The NBA Summer League was once an afterthought for basketball fans, a dumping ground where incoming rookies, marginal talents, and a few hopefuls trying to play their way onto rosters would compete in sparsely attended games for a couple weeks each year. But that perception has changed in a big way in recent summers, as audiences and television coverage have grown dramatically for these off-season contests.

Summer League 2018 betting
Lonzo Ball was the biggest draw at the 2017 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where he led the Los Angeles Lakers to the tournament championship. (Image: NBA.com)

In 2018, the Las Vegas NBA Summer League will host all 30 NBA franchises for the first time and history, with every game airing live on television. And that level of interest has naturally spread over to the gambling world, with sportsbooks taking plenty of action on this short and unusual taste of NBA basketball.

Record Crowds, Big Handle

Last year, the inclusion of Lonzo Ball on the Los Angeles Lakers summer roster helped drive record attendance and TV viewership. It also created a record handle at Las Vegas sportsbooks, which have been taking bets on the league for more than a decade now.

As with any league, bettors will have access to the standard money line and point spread bets on each of the 82 games that will be played between now and July 17. But theres also futures betting, with the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook releasing odds on all 30 teams to win a Summer League championship.

The pre-tournament favorite is the Phoenix Suns, who come in as an 8/1 pick at the Westgate. A testament to the bizarre nature of the Summer League, its the fact that the Suns have been so bad in the real NBA that makes them so dangerous in this competition.

Top Draft Picks to Play

Phoenix brings not only this years No. 1 draft pick in Deandre Ayton, but also recent lottery picks like Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender, giving them a relatively stacked Summer League roster.

We started out with the Suns because they have the majority of their guys who are going to be in the rotation with Ayton, Westgate sportsbook manager Jeff Sherman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. We look through the rosters and try to find a balance of some guys whove been in the league. We like that more than strictly young guys.

Two teams share the honor of being second choice on the Westgates board. Both the Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Hornets are listed at 10/1 to take home the Summer League crown.

The Kings already have a few games under their belt from the California Classic Summer League, and are featuring much of their actual NBA roster, including Marvin Bagley III, Justin Jackson, and Frank Mason III, an advantage that young teams often have in summer play. Meanwhile, the Hornets feature former All-Americans Devonte Graham and Miles Bridges leading a similarly inexperienced roster.

Other top contenders include the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, and Los Angeles Clippers, all of whom are listed at 12/1.

But even some of the teams that will be in contention for the NBA title are bringing formidable rosters to the Summer League. The defending champion Golden State Warriors (15/1) went undefeated in winning the California Classic, led by rookie Marcus Derrickson along with Jordan Bell and Damian Jones.

If youre feeling like making some high stakes bets over the next two weeks, be aware that bookmakers set fairly low limits on the Summer League. The Westgate has a $1,000 limit on individual games, while William Hill will go up to $2,000, with larger bets possible on request with known players.