When Keon Ellis and Jalen Slawson were given two-way contracts, the biggest takeaway was that Neemias Queta did not receive one.
This season, three two-way spots are permitted for each team, so it was quite glaring that the 2021 second round pick out of Utah State, who got one each of the last two seasons, was left out.
Players are only allowed to sign a two-way contract when they’ve been a pro for three or less years. This is Queta’s last chance to sign one as he enters year three.
The Kings extended a $2 million qualifying offer, but being only partially-guaranteed, the primary reason was just to make him a restricted free agent in case a team offers him a standard contract.
He’s expressed that he’s more than open to stay with the organization via another two-way deal, even if the security isn’t the best.
Beggars can’t be choosers though, and the least of Queta’s worries is contract security.
The question for him is whether the Kings see any worth in continuing to invest in him. After all, he’s about to turn 24 soon.
Without being given a two-way contract, there was still hope Queta could impress at the Las Vegas Summer League and demonstrate the requisite growth.
However, the big man ran into trouble when he suffered a stress reaction and sprain in his right foot. It occurred in the second Vegas game on Monday night in the second quarter.
Queta will miss the remainder of Summer League. In total, including the California Classic, he appeared in just three and a half contests.
Frankly, even worse than being incapable of further making a case for himself, what he’s shown is that his ceiling may not have room to climb beyond the point of being a successful G League talent.
The Portuguese big man was particularly terrific at that level last season when he was honored with all G League and All-Defensive G League honors. He was also arguably the best player on one of the best teams in the Stockton Kings.
What he does down there is no joke.
But last season and so far in Summer League this season, it just doesn’t seem like there’s much hope for Queta regarding rotational minutes at the NBA level.
Despite getting ready to turn the ripe age of 24, it still does not appear he ever grew into his body. He looks as awkward and off-balanced as he did a year ago. Simply put, he still has the unmistakeable gait of a young foal.
There were a few times where he hit the floor, including on Monday when a tumble caused his jersey number to begin peeling off his back.
When Queta’s on in terms of rim protection, rebounding, and finishing he’s actually a joy to watch, but the same can be said of when he’s flailing around on the hardwood, just for a different reason as he’s falling all over the floor. His entertainment value is high, but it would hurt his production in the NBA.
Fans saw it last season when he got opportunities at the backup 5 at the NBA level. The biggest hinderance to his play was his propensity to fouling. His per 36 minutes numbers for personal fouls were awful at 8.7 committed.
Mike Brown has noted how the backup 5 has to be a role that brings energy because it plays such a short amount and has to make up for the absence of a resting Sabonis. Fouling all the time and forcing stoppages in play is the antithesis of that.
In Summer League, the Kings stick to a similar play style as they do in the regular season. That was visible last season as Jordi Fernandez and the staff utilized much of the offense fans ended up seeing. This year, it’s the same, and the big man is frequently featured with the ball in his hands at the top.
Though they would be unlikely to ask Queta to function in the same role as the facilitating Sabonis, it’s still important for the big man to process the game effectively. But so far, he’s shown little growth; he isn’t necessarily bad at making reads, but he’s not sharp or decisive. There’s a hesitancy to him, and he did have a few turnovers in that scenario because of it.
To his credit, he can flaunt some pretty emphatic blocks. He’s also been finishing extremely well, which he showed immense progress in last year, and he’s taken the extra step to work on finishing with his left. And he’s a good rebounder at his size as he often serves as an inexorable force on both sides of the glass.
But no matter how good he can be at those aspects of the game, what we’ve seen him do in these games this summer is look great for about a quarter of play. The rest of the game he’ll kind of disappear, or worse, he’ll start screwing up in grand fashion. But the point is his consistency is simply too unreliable.
Queta was going to have to show some significant strides to make a case to earn a standard contract. As it appeared, he wasn’t on his way to doing that and his foot injury won’t allow him to steer things in a better direction.
Nothing’s for certain at this point, but the Queta era may be finished. He should continue to be a great G League talent and make Portuguese basketball fans proud, but he’s reached a clear ceiling due to his lack of NBA-level body fluidity, awareness, and consistency.