Later today, the Sacramento Kings tip off their NBA Summer League schedule on the campus of UNLV in Las Vegas. It will mark the first opportunity for fans to get a glimpse of Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum, the Kings’ two rookies taken in this year’s draft.. If you’re headed to Vegas or planning to catch games on TV, here are a few things worth pondering as the Kings take the court today.
1. How NBA ready is Ben McLemore?
Summer league is never the be-all end-all indicator of whether a player is destined for success in the league. But it’s still a good test nonetheless. Last year, it became evident that Thomas Robinson‘s undersized build would be an issue for him at the NBA level when the former Kings forward struggled against taller and longer players in Vegas. McLemore likely won’t face the same problems as he’s possesses prototypical size for the shooting guard position. But it will be interesting to watch how his strengths, such as his athleticism and shooting prowess, fair against tougher competition.
2. Who is Ray McCallum?
When the Kings selected the heady guard out of Detroit Mercy, many were shocked. Not many could say they expected McCallum to go 36th to the Kings, especially considering that the team never brought him in for a workout. Summer League will give McCallum a chance to show fans what he can do. From what we’ve heard so far, he’s already establishing himself as a model floor general that possesses excellent athleticism. Also, Vegas will give McCallum an opportunity to demonstrate his highly-touted basketball IQ.
3. Defense, defense, defense.
Coaches before Michael Malone have preached defense before, but they’ve failed to create such a culture in Sacramento. Malone has a proven track record of turning teams into cohesive defensive units. Under the watchful eye of Chris Jent, Summer League will serve as an opportunity for the Kings to show that they’re serious about becoming a team centered around defense.
4. What kind of offensive identity will the Kings establish?
We’ve heard a lot about what the Kings hope to do defensively. What we haven’t heard much of is how they’ll score. Will we see the Kings try to score plenty in transition? Will their defense dictate how they play on offense? Summer League should give us an idea of whether the Kings will run more of a fast pace or methodical-based offense under their new head coach.
5. Surprise standouts
The Kings have 12 players on their roster after trimming down before action began yesterday. There are a few hoping to sign a contract outright or receive an invite to training camp that are worth watching. In this week’s Cowbell Kingdom Podcast, new assistant coach and director of player development Dee Brown noted he’s been impressed by two players in particular – Trent Lockett of Marquette and C.J. Aiken of St. Joe’s. Brown likened Lockett to Thabo Sefolosha, a wing player that can hit open shots and prides himself on defense, while praising Aiken’s length and athleticism as a hybrid three/four man. David Lighty, a James Ham favorite, is another player to look out for as well. He’s an intelligent guard and like Lockett, he’s willing to play a role as a defender and floor spacer.
6. No NBA contract, but what about the D-League?
The Kings announced on Thursday a new hybrid-partnership with the Reno Bighorns. The NBA franchise will now operate and execute all basketball operations for their D-League affiliate, which will allow them to monitor and develop players more closely. With this new partnership, Vegas invites may have another avenue of latching onto the Kings if they don’t come away with NBA contracts following Summer League. It’s quite possible that some players may find a home with the Bighorns if they impress Kings brass but don’t quite fit the team’s short-term plans.
7. Will the Kings front office look to wheel and deal?
So far, the Kings have had their most entertaining offseason in years. They made a bid on one of this year’s top free agents in Andre Iguodala and kicked the tires on Monta Ellis. They dealt Tyreke Evans and brought back a former fan favorite in Carl Landry. The Kings roster appears to be far from complete as the team still has a logjam in its backcourt and frontcourt positions. General managers and front office personnel will all be gathered in Vegas for the next nine days, so it will be interesting to see if the Kings make any major moves while they’re in the desert.
The Kings play their first summer league game at 3 pm this afternoon against the Dallas Mavericks. Follow Cowbell Kingdom for continued coverage from Las Vegas.