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Sacramento’s 2K24 Summer League Takeaways

Vegas was an opportunity for development for players and coaches, getting a first look at the rookies, building Stockton's roster, and more.
By | 12 Comments | Jul 18, 2023

Photo courtesy of Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings were unable to repeat as Las Vegas Summer League champions, but between the coaching staff, incoming rookies, returning players, and potential Stockton prospects, there was plenty to account for throughout their five games played.

A closing record of 3-2 is not the most ideal, with winning always being the top priority, but Coach Luke Loucks shared his perspective on balancing developing talent and collecting wins in the context of Summer League.

“It’s always a balance. As an organization, and as a competitor, every time you step on the floor you want to win,” Coach Loucks told The Kings Herald last week. “Everything we do is to try to win, but how you get there is the most important part. It’s about building the right habits. It’s about showing up every day with a purpose. It’s about organizing the right way. It’s about planning the right way.”

Summer league is not just a developmental opportunity for the players on the floor, it’s also for the officials, broadcasters, training staff, and coaches. Coach Loucks thinks that this experience helps provide him with a greater appreciation for everything that goes into being a head coach and that this opportunity will make him a better assistant as a result. Dutch Gaitley and Deividas Dulkys are two of the handful of other coaches expanding their roles in this process.

Kessler Edwards, Keon Ellis, and Neemias Queta are players that the coaching staff is highly familiar with after spending time with Sacramento last season. Edwards was on a primary roster spot, while Ellis and Queta were two-ways who spent a large majority of their time with Stockton last season.

Edwards had an underwhelming showing considering he’s headed into his third NBA season. Through four games, he averaged 12.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 44.4 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three. The 2.8 turnovers he contributed were not the most welcome sight, but it was also clear that Edwards’s NBA role wasn’t going to involve putting the ball on the floor much.

Context is crucial for Edwards considering he will be an off-ball spot-up shooter or cutter in the offense this coming season while primarily making himself felt on the defensive end. Not to make excuses for his overall mediocre showing, but converting 38.1 percent of his 5.3 three-point attempts per game is promising, but there’s no obvious sign of a breakout season on the horizon.

Ellis, who has re-signed with Sacramento on another two-way deal, showed marginal improvement across the board. In four games played, the Alabama produced tallied 14.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 50 percent from the field and 38 percent from three –  not to mention his 3.3 steals per game. Only Jaden Ivey (3.5) and Sir’Jabari Rice (3.5) averaged more steals, with each only playing two games.

2.0 turnovers compared to 3.3 assists is an improvement for Ellis, who had a nearly 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio coming out of college. Physicality on both ends was a constant emphasis from the coaching staff and Ellis seemed to have successfully embraced that objective. He may see added opportunity with Sacramento this coming season, but more in-game repetitions and weight training with Stockton should be beneficial for the second-year guard/wing.

As for Keon’s two-way teammate last season, Neemias Queta, his contractual situation is worth monitoring. Queta does not currently have a contract heading into next season. It seems reasonable to assume that if Sacramento wanted to give him one of their two remaining spots on the 15-man roster that would have already been completed. That uncertainty can weigh on players, but the Portuguese native has remained professional and focused on the task at hand.

“It’s different. You always want to be comfortable, but I don’t really think about it too much,” Queta told The Kings Herald. “My job is to play basketball and as long as I get to do that I’m happy. I feel like it’s a great situation for me to be out here in Summer League and be able to display a little bit of what I can do at this level.”

Unfortunately, Queta suffered a stress reaction and metatarsal capsule sprain in his right foot just ten minutes into his second Vegas Summer League showing after dominating the final quarter in game one against the Chicago Bulls.

“Neemi shows up every day with a great attitude – not a good attitude, a great attitude. He always has a smile on his face, he always shows up and works his butt off,” Coach Loucks said after their first game in Vegas. “Obviously, he’s super talented, he’s huge, he’s young. I thought he had a really really productive year last year, primarily in the G-League and so far in Summer League he’s had his ups and he’s had his downs… I think he’s handled the situation he’s in with place and professionalism and I love coaching the kid.”

Up-and-down has been a common feeling when watching Neemias Queta in years prior. He just turned 24 years old and bigs are known for taking a long to adjust to the NBA speed and physicality, and to grow into their own bodies. Queta has emphasized working on his ball handing in dribble-handoffs, post-ups, and even bringing it up himself as part of his offseason work, but he knows his potential immediate in the NBA revolves around his size.

“Obviously it’s the size and the intangibles,” Queta told The Kings Herald when asked what he can bring to the NBA now. “I’m a seven-footer who can run and move well on the court and then I got the little things. I got the touch, I feel like I communicate really well on the floor, switching, and being able to impact plays on both ends of the floor. I feel like I’m a player that’s easy to play with and I feel like I make a lot of plays on both ends of the floor.”

The coaching staff has helped Queta continue to develop his strength, with an emphasis on his core and coordination. With one roster spot remaining in Sacramento along with a two-way, it will be interesting to see what Queta’s future holds and if it includes him in royal purple. Nerlens Noel’s signing could mean it’s two-way or nothing for Queta.

