How To Play In The NBA Summer League: Full Guide

Less than a month after the NBA Finals and the NBA Draft, the league goes into a boring time without any NBA basketball activities – until the start of the NBA Summer League. This event is the best opportunity for G-League players, sophomores, and rookies, especially the undrafted, to impress NBA scouts and hopefully get invited into a team’s training camp.

But how do players get to play for teams during the NBA Summer League?

NBA Summer League Teams are composed primarily of drafted rookies, sophomores, G-Leaguers, and foreign prospects. Teams also invite talented but undrafted players to join the mix. However, unlike in the G-League, where teams hold open tryouts, the NBA Summer League is mainly reserved for the best young talents.

Let’s look at how the NBA Summer League work.

How to Play in the NBA Summer League?

Darius Miller Pelicans 2013
Darius Miller Pelicans 2013 by Verse Photography

The NBA Summer League is a two-week NBA off-season event held annually in Las Vegas. It features some of the best young players while allowing undrafted players to find their way to the training camp and hopefully sign an NBA contract.

While there are no explicit rules on who can play in the summer league, teams usually build a roster composed of their drafted rookies and sophomore bench players, G-League-affiliated players, foreign free agents, and undrafted players.

Some of the players invited to the summer league came from those who went in the pre-draft workouts but went undrafted – giving the players a renewed hope for their NBA dream.

Some teams limit the playing time for the high-drafted players to avoid risking them getting injured.

Where are the NBA Summer Leagues Played?

Summer Leagues are held in multiple locations in the US through the off-season. It was held in Orlando, Florida, before closing in 2018. Currently, there are three summer leagues, namely:

1. California Classic

The California Classic is a mini-summer league participated only by four teams and follows a single round-robin format. The Golden State Warriors currently host it at the Dub’s own Chase Center in San Francisco, California.

2. Salt Lake City Summer League

Like the California Classic mini-summer league, the Salt Lake City Summer League also follows a four-team, single round-robin format. The Utah Jazz hosts it at the Vivint Arena (formerly EnergySolutions Arena) in Salt Lake City, Utah.

3. Las Vegas Summer League

The Las Vegas Summer League is what the league referred to as the NBA Summer League. It is also the only summer league where all the 30 NBA Teams participate. Due to the number of participants, the competition is held at two venues – the Thomas & Mack Arena and the Cox Pavilion.

So the “Las Vegas” name is misleading since the two venues where the events are held are in Paradise, Nevada, near Las Vegas.

What are the NBA Summer League and its Purpose?

The NBA Summer League is an annual off-season even for young and up-and-coming players to showcase their talents to NBA teams while battling it out against their peers. Here are some reasons why the NBA host this annual event.

Build the confidence of the young talents

For top picks, the summer league is an excellent opportunity to muscle their way and show their talent to scouts, coaches, and peers that can build their confidence going into their team training camp. It is also great to feel like they are the best players on the court before meeting the superstars that will put them in their place.

Evaluate players’ talents against their peers

Coaches, scouts, managers, and even owners can see how well the young prospects are playing and how they match up against their peers. It is also a preview of their future in the NBA.

Find young players with the potential to include in the team’s training camp

The NBA Summer League is a great place for coaches to fill their training camp roster and hopefully discover some rough talents with great potential for the NBA.

Who is Allowed to Play in the NBA Summer League?

The NBA Summer League is an excellent opportunity for young players to show their talent against their peers. So even though the summer league players only receive allowances or per diems instead of salaries, these young prospects still participate. Summer League Players are usually divided into four groups.

1. Drafted Rookies

Even the stars we had played in the NBA Summer League at some point. It is a great place for drafted players to build confidence as they enter their team’s summer camp and start their rookie duties.

Some of the best rookies to play in the NBA Summer League are Blake Griffin (2009, LA Clippers), Damian Lillard (2012, Portland Trailblazers), and John Wall (2009, Washington Wizards).

However, the high draft pick players are often played at a limited time to avoid risks of injuries.

2. Developing Sophomores and Two-way Players

Aside from the rookies, sophomores and two-way players who hardly played during the season also participate during the Summer League. It is a great place to test their skills against the younger guys.

3. G-League Players

G-League Players are some of the most hungry players in the league. If given the opportunity and with the right environment, some of them will be valuable assets for NBA Teams.

We all heard of success stories of G-League Players who conquered the odds to be stars in the NBA, like Khris Middleton, Paskal Siakam, and Rudy Gobert.

4. Undrafted Players

Aside from G-League Players, undrafted players also have chips on their shoulders. They are waiting for this opportunity to prove to NBA teams that they belong to the NBA by performing great during the summer league.

Does Every NBA Team Play in the Summer League?

G1C Interior (cropped)
G1C Interior by Mrbeastmodeallday

The participating teams differ depending on what leg of the summer league we are talking about.

California Classic

Only four participating teams play in a single-round robin format for the California Classic. The participating teams are the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, and the Sacramento Kings.

Out of the four teams, only the Heat is not located in California or the Western Conference. At the same time, the Los Angeles Clippers are the only California Team not participating.

Salt Lake City Summer League

The summer league in Utah is also participated by only four teams. The current participating teams are the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies, and the Philadelphia 76ers. Of the four groups, only the Sixers are from the Eastern Conference.

Las Vegas Summer League

The official summer league of the NBA is the Las Vegas Summer League, where all 30 NBA teams send representatives for a two-week competition.

Unlike the two mini-leagues, the Las Vegas Summer League doesn’t use the single round-robin format due to the sheer number of participants. Instead, all the teams will play five games. After the first four games, the top two teams with the best record compete for the NBA Summer League Championship.

The other 28 teams that didn’t make it to the championship round will still play their last game before the championship match.

What do NBA Summer League Champions Get?

Despite the limited number of games and competition, the NBA Summer League still recognizes the effort of the winning team. Similar to the NBA Finals, the NBA Summer League Champion also receives a Championship Trophy.

The winning team’s best player will also receive the Summer League MVP Award. Besides the individual MVP award, each player on the championship roster will also receive a championship medal.

Starting in 2022, the NBA Summer League will give out championship rings to the summer league champs, similar to the NBA tradition of giving out rings to the NBA Champions. However, this move has been criticized because the players will receive NBA rings without even playing a single minute of an NBA game.

Besides the awards given to the summer league champion, the NBA also awards the summer league MVP and All-Tournament Team (similar to the All-NBA).

How Much Does it Cost to go to NBA Summer League?

The beauty of the summer league is that you’ll have the opportunity to witness the league’s future while they’re still almost free to watch. So, while you’re in Sin City, you can spend a day or two watching these talented young groups run, jump, shoot, and dunk like there’s no tomorrow.

The single-day ticket prices that allow you to watch as many as eight games in a single day are currently pegged at $40 for adults and $30 for kids and seniors. But if you’re really into the game, you can buy the season ticket valued at $385 for adults and $275 for kids and seniors.

Finally, if you feel like watching the game up close, you can buy the premium seats at $150 for single-day tickets or $1500 for season tickets.


The NBA Summer League is one of the most exciting times of the off-season. It is also a great opportunity to watch young, talented, and hungry players get the first taste of NBA culture.

While it is still miles away before many of them will impact their respective teams, or for some players to make it into the NBA, a Summer League Championship can be the spark they can use to push them further.

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