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Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Julian Strawther

Steve Marcus

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Julian Strawther (0) celebrates with his father Lee and sisters after Gonzagas 79-76 victory over UCLA in a Sweet Sixteen NCAA Tournament basketball game at T-Mobile Arena Thursday, March 23, 2023.

Wemby is coming to Las Vegas.

The greatest show on hardwood is back in town as the NBA Summer League will pack 76 games into 11 days at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion, running from July 7 to the championship game July 17.

As usual, the summer league will showcase some of the NBA’s most exciting young players, including 2023 lottery picks and promising second-year players hoping to use Las Vegas as a springboard to breakout 2023-24 campaigns. The top draw? No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama, the electric 7-foot-3 Frenchman who enters the NBA as the most hyped prospect since LeBron James.

Here are five of the top storylines to watch:


Victor Wembanyama is the biggest thing to hit the NBA in almost two decades, and he’s set to make his American pro debut right here in Las Vegas.

The 19-year-old phenom can shake defenders off the dribble, rain 3-pointers, dunk everything and block shots with ease, so it’s hard to watch him play and not see the future of basketball. If you want to see Wemby in person, however, you’d better get out to the Thomas & Mack Center early.

The San Antonio Spurs are the original load-management franchise, and after spending the 2022-23 season logging heavy minutes in the LNB Pro A French League, Wembanyama is due for a break. The Spurs have already announced he won’t play in the California Summer League, which takes place the week before Vegas, and head coach Gregg Popovich has been noncommittal about his availability after that.

If Wembanyama suits up in Las Vegas, it’s likely only for a game or two before he’s shut down. Just to play it safe, if you want a glimpse of the Next Big Thing, be there on opening night.

Schedule: Charlotte vs. San Antonio, July 7, 6 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center.

Hometown hero returns

The last time Julian Strawther was in Las Vegas, he made a long-distance 3-pointer in the final seconds at T-Mobile Arena to beat UCLA and send his Gonzaga squad to the Elite Eight. The shot instantly made him a March Madness legend.

Strawther, a Las Vegas native, went No. 29 overall in June’s NBA Draft, and the former Liberty High star will be back in town with the defending champion Denver Nuggets. Given his strong ties to the city, he’ll likely receive the warmest welcome from the local fans.

Now the question is, will Strawther be able to replicate his heroic shot in the Summer League playoffs?

Schedule: Denver vs. Milwaukee, July 7, 2 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center; Atlanta vs. Denver, July 9, 6:30 p.m., Cox Pavilion; Denver vs. Utah, July 12, 6:30 p.m., Cox Pavilion.

Scoot showdown

There was no debate about who was going No. 1 in this year’s draft, but there was plenty of discourse about the No. 2 slot between point guard Scoot Henderson and forward Brandon Miller.

Henderson was electric for the G League Ignite last year, posting 17.6 points and 6.6 assists per game at 19 years old. He lost the draft battle, however, when the Charlotte Hornets took Miller at No. 2.

The Portland Trailblazers were quick to snatch Scoot with the third pick, and he won’t have to wait long to prove himself, as his first three games in the summer league are scheduled to be against No. 4 pick Amen Thompson, Wembanyama and Miller, respectively.

Schedule: Portland vs. Houston, July 7, 4 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center; San Antonio vs. Portland, July 9, 5 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center; Portland vs. Charlotte, July 11, 5:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack.

Chet comeback

Wembanyama might not be the only 7-foot unicorn making his summer league debut in Las Vegas.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren, last year’s No. 2 overall selection, is also on track to see action after a broken foot forced him to miss the entire 2022-23 season. The former Gonzaga product is a 7-foot-1 star in the making, so the Thunder are likely to proceed with extreme caution.

Schedule: Dallas vs. Oklahoma City, July 8, 12:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center; Houston vs. Oklahoma City, July 11, 3:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center; Oklahoma City vs. Indiana, July 12, 4:30 p.m., Cox Pavilion.

UNLV represents

The local university’s pipeline to the pros has dwindled in recent years, but there’s still at least one summer league hopeful repping UNLV.

The most familiar name for Scarlet and Gray fans is Bryce Hamilton. The former high-scoring standout had a fine year with the Los Angeles Lakers’ G League team (14.6 points per game, 49.4% from the field, 37% from three-point land) and now he’s looking to take the next step by securing a roster spot in the NBA.

Schedule: Golden State vs. Los Angeles Lakers, July 7, 8 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center; Los Angeles Lakers vs. Charlotte, July 9, 1 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center; Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston, July 12, 7 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center.

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

Article written by #LasVegasSun