Following the decision not to guarantee P.J. Dozier’s deal for next season and Matthew Dellavedova heading back to the NBL, there seems to be a third-string point guard-shaped hole on the roster. Jordan Ford strengthened his case for that spot throughout Vegas by averaging 16.3 points, 5.3 assists, and 2.8 rebounds on 49 percent from the field and 31 percent from three.

Queta’s looming decision could affect a potential agreement with Ford if the organization is considering signing him to the final two-way deal. The Folsom High product has spent three seasons in the G-League and shot above 40 percent in each regular season. He also led Stockton last season in assists and started every game he played.

Ford’s promising moments in Summer League were encouraging, but probably not exactly news to the Kings’ front office after having him in their system for over a season. To become a trusted NBA player, Ford needs to show that he can survive on the defensive end as a small guard, which is something he is fully aware of. His ability to space the floor, run the offense, dictate the pace of the game, and familiarity with the system make him an intriguing guard option for the main club.

As for the rookies, Colby Jones and Jalen Slawson, they shared how they have been adjusting to the NBA with The Kings Herald previously and those growing pains were apparent. While Ellis and Queta are hesitant to accept a “mentor” label they have been guiding Jones and Slawson through this initial process on and off the floor.

Jones just found ways to make an impact. There were moments he was asked to play point guard for stretches, he got plenty of run at the two spot, and he started a few games at the three. His ability to rebound, space the floor, finish around the basket after cuts, make the right read, and defend a variety of positions was all there. The 39 percent he shot from the field and 23 percent from beyond the arc don’t accurately represent his impact prior to going down mid-way through game four.

Slawson’s opportunities were more limited than others, but he looked more comfortable as time went on. He spent five years in college, but it’s important to keep in mind that he was the 54th pick for a reason. There were flashes of rim protection, playmaking as a big or a forward, switchability, and a willingness to shoot from range.

Those were mixed in with some delayed decision-making, finding the appropriate balance between being physical and fouling, and a lack of burst. It’s all part of the process for Slawson, which is well understood by himself, the coaching staff, and the front office who signed him to a two-way deal for his rookie season.

Outside of the rostered players, or those who seem to be fighting for the few remaining spots, it’s not uncommon for many of these players to find themselves in Stockton next season. Alex O’Connell and Chance Commanche played there last season and could return. Any of Mike Daum, Souley Boum, Dane Goodwin, Jake Stephens, Justyn Mutts, or Aleem Ford could be coached by Lindsey Harding next season.

Despite not bringing home another Summer League trophy or MVP award, the Sacramento Kings had an intriguing and productive couple of weeks becoming more familiar with their roster, continuing to develop talent in the form of coaches and players, and scouting for their primary and/or G-League roster.

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12 Comments
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RobHessing
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July 18, 2023 3:09 pm

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ZillersCat
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July 18, 2023 3:24 pm

Summer League Champion ..

IT’S THE DEVIL

Last edited 10 months ago by ZillersCat
Sacto_J
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July 18, 2023 4:41 pm

I guess my expectations for Queta aren’t as high, for some reason. I thought he’s showing significant progress and a decent amount of poise out there. I get the consistency issue, what I don’t get the expectation for young bigs to be at their peak by the time they’re 24. Some of them didn’t reach that size until they were 17 or 18 and some of them didn’t stop growing until they were 22 (Sengun, for example, is 6’11 but came in as a rookie at 6’9″) and not everyone can be Shaq. Embiid wasn’t very good until his 3-4th year, because of injuries as well as lack of bulk.
All that to say I’m just fine if we continue to take our time, especially if he blossomed in another year or 2 and became the next Scott Pollard, or whatever (or better?) Whatever. The guy could end up being a very good center and if not he’s a very cheap option with a ton of upside to develop. As long as he keeps improving, obviously.

Solid take-aways, otherwise. I like Jones’ hustle and ability to score kind of unconventionally. We needed that a bit last year from someone besides Monk. I think Edwards may be a steal if he can develop into a nice 3 and D option for the bench and he’s well on his way. Slawson I’m kind of “meh” on, but I see some potential. If there’s no solid vet options better than what Ford could bring then I think you have to bring Ford on board as the 3rd guard. That guy was impressive and we could def do worse. I liked Daum, he had a nice game 4. I like a guy who has fun swatting shots, could def see him playing in Stockton next season.
Not a whole lot else stood out to me, really. Was fun to have summer basketball, regardless of the quality. Can’t wait til pre-season…

jwalker1395
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July 18, 2023 6:34 pm
Reply to  Sacto_J

Looks like the Queta experiment is done with the Noel signing. If he can’t beat out Noel or Len for a roster spot then he just isn’t an NBA center. I don’t think growing into his body has anything to do with it, I think he simply lacks a feel for the game which is not something you typically develop at an NBA level age 24.

Wanna talk about feel for the game? Colby Jones has it in spades. Just knows where to be and what to be doing at any given moment offensively and defensively. Not the most gifted athlete or skilled player, but he’s about as smart and hardworking as they come. With his ability to do a little of everything, his positional versatility is limitless. He could be a Bruce Brown type.

