NBA

Summer League: 4 takeaways for the Kings

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Now that Summer League is in the rearview mirror, let’s take a look at the players who played in Las Vegas on the Sacramento Kings roster and some takeaways regarding their performance.

1.) Keegan Murray is too good to fail.

Like most things the Sacramento Kings do, Keegan Murray’s selection has been controversial, not only nationally but also locally. After Murray’s last few weeks, first in San Francisco at the California Classic, then the last two weeks in Las Vegas, those skeptics (I was one of them) look pretty clumsy.

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I was able to witness Murray’s debut in the Las Vegas Summer League in person, and it’s striking how comfortable Murray is among NBA players, many of whom are more dynamic on the sports plan. Even after Murray rigged two players with just seconds on the clock, then hit his 3 against the Orlando Magic, sending that game into overtime, he was unmoved.

Never too high, never too low. Murray plays the same whether he’s shooting 10-for-10 or 0-for-10. It’s a sports cliche, but Murray plays at his own speed, regardless of his opponent.

Murray also showed a lot more dribbling creation than I expected in his game. He hit and looked to comfortably pull off tough 3s on several dribbles and had some really impressive drives to the rim. Who knows if Murray will be able to go that far in his bag as a rookie, but it certainly bodes well for who he could be down the line.

I’m still optimistic about Jaden Ivey and his star potential, but it’s hard to argue that Murray was a much better prospect than I and many other tipsters thought, at least until now.

2.) Keon Ellis has the tools to be a 3-and-D wing.

After pitching their two-second picks, No. 37 and No. 49, Sacramento made just one more addition to the roster on draft night, signing Ellis out of Alabama to a two-way deal. . Ellis quickly showed the tools that make him an NBA player: shooting and defense.

Defensively, Ellis is a dog. He’s constantly in the passing lanes, using his over 6-foot-8 wingspan to make things frustrating for his opponents. For a Sacramento team that lacks perimeter defense on the roster, aside from Davion Mitchell, Ellis’ ability to do so should make him a threat to eventually earn a regular spot on the roster.

Ellis hit 54.2% of his 3-of-6 attempts per game in Vegas, and every time he stopped to shoot, he expected to get there. Many of Ellis’ attempts have come from the corner on opportunities to catch and shoot from the corner on one or no dribble.

The Kings are full of guys the size of Ellis, but few of them can maximize their talent without having the ball in their hands. So, maybe Ellis will find his way into the rotation if the coaching staff appreciates his adaptability.

3.) Neemias Queta has made enough “wow” plays for the Kings to prioritize his development.

It’s hard to take much from Queta’s rookie season in terms of his NBA future. Queta has only appeared in 14 games, playing just 120 minutes in total, without even making any real judgments about what he can or can’t be.

In Summer League, Queta showed things that bode well for his future in the NBA. On the one hand, Queta is simply massive in the field and often uses his size to impose his will. In Summer League, Queta was able to set up crushing screens and uses his 9-foot-4½ standing reach to create volleyball-like blocks on the edge.

With Damian Jones signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, it’s possible Queta, who is still on a two-way deal with Sacramento, will break the rotation at some point during the 2022-23 season.

4.) The vibes are positive, but the Kings are still a long way off.

After some positive takeaways, I had to end this post with a bit of cynicism. Overall, things seem to be heading up for the organization, after initial feedback on Murray’s pick seemed positive and after several moves that helped the roster as a whole.

When you look at Sacramento in a vacuum, they’ve undoubtedly improved, but looking across the West, the Kings aren’t a playoff team on paper. Fortunately, games are not played on paper and pre-season predictions are rarely confirmed.

It’s still July and things are changing rapidly in the NBA.

At the very least, Sacramento has added some legit talent and, at the very least, management looks a lot more positive than it has in any offseason of the 16-year playoff drought.

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