Training camp this year features some interesting competition for the last few roster spots in Sacramento. Right now, the Kings have 12 players whose contracts are fully guaranteed for the upcoming season. That leaves three roster spots up for grabs between six players that the Kings have brought in for camp: KZ Okpala, Kent Bazemore, Matthew Dellavedova, Chima Moneke, Quinn Cook and Sam Merrill.
The Kings mentioned at the start of the offseason that they'd be looking to bring in more shooting and defense, and all of these players fit at least one of those categories.
KZ Okpala is intriguing because of his youth (he's just 23) and his defensive upside. At 6'8, he's got great size at the wing, and he also has previous experience playing for Mike Brown on the Nigerian Olympic team. Brown was effusive in his praise for Okpala during those Olympics:
Nigerian Olympic coach Mike Brown, the Warriors, assistant, "KZ [Okpala] is a remarkable talent . . . He has a chance to be, obviously, an elite defender." Says he could be an eventual contender of Defensive Player Of the Year. "His upside is tremendous."
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) July 9, 2021
Okpala had previously been with Miami the past three seasons but never really got a chance to break into a veteran heavy rotation. Okpala has never been particularly known as a shooter or scorer, but if he can find a consistent outside shot and still bring most of his focus on the defensive side of the floor, that'd be a nice upside play for the Kings at a position of need.
Kent Bazemore is one of the more well-traveled players in the group. A former King himself, Bazemore has been in the league since 2012. Bazemore is one of the few candidates who can do a little bit on both ends, if not excel at either. He's always been a decent shooter, albeit a streaky one, and his 7'0 wingspan more than makes up for his 6'4 height on defense. He has experience in Mike Brown's system, having played with the Warriors in the 2020-21 season and can slot at Shooting Guard or Small Forward in a pinch.
Matthew Dellavedova has been out of the league for a couple years but during his time in the NBA he developed a reputation as a defensive pest, even earning the nickname the "Curry stopper" from Cleveland's battles with Golden State in the NBA Finals. Dellavedova isn't known for much offensively, but he can hit outside shots and he's also probably the best playmaker of the bunch, having spent some time playing the Point. For the Kings, he'd likely be the third string point guard, something they don't really have otherwise.
Chima Moneke is a bit more of an unknown, but he has spent a lot of time around the team this summer. A native of Australia and a former UC Davis alum, Moneke has spent the last couple seasons playing in France and Spain, as well as playing for Mike Brown's Nigerian Olympic squad. Moneke is a bit of an undersized Power Forward, but he's an excellent rebounder for his size and was able to score efficiently overseas, even though his outside shot still needs work. According to Moneke, he got a call from Brown the day he found out he was going to be the new head coach:
"He told me that unofficially, he's going to be the next head coach of the Kings and when he knew he was going to get that job, I was the first name he thought of."
Quinn Cook's another NBA veteran, and played his biggest role as a backup for the Warriors a few years ago. Cook is best known for his shooting, with a career 3P% of 40.8% (which would make him the best shooter on the Kings if he makes the team). Cook would also fill a slot as a third string point guard, although he hasn't shown the same playmaking chops as Dellavedova has, averaging just 1.6 assists a game for his career.
Finally, there's Sam Merrill. Merrill has played two seasons in the NBA but an ankle injury in his second season that required surgery kept him off the floor for much of the year and he was later waived by Memphis. He was a four-year collegian at Utah State and was a prolific shooter in that time, making 42% of his three pointers and 89.1% of his Free Throw attempts. He was able to show off that shooting touch in his rookie year in Milwaukee, when he made 44.7% of his threes. Merrill is probably the longest shot to make the Kings roster, but I wouldn't be surprised if he finds his way to Stockton instead.
It remains to be seen who makes the final cut, but my prediction would be Okpala, Dellavedova and Bazemore make the team. This is a team trying to win now, so I think they're going to be focused more on adding a defensive edge to the roster, and vets like Dellavedova and Bazemore will be able to bring more with their presence if they're not playing compared to the young guys. Okpala himself gives the Kings one upside play at a major position of need.
I do like that there's an actual competition for these final spots however. Usually it seems written in stone who will make the team, but the Kings have assembled a list of quality players who all have a shot in my mind.