Keon Ellis looks like a ballplayer! He’s a top 80th percentile defender in the NBA right now and we need that. He’d immediately be our second best defender on the main roster.The fouls and turnovers are something to keep an eye on, but I saw him run the break, finish in transition and knock down the 3. He knows exactly what his role is going to be at the next level and he does it convincingly well. Another year in Stockton will be good for him but I like the progress.

Edwards was forgettable amongst G-League talent – terrible for a 3rd year player! I was a fan once, but he’s looking like a player we got for free for a reason.

Slawson will probably never be an NBA player but if he wants to spend two years in Stockton it’s a big shoulder shrug from me. Just have to not think about how much I’d rather have TJD than Nerlens Noel.

Final thoughts: Monk is already the third point guard so just give Ford the two-way as a break in case of emergency option. He can play. And O’Connell and Comanche are both fun as hell! Keep them around.

Hamlet1989
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July 18, 2023 8:49 pm
Reply to  jwalker1395

While I can agree, basically, with your opinions above, I also agree with Sacto_J. Queta is still young, and as much as it wouldn’t surprise me to see him playing in Europe soon, (or another part of the globe) I equally won’t be surprised if he develops a bit and finds a NBA role soon, in Sac., or elsewhere. In short, it’s tough to predict the future, and progress doesn’t usually graph-out in a straight line. Sometimes we regress before taking a big step forward. I suppose that’s the reason for the D-league, to give guys time, and not discard talent off-hand.
I especially am a fan of Edwards. He had some really nice games in Sac., and a few sub-par showings in Vegas shouldn’t negate that. These are exhibition games after all. Just as you can’t count on a guy who had a Donte Greene type summer league, it’s probably not fair to right anyone off after some mediocre performances.
Ford, IMO, probably played the most consistently of anyone, but he also had the one shooting clunker. He does remind me of Yogi Farrell, and he could be a great story, if he can play passable enough D to warrant minutes in the “bigs” whether here or somewhere else. It’s very easy to pull for a guy like him.
Al-in-all, it’s just so nice to see such a vibrant overall environment blossoming with this franchise, and so much positivity surrounding really all aspects of the organization. “Fun as hell!” is right. It begins to look a lot like “culture,” and I think culture is why MM is taking such a patient, and careful approach. Most of us were probably expecting a little more bang for the buck from the $35M in cap space a few weeks back, but in retrospect, I feel like Monte had a plan that was kind of hiding in plain sight. It felt like he couldn’t find FAs to improve the team with, so he just defaulted to “run it back.” Now, it seems, that was his plan the whole time, and why not? The season was a spectacular success, the players, and staff, all earned their money, and then some, and they all came back for comparatively cheap. The excitement is infectious, and I’m off on a tangent, so I’ll try to stop, but it would be easy to just keep ranting.
As Rob so poignantly noted, “if Vivek is calling all the shots, then we all owe him a big apology,” (I think that was it). So true! Even if all he’s done was put the right people in the right spots, and let them do their jobs, we owe him a thanks. And I, for one, owe him an apology simply because I was seriously doubting he would ever bring this kind of winner to Sacramento. Good times!

andy_sims
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July 18, 2023 4:57 pm

Honest question: Are you contractually obligated to call it 2K24 Summer League?

Greg
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July 18, 2023 5:31 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

No, but it’s the official title of it so Brenden was being more professional by doing so.

RobHessing
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July 18, 2023 5:48 pm
Reply to  Greg

I think Brendan being more professional is what caused the confusion.

andy_sims
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July 19, 2023 9:47 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Yeah, that’ll fuck me up every time.

Having been in similar situations, I’ve always been disinclined to give mentions to companies that weren’t paying for the privilege, but I get it.

Gonna hit some D-League games this year, and maybe get out to New Candlestick park to see a little baseball.

outrider
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July 18, 2023 6:21 pm

Ford looked like a player to me. I’d be ok with Ford or Ellis being the 3rd string pg, but it seems like Ellis is the stronger defender of the two, so I’d probably lean his way based on that. I did like what I saw from Ford though.

I also like what I saw from Jones. He strikes me as being like Liles- a rotation guy that you can plug in multiple places and count on to give solid production regardless of the minutes.

Slawson didn’t really strike me one way or the other. Wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t a head turner either. I’m guessing he’ll be getting to know Stockton this season.

Qeta. I think the Noel signing could be the writing on the wall for him unless Noel is just washed. I think he either ends up in a foreign league somewhere, or is a bottom of the roster guy somewhere in the NBA. I really like the guy. I’m just not sure he’s an NBA talent though.

Last edited 10 months ago by outrider
outrider
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July 18, 2023 6:30 pm
Reply to  outrider

Forgot about Edwards, but this sums it up for me:

Edwards had an underwhelming showing…overall mediocre showing…

Hopefully the regular season will be better.

AnybodyButBagley
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July 18, 2023 9:15 pm

Good teams are supposed suck in the summer league.

Anjali has her team now. Time to move on to reality.

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