NBA Summer League provides a slew of up and coming prospects with the chance to be seen by NBA and international scouts. It's an opportunity to prove their worth and hopefully earn themselves a contract for the upcoming season.
Unfortunately, that's about as far as it goes. That's exactly what it provides: an opportunity.
Multiple league and team sources have reiterated that free agent Summer League participants do not get paid. Of course, room, board, and transportation is taken care of. What's more, athletes are also given a per diem to help mitigate food costs.
Of course, Summer League provides experience that is sometimes even more valuable than what a player stands to earn financially. They receive intimate guidance and feedback from NBA coaches and the NBPA, among other things.
One source pointed out to RidiculousUpside.com that some prospects are given partially-guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season with the thought of an "unpaid" Summer League gig in mind. Plenty of players are taken to the training camp with the team they play for during Summer League anyway. Others are simply cut before camp begins (or shortly after), but they still get to take the money along with them.
A similar strategy is employed when it comes to retaining talented players for a team's D-League affiliate. An NBA club can bring a player to camp, pay them for their participation, and such an amount will likely still be more than the player is set to earn in the D-League alone. The combination of money earned during both NBA training camp and the D-League season can sometimes be enough to compete with that of an international offer.
What also contributes to players getting paid during Summer League is the fact that the Las Vegas showcase is obviously also open to outside scouts as well. This proves to be a great chance for the decision-makers from overseas to see some of the best available stateside talent up close. If they like what they see, players will get offered contracts towards next season. They don't always accept these offers, however. Instead, such youngsters can potentially use the offers as motivation and put the pressure on their NBA Summer League team to hand out a partial-guarantee towards next season in order to keep them in the fold.
Thus, making sure players are compensated during Summer League (and much less, for it, per se) can be done with partial-guarantees. But otherwise, the chance to hit the hardwood in Las Vegas is primarily what these players receive financially. It's up to them to see to it that their play dictates what they earn in the near future.