Even though it’s just Summer League, nobody wants to end up leaving town without a win.
Heading into the fifth and final Summer League game, the Kings didn’t want the winless New York Knicks to join the list of the Pistons, Warriors, Bucks and D-Leaguers as the teams that beat Sacramento in Las Vegas. Aside from a one-sided affair in the first game against Detroit, Sacramento had played solid basketball over the course of a week in which they received a glimpse into the future with role players hoping to make a training camp invite list, the prized rookies from this draft, and the players on the Kings roster who were trying to develop their talents.
During the broadcast of the game, Mike D’Antoni was a guest, speaking about the Knicks future plans and prospects while giving his insight to whatever Kings’ observations the announcer asked him to make. D’Antoni offered this gem that stings a little for Kings’ fans but also offers a glimpse into what other outside viewpoints are held around the NBA: “There’s good news and bad news for the Kings. The good news is they’ve got a good, young Summer League team. Bad news is it’s also their winter team. They’re a lot like us.”
I think that’s something that can be both a gift and a burden for the Kings in the next 12 months. They’re extremely young and virtually building from scratch. Only five guys on the roster so far are over the age of 25 and two of those guys are Beno Udrih and Kenny Thomas. The rest are young, prospects looking to evolve into NBA studs and help lead this Kings team or their next employer towards an NBA title. But at the same time, young teams often lead to terrible and inconsistent defensive teams. It leads to teams that offer excitement and jubilation on one play and frustration on the next due to a poor defensive rotation or a bad rebounding sequence.
After watching five games in the Summer League for this roster, I offer the viewpoint that Jason Thompson proved his worth, Donte Greene showed he has a lot to work on, Omri Casspi showed calm in the eye of what normally would create irritation, Jon Brockman has a place in this league, and Tyreke Evans should be the favorite to win Rookie of the Year if you’re putting together odds right now. Guys like Jerel McNeal, Brian Roberts, and Marcus Landry can definitely hold their own. I think it was an encouraging summer for Kings fans because they’ve seen the future of their franchise and have a much better idea of where Sacramento is headed (that’s not an Anaheim or Las Vegas reference by the way) and what they have to look forward too than what they saw two months ago.
And with that, here are player recaps for this game and a recap of their summer:
For this game, Brockman did what we’ve come to expect from him – he rebounded once every two minutes he was on the floor and played solid defense. Brock showed a lot of good signs that people should be impressed with in this game. When matched up with Jordan Hill (the 7th pick in the draft), he used his strong base and core power to keep his defensive position, which put Hill out of his comfort zone. He also threw two excellent outlet passes to players leaking out ahead of everybody else. Instead of throwing them right to the player, he led his teammates with a lob that bounced between the Kings player and the basket so they just had to go get it and go up with it. It’s a subtle thing to see but something that is very encouraging for a player that is such a good rebounder and hustles to grab loose balls.
Over the course of the summer, he averaged 9.2 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game. He only scored 27points in five games and made just 40.9% of his shots but his rebounding and defense made up it. He finished the VSL as the sixth leading rebounder. He’s a lock to make the Kings roster this fall and may even find his way into the regular rotation.
Omri had another really bad shooting game, making just 2/11 from the field. But he grabbed nine rebounds (seven on the offensive boards) and still managed to make a three and get to the line six times to total 11 points. His defense against a proven scorer like Morris Almond was encouraging as well. Just like he did in the previous four games, Omri looked active and positive despite the fact that he struggled with the basketball. On his first offensive rebound, he grabbed it on the right side of the hoop, reverse pivoted to the left side of the basket and laid it in. It was a fundamentally sound move that freed him from the defender and showed his good footwork.
As for the rest of the summer, he shot terribly the entire time here. He finished under 30% from the field and even lower from three-point range. He never looked completely comfortable and fluid on the court but he kept playing hard and showed great resilience. He’s definitely a project but he looks to be a quick learner and should blossom with the help of Andres Nocioni.
JT had a tough time making shots with just 9/22 shooting but he was still aggressive after his great performance against the D-League team. He was aggressive going to the basket, handled the ball extremely well in the open court and was very active on the boards. He finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. He played good defense against Jordan Hill and even did a nice job when he was switched out on Tskitishvili on the perimeter.
For the summer, he started the first three games looking like a walking regression and finished it instilling confidence in Kings fans and pundits that criticized him (see: me). He was much more active in the final two games of the summer and definitely shed the label of lethargic and slow. He seems to be adjusting to his added muscle and heads into the fall as the best low post presence the Kings employ.
