1.) Keegan Murray is too good to fail.
Like most things the Sacramento Kings do, the selection of Keegan Murray was controversial, not only nationally but locally as well. After Murray’s last few weeks, first in San Francisco at the California Classic and then the last two weeks in Las Vegas, those doubters (I was one) are looking pretty goofy.
I got to watch Murray’s Las Vegas Summer League debut in person, and it’s striking how comfortable Murray looks amongst NBA players, many of whom are more dynamic athletically. Even after Murray pump-faked two players with just seconds on the clock and then hit his buzzer-beating 3 against the Orlando Magic, sending that game into overtime, he was stone-faced.
Never too high, never too low. Murray plays the same way, regardless if he’s shooting 10 for 10 or 0 for 10. It’s a sports cliché, but Murray plays at his own speed regardless of his opponent.
Murray also showed way more off the dribble creation than I thought he had in his game. He hit and looked comfortably taking difficult 3-pointers off multiple dribbles and had some really impressive drives to the rim. Who knows if Murray is going to be able to get this deep into his bag as a rookie, but it definitely bodes well for who he could be down the line.
I am still bullish on Jaden Ivey and his star potential, but it’s hard to argue that Murray was a way better prospect, than I and many other prognosticators thought, at least so far.
2.) Keon Ellis has the tools to be a 3-and-D wing.
After punting on their two-second round picks, No. 37 and No. 49, Sacramento made only one other roster addition on draft night, signing Ellis out of Alabama to a two-way contract. Ellis quickly showed the tools that make him an NBA player: shooting and defense.
Defensively, Ellis is a dog. He is constantly in passing lanes, using his 6-foot-8 plus wingspan to make things frustrating for his opponents. For a Sacramento team that lacks perimeter defense across the roster, aside from Davion Mitchell, Ellis’ ability on that end should make him a threat to eventually earn a regular roster spot.
Ellis made 54.2% of his 3s on 6 attempts per game in Vegas, and every time he pulled up to shoot, he expected to make it. Many of Ellis’ attempts came from the corner on catch-and-shoot opportunities from the corner on either one or no dribbles.
The Kings are loaded with guys around Ellis’ size, but not many of them can maximize their talent without having the ball in their hands. So, maybe Ellis finds his way into the rotation if the coaching staff appreciates his adaptability.
3.) Neemias Queta made enough “wow” plays for the Kings to prioritize his development.
It’s hard to take much at all from Queta’s rookie season in terms of his future in the NBA. Queta only appeared in 14 games, playing just 120 minutes total, not even to make any real judgments about what he can or can’t be.
In Summer League, Queta showed some things that bode well for his NBA future. For one, Queta is just massive out there on the court and often uses his size to impose his will. In Summer League, Queta was able to set some bone-crushing screens and uses his 9-foot-4½ standing reach to make some volleyball-type blocks at the rim.
Jordi Fernández, Sacramento Kings associate head coach, on Neemias Queta: “It’s hard to find bodies like his, that can move and play the way he plays. Neemy has been a force, a presence, he’s protected the rim, he’s rolled for his teammates, he’s done so many unselfish things.” pic.twitter.com/rRbems7329— Ricardo Brito Reis (@rbritoreis) July 18, 2022
With Damian Jones signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, it’s possible that Queta, who is still on a two-way deal with Sacramento, cracks the rotation at some point during the 2022-23 season.
4.) The vibes are positive, but the Kings are still far off.
After a few positive takeaways, I had to end this post with some cynicism. Overall, things appear to be pointing upward for the organization, after the early returns on the Murray pick appear positive and after several moves that helped the roster overall.
When you look at Sacramento in a vacuum, they have undoubtedly improved, but looking across the West, the Kings are not a playoff team on paper. Luckily, games aren’t played on paper and preseason predictions are rarely borne out.
It’s still July, and things change quickly in the NBA.
At the very least, Sacramento has added some legitimate talent and, at the very least, the direction feels much more positive than it has in any offseason of the 16-year playoff drought.