The Sacramento Kings are expected to sign undrafted rookie Wenyen Gabriel to a two-way contract, as first reported by NBA.com’s David Aldridge. Gabriel was one of the more promising youngsters over the second half of the Kings summer league contests, and will have a chance to stick in the organization thanks to his tough defensive effort and off-ball shooting. And yes, at 6’9” and 215 pounds with quick feet and excellent length, he can play Small Forward.
The two-way contract will allow the Kings to swap Gabriel between practicing/playing with the Sacramento roster and their recently relocated G-Leauge affiliate in Stockton. Jack Cooley and JaKaar Sampson both got solid burn with the organization last season off of two-way contracts with the Reno squad. While Gabriel would have to find playing time among a crowded Kings roster, he’s the ideal add for Sacramento at this stage in the summer. There’s a clear path for Gabriel to end up a real steal for the Kings rebuilding process that has netted just one young small forward in the past four years.
Gabriel played only four minutes of the California Classic, and didn’t get extended minutes until Marvin Bagley’s hip injury in the Las Vegas contests. In the last four games of the Las Vegas Summer League, Gabriel averaged 9.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in 20 minutes a game. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gabriel had 15 points on 5 of 6 shooting and 2 of 3 from deep.
He has a little knee-hitch in his deep shot, but Gabriel proved himself a consistent (if underutilized) off-ball threat for Kentucky over the past two years. On 169 attempts in college, Gabriel shot 36.7% from deep, and was 39.6% this season on 106 threes. The biggest performance of the year for Gabriel came in the SEC tournament against Alabama, where he was 7 of 7 from three for a game-high 23 points. Check out his mechanics from Vegas.
Given his limited touches with Kentucky (he was 6th on the team with 5.3 shot attempts per game, and 10th on the team in usage rate at 15.2%), Gabriel will hopefully get an increased role and on-ball opportunities with the Stockton squad. He certainly has the length and athleticism for the NBA game—best expressed by this thunderous dunk against the Warriors.
But the best part of Gabriel’s young, developing game is his defensive success and tenacity, which was sorely needed back in Kentucky and will be sorely needed in Sacramento. He averaged 1.4 steals (2% rate) and 1.9 blocks (5.4% rate!) per 40 minutes for the Wildcats, and finished with a team-high 5.2 defensive box score plus/minus. He was also third on the team for total rebounds, snagging 9.3 per 40 minutes.
He continued to show off his defensive range in Summer League. With his excellent length and quickness, he’s a determined defender who can stick on switches and will always go after the ball. Check out this clip of Gabriel sliding with Cavs lotto pick Collin Sexton for the highlight block.
Finally, Gabriel seems like a dedicated young player, and will likely fit in perfectly with the Kings young locker room of gym rats. Check out this SEC Network piece on Gabriel’s journey from Sudan, to New Hampshire, to Kentucky. As Tony pointed out on twitter, it’s hard to imagine many youngsters with a better mindset and determination.