Coachie started DG at the shooting guard position to give him extended time on the floor with the other guys he’ll be playing with this coming season. Greene was once again very underwhelming as a scorer and shooter, which makes his 40-point outburst for the Rockets’ Summer League team last year look more like the exception than the rule with him. He made just 2/8 shots in the Kings fifth game and missed both of his threes. But his defense was very solid and he was active inside when he ventured into the paint.
For the summer, he also made fewer than 30% of his shots and knocked down just one of his eight three-point attempts. He only scored 15 points in his final three games after scoring 23 in his first two but he also took far fewer shots in those games. He often looked passive on offense while looking aggressive on defense and the boards. I have no idea what to expect from Donte heading into next year. He could absolutely click or he could never warrant any playing time. And I think that’s what Kings fans will have to live with for the next year or two – never knowing what DG will give you.
This was Landry’s worst scoring game of the summer and he’s been so good so far that I was shocked when he missed all three of his three-point shots. Despite his poor scoring performance in this game, his defense and play inside was exceptional. He blocked three shots and was active in helping against other Knicks players.
I’ve typed it a lot before this and I’ll type it one more time; Marcus Landry has earned a spot in training camp for the Kings. His three-point shooting was deadly this summer by making 10/24 threes and he made 48.5% of his field goal attempts overall. He averaged 9.4 points per game off the bench in just 21.8 minutes every contest. He was their best weapon off the bench and even outplayed Donte Greene in most games.
McNeal’s fifth game was a lot like his entire summer. There were high expectations for him that he simply didn’t meet. He only played eight minutes in this game but most of them were ineffective. His defense was solid all summer long and he shot the ball well but he wasn’t a playmaker at all. He often played off the ball with Tyreke Evans running the point but he didn’t do a good job of creating for others when he did have the possession.
I think McNeal will get to a training camp somewhere and will probably have to prove himself in the D-League. But he didn’t play well enough this summer that could lead me to believe he ACTUALLY belongs in this league.
Matthews showed up late in the summer after playing in the Orlando Summer League and played his best when paired on the court with his collegiate teammate, Jerel McNeal. Matthews was a solid scorer in two of his three games and proved to be fairly opportunistic on both offense and with loose balls at the defensive end. Matthews is strictly a scorer off the bench in this league at best and does a very good job of knowing when to attack the defense. But he’s fairly one-dimensional and you have to be exceptional at that one dimension to make it in this league (see: Eddie House). Matthews will have to continue to get better as an overall player to find a spot on an NBA roster.
We finally saw John Bryant in this final game against the Knicks and he proved to be exactly what we thought going in. He’s a big body. Actually, he’s a REALLY big body. He has a nice touch around the hoop and does a great job of sealing in the post. I just don’t know if he belongs in the NBA though after seeing him against better talent and athletes. In an up-tempo style like what the Kings will run, Bryant just doesn’t fit in like we hoped he would. I wouldn’t expect to see him this fall in Sacramento but he could eventually make it somewhere else.
At the risk of angering alumni from Utah Valley University, Toolson just didn’t show me anything that translates to being an NBA player. He was a scorer in college but he can’t be that at the NBA level. He’s not a good and/or traditional point guard in any sense but at 6’4”, 190 lbs he won’t be able to play shooting guard in the pro leagues. Maybe his scoring ability can get him to catch on in the D-League but he’ll have to work on many aspects of his game to do so.
Battle had a nice start to the summer due to his great physique and the fact that he’s approaching 30 years old. However, he probably didn’t show enough to prove he’s an NBA player. Most likely, he’s headed back to Europe to continue his career there.
I like what Roberts showed this summer and I think he can get a camp invite somewhere else. He committed just two turnovers in 51 minutes this summer and did a nice job staying in front of his man on defense. He’s likely a D-League player for most of his career but he’s scrappy and capable of playing with guys much better than him.
Unfortunately, Victor Stowes played just two minutes this summer and showed nothing in those two minutes to know anything about him.
Allegedly Pat Calathes was on the roster. I saw him at the games but I think he was just sneaking into places because he was so tall and looked like he belonged. I just don’t understand why bring someone to Summer League and then not play him a single second. He can’t be THAT bad. Can he?
And now for your Tyreke Evans recap:
Actually, let’s save that for Monday. He deserves his own post.