As everyone in the basketball world now knows, the Sacramento Kings are really good on offense. They are arguabley the best offensive team in the league, and that’s great. But it’s not enough for the Kings to be a legitimate threat come playoff time. They need to be good in every facet of the game.
Although it has looked better recently, the Kings’ defense still isn’t where head coach Mike Brown wants it to be. We’re now over a third of the way into the 2022-2023 NBA season, and the Kings have only held two opponents under 100 points in a game. They currently allow the eighth most points per game with 115.9. Of those points, the Kings allow 53.5 to be scored in the paint. The fourth most in the league.
This is a glaring problem that needs attention. No matter how many points the Kings put up, they can’t expect to make the playoffs with a weak defensive interior like this.
Luckily for Sacramento, the don’t have to make a big time trade or sign a free-agent to address this problem. They have a skilled defensive player with a lot of potential just waiting for his opportunity down in the G-League.
That man is Neemias Queta.
In his second year, Queta has been one of the better players in the G-League. The big man is currently averaging 19.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game and is a stout rim protector night in and night out. He is developing into a solid two-way big that could benefit Sacramento greatly right now.
“But he’s putting up these numbers against other G-League guys.”
The G-League is filled with talent and dozens of guys that could perform at the next level and some top draft picks that are just very young and need some development. For example James Wiseman of the Golden State Warriors and their G-League affiliate Santa Cruz Warriors, who is a former No. 2 overall pick.
In their matchup last month, Queta pretty much big dawged Wiseman and willed the Stockton Kings to a win in a dominate performance in which he put up 36 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals. He did this while shooting 12-for-13 from the field and 8-for-9 from the stripe. Simply elite level basketball against a guy who should technically be the best player in the G-League.
Since Queta is on a two-way contract, he has seen some minimal play time for Sacramento both this season and last season. First, let's look solely at last year.
In 2021-2022, Queta played in 15 games in the NBA. In 8 minutes per game, he averaged 3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 0.5 blocks per game. Hard to actually gather a lot from that, but if you check out her per 48 minutes stats, Queta averages would have been 18.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (5.6 of those offensive), 2.4 assists and 3.2 blocks per game. I know he’ll obviously come off the bench if he is brought up full-time and will not see anywhere near 48 minutes, but there is a lot of potential in those numbers.
If given consistent backup minutes, Queta would instantly improve two of the second unit’s biggest issues: Defense and rebounds. Compared to the other bigs on the team — Richaun Holmes, Chimezie Metu, Trey Lyles and Alex Len — Queta is already the most skilled at both of those aspects of the game. No, he can’t shoot the way Lyles and Metu can, but he doesn’t need to. He is an impactful lob threat and very athletic for a seven-footer. He also has good footwork and has the strength to back down almost any opponent.
The way we love the two-man game of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, we would also love the two-man game of Malik Monk and Queta — yes Monk and Sabonis are amazing together as well. The Kings are deep at guard, and are much improved with their wing depth. Now it’s time for them to be deep at center. When Sabonis comes off the floor, opposing teams immediately know they will gain control of the boards on both ends and can attack to the rim with reckless abandon. Giving Queta some real minutes could give the second unit everything they need to be complete.
Last night against the Lakers, Queta got finally got a little burn... and it was amazing.
Neemias Queta attempted five shots Wednesday and made all of them. It was just his third NBA game this season, but he’s an imposing rim-protector, and, as such, makes a lot of sense as the Kings’ backup five, depending on the matchup. pic.twitter.com/Z44C39vX7v— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) December 22, 2022
In 11 minutes, he scored 10 points on 5-for-5 from the field and three rebounds. While only playing the equivalent of less than one quarter, Queta was one of the most impactful players on the Kings last night. He brought an energy and hunger that only a guy fighting to prove himself has.
He caught a few lobs off the pick-and-roll and consistently set some terrific screens for the ball handlers. He also very effective on defense in the paint. Yes, his opponents weren’t the best, but it’s still very nice to see that he understands his role early on.
With him in, the second lineup looks like this:
- Davion Mitchell
- Malik Monk
- Terence Davis
- Chimezie Metu/Trey Lyles
- Neemias Queta
In this lineup, there are at least two players that can score, facilitate, rebound and defend. Having a bench with minimal weaknesses can be the thing that gives Sacramento an edge over the other teams hovering above the eighth seed. Looking at his film, Queta is much improved from his rookie year. Giving him a backup role with limited pressure could allow him to blossom even more. I would love to see what Mike Brown and the rest of the coaching staff can bring out of him.
So do you think Queta is the guy the Kings need right now?