KZ, Chima, Bazemore and Delly all have some type of relationship with Brown, so that might give them an advantage. Merrill is intriguing but might be better served in Stockton.
KZ, Chima, Delly is my opinion.
Those are my 3 picks as well.
the cow bell makes the final cut.
As of now the only one would be Okpala, maybe Cook. Do any of you think their might be a small or even a large trade coming? Small meaning Len or large being Barnes or Holmes. That would change the picture.
I think the roster is set. no trades. not now and not at the trade deadline. Why? because I think the Kings will be in a tight race for the 6,7,8,9 and 10 spots. They won’t take the risk of a trade. Maybe Len if another team has a serious injury to their big man mid season.
Based on a combination of skills, potential, and need, I would like to see KZ, Chima, and Cook make the team with Merrill getting a look in Stockton.
Unless the plan is for Delly to be a coach on the practice floor, I don’t think he has anything left to give. I like Bazemore for a contending team as an end of bench player, I don’t think he brings enough to this team to make a difference on either end of the floor (would rather his mins go to Ellis) while KZ and Chima bring defense at a position of need (also, Chima was MVP of the Spanish league last year and he seems to be trending upwards) and Cook brings shooting from the PG position which is something the team lacks at the moment in both skills and depth.
I’m with you on this. KZ has upside to become a good if not very good NBA player and immediate defense. I think he’s a no brainer to make the squad. The last two positions are probably toss ups but the relationship with Brown might give Chima a leg up and as an Aggie, I’m rooting for him. Cook brings shooting and a backup ball handler to the table. Two assets the Kings need.
All in all, it probably doesn’t matter too much. I’d think you could scramble the names and pick them out of a hat and it wouldn’t make much difference in the W-L column.
Perfection. Now I don’t have to write the exact same thoughts.
What this guy NorCalKingsFan said.
that sounds good. The team needs a player like KZ for his defense. Cook has the edge over Delly I think for guard depth. Chima or Bazemore is the tough call. I’d roll the dice on Chima.
For me, Moneke and Okpala are on the squad due to A) upside and B) how they fit at 2 positions defensively (potentially).
The last spot comes down to Dellavedova, Cook, and Bazemore. Personally I’d lean Cook of those 3, but that’s just a personal thing because Cook at least does shoot. At this point, I’m not worried about whether or not Keon Ellis or Neemius Queta fit in the picture. There’s plenty of ways to address to get either guy a roster spot halfway through the season if need be.
I’m operating under the assumption that Fox, Sabonis, Barnes, Huerter, Holmes, Murray, Mitchell, Monk, Davis, Len, Lyles, and Metu all have guaranteed deals and thus won’t be cut.
three roster spots up : KZ Okpala, Matthew Dellavedova, Chima Moneke
Reason: We need more defense at Wing, then KZ Okpala, Chima Moneke
We need 3rd sting veteran champion PG: Dellavedova
I lean Cook even though Akis noted his low APG for a point guard. He’s probably more of a combo guard by default due to his length. He will only get minutes when Fox or Davion are injured. In that case, I just hope Domas is not injured at the same time. Then they can stagger the remaining true point guard and Domas. Basically, get Cook in when Fox or Davion (whomever is active) needs a break AND while Domas is on the floor. Domas is enough of a playmaker that you can function without it at your 1 position.
Delly brings defense which is good, but does he still have it in him? IDK, but I’d guess not. We’ve got enough veteran leadership on the team. Sorry, Bryant.
For the other two, Moneke and Okpala. KZ has potential to become something though, as I said a few days ago, I doubt it happens. But maybe he can get subbed in to lower a star’s field goal percentage when said star is lighting us up. For Chima, I’d just personally like to see what he is. As was said above, I don’t think the 15th man is going to make even a minor difference, so, sure why not, see what Chima has.
3 have to be cut: Merril + Delly + Cook or Bazemore.
I say go with 2 PG’s, get Cook to Stockton and I know he is not 2 way but he can be “brought up”.
If Kings are committed to 3 PG’s, cut Bazemore
Better yet, trade Len for a second round pick and no player