The Sacramento Kings are NBA champions. Well…Summer League champions, but still. The team put together an impressive 6-1 record in Las Vegas en route to being crowned the Kings of the Summer League and were led by second year point guard Ray McCallum. McCallum scored a total of 55 points in the first six games and saved his best performance for last, going for 29 points and nine rebounds in the championship game, earning MVP honors.
In a summer league preview, I mentioned that McCallum was very impressive in his ten starts last season and could be looked at as the starting point guard, should Isaiah Thomas leave town. Lo and behold, Thomas is now a member of the Phoenix Suns, so that leaves McCallum to compete with newly acquired Darren Collison for starting duties.
Collison is a serviceable veteran who can contribute at a decent level, but McCallum’s scoring ability and much higher overall ceiling should land him the starting job without much trouble. If McCallum can play at a high level, Sacramento should feel comfortable enough with him at the helm and focus their efforts on improving the team in other areas.
Aside from McCallum, a few other players who were hoping to impress in Summer League were Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore.
Stauskas averaged 9.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game, while shooting 47 percent from three-point range. Stauskas wasn’t particularly impressive but he showed off his scoring ability in flashes and did a lot of the little things well, such as making the extra pass to keep the offense flowing and closing out on every jump shot. Defenders definitely respected his jump shot as several pump fakes led to an easy basket or assist to an open teammate.
A definite needed area of improvement for Stauskas will be his aggressiveness. Stauskas floated around the perimeter constantly and hardly looked to drive to the basket. If he did look to drive and was stopped after his first crossover attempt, he bailed and kicked the ball out to a teammate instead of trying to finish and potentially draw a foul.
McLemore seemed to be a clear step ahead of Stauskas in each game, showing off a newfound aggressiveness taking the ball to the rim and better defensive effort and ability than he showed last year. He led the Kings in scoring and shot an impressive 67 percent from the field while doing so. Overall, McLemore looks like he has worked hard to improve his game and there is reason for optimism on his continued improvement.
Turnovers need to be cut down, however, as McLemore averaged 2.8 turnovers per game, which is a high number given the level of competition and low minutes. Also, his jump shot from mid-range seemed to be consistent but he only shot 30 percent from beyond the arc, so he needs to find more consistency there.
Lastly, the battle for minutes at power forward between Quincy Acy and Derrick Williams was one to watch in Summer League. Both players put together quality minutes and showed improvement in several areas.
Acy gets the edge because of a significant edge in rebounds per game (6.7 to 2.3) and also was a noticeably better defender than Williams. Acy showed off an improved jump shot and some new power moves under the basket while Williams continued to use his athleticism to score points.
The Kings need someone to step up at power forward, and Acy should get the nod for more minutes. He has a team option that is due to be accepted or declined by Friday, so Kings fans will find out shortly if Acy will stick around, but he should definitely be a go.
On a final note, I’d like to see undrafted rookie Eric Moreland get a training camp invite and a hard look for the 15-man roster. Moreland is 6’10” and was a monster defensively and on the boards, averaging 2.6 blocks and 8.6 rebounds in 19 minutes of action. Guys who can rebound and defend will always find work and Moreland proved he could contribute in both areas.
Moreland isn’t very polished offensively, but if he can score on a few putbacks and get a couple buckets here and there from offensive rebounds, that will be plenty of offensive output from him. The main reason for keeping Moreland around would be to protect the rim and to prevent second chance points while the starters get rest. Camp invites will be known soon so keep on eye on him.
All in all, Kings fans should be very pleased with the performance of their young players. It means that they are drafting well or finding talent by other means and if the team can keep this up, there will always be some reason for optimism.