Eric Moreland became a Kings-fanatic-only household name after an impressive summer league two seasons ago. His hustle, rebounding, and shot blocking ability played a key role in the Kings’ Vegas Summer League Championship, and his play was rewarded with a universally praised guaranteed contract.
Unfortunately for Moreland and the Kings, his rookie season was cut short due to a labral tear in his left shoulder that would eventually require surgery. With how last season ended, you’d think Moreland would have picked up a decent amount of minutes if he were healthy. It was a tough break for a young player without any contract guarantees for his second year.
Moreland suited up for this year’s summer league team, and he performed about as well as you would expect. He looked like the same active, athletic, hard running, rebounding shot blocker we saw two summers ago. If anything, he looked a little more mature, a little more composed, and showed a decent passing ability that I didn’t know he had.
Unfortunately, again, for Moreland, the Kings were under new management, and their roster had undergone a massive overhaul. They didn’t necessarily need the sort of energy, rebounding, shot blocking, and toughness he could provide thanks to the drafting of Willie Cauley-Stein, and to a lesser extent, the signing of Quincy Acy. There is some overlap there, and Moreland was the odd man out. The Kings waived Eric on July 29th to avoid his automatic contract guarantee that would have kicked in on August 1st.
Vlade Divac had mentioned that he’d be interested in bringing Moreland back, but I certainly didn’t think that the Kings would get that opportunity, and I don’t think Vlade expected it, either.
Moreland cleared waivers, a few teams expressed interest, but the Kings were able to re-sign Moreland to an unguaranteed training camp invite on September 9th, and here we are.
The Kings have 14 guaranteed contracts as of this writing, and while they could theoretically waive one or more of their minimum (or near-minimum) contacts (James Anderson, Duje Dukan), it appears as though Moreland will be fighting Marshall Henderson, Vince Hunter, and David Stockton for that final roster spot.
I don’t love his chances, which is unfortunate because I am a card-carrying member of the Eric Moreland fan club. In a lot of ways, Hassan Whiteside’s success has made me increasingly skittish about dumping some of these guys, especially when the player in question in this scenario (Moreland) has shown more in two summer league sessions than we ever saw out of Whiteside while he was here.
You can’t look at everything through Hassan Whiteside’s unprecedented development glasses, of course, but even beyond my fear that the Kings could cut Moreland for a second time, only to have him make an impact somewhere else, I actually think Moreland could be an effective NBA player.
This is nothing but opinion, clearly, but I see a very marginal talent difference between Moreland and players like James Anderson or Duje Dukan, and to a lesser-but-similar extent, Seth Curry and Quincy Acy. They all sort of occupy the same tier of player to me, but Moreland has a little more intrigue attached to his name by default because we’ve seen so little of him. Acy and Anderson are probably better players today, for example, but solely because they have a track record.
The biggest thing keeping Moreland off this roster is fit. His somewhat redundant skill set is what got him waived in the first place.
If he’s going to make this team, he’s going to need a strong training camp and pre-season. He’s going to have to show George Karl that he can bring something to this team that they don’t necessarily have, and I think his relentless, borderline elite level rebounding could be his ticket.
The Kings could struggle with bench rebounding this season. If Kosta Koufos is the starter, you’re looking at Willie Cauley-Stein and Quincy Acy as the main pieces of your bench frontcourt. That is assuming the Kings don’t go small on the bench, which they very well might. Neither Cauley-Stein, nor Quincy Acy are great rebounders. Cauley-Stein can get there, but he’s still fairly thin, and when he hunts for shots to block it often puts him out of position as a rebounder. It’s just part of doing business. Acy is fine on the glass, but he’s undersized down there, particularly if Acy and Cauley-Stein play together, Acy is going to have a tough time fighting off his man and whoever Cauley-Stein leaves to protect the rim.
Moreland isn’t just a good rebounder, he is a great rebounder, and considering he also hunts shots to block, his activity on the glass is really impressive.
Our sample size is small, of course, but rebounding ability has a history of translating really well. His combined summer league (11 games) total rebound percentage of 22.91 would have put him in the top-10 in the NBA last season, ahead of guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Kosta Koufos, Dwight Howard, etc. He’s rebounding at a Reggie Evans-esque clip, and that skill has given Evans a 13-year career.
Can Eric Moreland make this roster? Yes. Do I think he is an NBA player? Absolutely. Do I think he'll make the roster? I’m leaning towards no, but I hope I’m wrong.