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Five Takeaways from NBA Summer League Opening Weekend

Here is what stood out the most from the Sacramento Kings' first two Summer League games in Las Vegas.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento Kings have returned to Las Vegas for the 2022 NBA Summer League, in search of back-to-back championships.

After opening the weekend with two games against the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers, here are five takeaways so far.

Keegan Murray is even better than Kings fans hoped

Going back to NBA Draft night in June, there was a mix of excitement and disappointment from Kings fans with the selection of Keegan Murray as fourth overall pick. Many felt that Jaden Ivey, who went fifth to the Detroit Pistons, had more star potential. Others thought the Kings could've gotten more value from trading the pick. However, General Manager Monte McNair was adamant that not only was Murray their ideal fit, he was also the best player available at that spot.

Now, with five summer league games (including the California Classic) under his belt, Murray is already proving McNair and the Kings right. He's scored 20 or more points in four out of the five games, showed NBA veteran composure with his game-tying three to send Saturday's game against Orlando to overtime and proved that he could overcome a shooting slump and put the team on his back at the end of a close game like he did in Sunday's win against Indiana.

RELATED: Who is Keegan Murray? The Sacramento Kings' #4 pick in the NBA draft

What's most exciting about Murray is his proven ability to score in the flow of the offense, even as the best player on the Kings Summer League roster. Murray doesn't require multiple plays drawn up for him to score and certainly isn't ball dominant. It is very easy to see how he can fit right in with De'Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and the Kings offense come next season. 

In addition, he is a solid defender who welcomed matching up with the opponent's best players, including first overall pick Paolo Banchero and sixth overall pick Bennedict Mathurin.

Neemias Queta has a legitimate shot at an NBA role

Selected in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft, Neemias Queta has shown a lot of growth from his rookie season with the Stockton Kings to this summer. He's the biggest guy on the floor almost every night, and yet he moves with a fluidity and has a finesse to his game that you don't normally see out of a seven footer. The touch around the basket is good, he moves well in the pick-and-roll and showed his ability to step out and hit the three too.

With his size, Queta is a natural shot blocker and should be a good rebounder. Those are skills that the Sacramento Kings are in need of. However, there have been games where Queta has had too few rebounds and often lacks the strength and physicality around the rim to truly take advantage of his build.

For the second season in a row, Queta will be on a two-way contract with the Sacramento Kings, meaning he will play the majority of his games in Stockton, but can spend up to 45 days with the main roster. The Portuguese pro has a legitimate shot at being the third string big for Sacramento, and can earn a main contract with the team like Chimezie Metu and Damian Jones did after being two-way players in the 2020-2021 season.

Keon Ellis is a sneaky-good post-draft signing for the Kings

Immediately following the draft, the Kings signed Alabama senior Keon Ellis to their other two-way contract spot. There's been some speculation that Ellis, who went undrafted despite having significant second round value, had intentionally tried to play for the Kings, believing it to be a great opportunity for a player of his skillset.

The "three and d" wing, a term used for a good defender who can also space the floor and make threes consistently on offense, is a valuable commodity in the NBA, and a significant position of need in Sacramento. While it's unrealistic to expect Ellis to come in and compete for a major role, he's quickly shown this summer why he intrigued the Kings enough to offer him their only other two-way spot.

Ellis has had some good moments and some bad, as can be expected in Summer League. He's had a few really solid defensive possessions, and showed off his seemingly favorite place to shoot on the floor. The wing and corner three right in front of the opposing bench is usually hostile territory for a shooter. Opponents try to distract and unnerve as much as they can when shooters linger into their territory. Ellis didn't seem to miss a shot at that spot of the floor, and always followed up the made basket with a few words directed towards the bench.

The Kings are searching for a third point guard

ESPN's Mark J. Spears reported that Quinn Cook and Shabazz Muhammad are in Las Vegas for a workout with the Kings, who still have roster spots available. ESPN's Dave McMenamin also reported that 2016 NBA Champion Matthew Dellavedova was also working out for the Kings in an attempt to return to the league. Dellavedova has not played in the NBA since the 2020-21 season, and played under new Kings head coach Mike Brown back in 2013-14.

If the Kings are looking for more defense, Dellavedova could be a great option. The 31-year-old Australian was known for his pesky on-ball defending. If Sacramento wants offense, Cook is a solid option. He played on both the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers and 2018 Golden State Warriors championship teams.

Matt Coleman, who has played back-up point guard for the Kings Summer League team, and who has spent time with the Stockton Kings, could also be considered, but is a long shot to win the spot.

The NBA Summer League matters way more than people think

NBA Summer League basketball certainly isn't the highest level, especially compared to the regular NBA. But experiencing Summer League in person gives one a much higher level of appreciation for these "meaningless" games.

Of course, for top draft picks like Keegan Murray, Summer League is a glorified NBA warm up and showcase. But for the majority of players, these games are their big shot at achieving their NBA dreams. These young men are battling for a chance to impress any team enough to earn a two-way contract, an invite to training camp or a spot on a G-League roster. Some even use these games to impress international scouts enough to play professionally overseas.

In addition to all of that, the Thomas & Mack Center, and COX Pavilion, is filled not just with NBA fans, scouts and executives, but also some of the biggest names in the game's history. The logo, Jerry West, can be seen sitting courtside for nearly every game. Hall-of-famers come through every year to experience the equivalent of a basketball festival. Not to mention all of the regular pros who come in to support their future teammates.

Summer League is a major stage for these players, and an opportunity of a lifetime that many before have used to begin prosperous NBA careers. They may not always be the most entertaining games to watch, but they definitely do matter.

RELATED: Kings drop one of the most entertaining Summer League games ever


Keegan Murray Is Already Better than Sacramento Kings Fans Hoped | Locked On Kings

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