every other day. That’s enough.”

  • “I’m on the road all the time, so this is my time to actually be with the team. I enjoy that aspect of it. And it’s great to see people, especially coaches, because we don’t cross paths much during the season.”

  • “It’s fun to see the rookies, but, for me, it’s about seeing what the other kids can do. Did they get better? Are they improving the skills we tasked them with improving? Are they embracing the new guys? Those are the things I look for.”

  • Opinion: Summer League is a must-do for any NBA fan. No where will get you as close to NBA players as you can get in Las Vegas.

On the full days, with eight games spread between the two gyms, you can’t beat it. The gyms are literally right next to each other, and connected by the concourse around Thomas and Mack.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend Summer League, do it. You’ll enjoy yourself, even if the actual basketball isn’t always the best.