Ten Questions to Ask with Sacramento’s Summer League Wrapped Up

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 15: The Sacramento Kings huddle up during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League on July 15, 2023 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

After going 5-2 throughout the Summer League—2-0 at the California Classic and 3-2 in Las Vegas—fans won’t really engage with much Kings basketball between now and the start of training camp in September.

Though Sacramento again failed to win the Summer League title after winning it in 2021, there was some excellent play from a lot of guys. Among other things, Keegan Murray lit it up in his two games at The Golden 1 Center, 34th overall pick Colby Jones demonstrated game-by-game progress, and Jordan Ford led his hometown team in scoring.

There were also other topics of interest ranging from speculation about Neemias Queta, who might or might not get the third two-way contract, the slow start of Jalen Slawson, and more.

In all, with a big season lying ahead that will bring with it larger expectations, the seven Summer League games left observers with a lot to think about, both about the present and future.

Here are ten questions to consider with the conclusion of summer basketball.

What position is Colby Jones?

Colby Jones comes out of Xavier as what can essentially be described as a two-guard that can guard the wing.

During his play time this month, he did a large amount of the ball handling duties. Keon Ellis finished with more assists—in total, per game, and per 36 minutes—but Jones seemed to have just as many opportunities to bring the ball up the court. Behind Jordan Ford and Ellis, Jones manned the point guard duties.

The Kings did not utilize other point guards on the roster much, instead using the aforementioned two-guards as that Malik Monk-styled combo guard that gets most of the ball handling duties and creation responsibilities.

Jones did a satisfactory job creating out of the pick-and-roll. Additionally, he showed a nice feel in transition and exhibited some great court vision at times. He did commit his fair share of turnovers looking to create, but his progress was often apparent.

And he’ll have time to keep progressing because he probably won’t be seeing that kind of role as a rookie. De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Malik Monk, and Davion Mitchell will all be having the ball in their hands. Plus, Chris Duarte may get his share of opportunities, and fans saw Keegan Murray with the ball in his hands more in his two California Classic games.

Assuming Colby Jones won’t have a rotational spot bestowed upon him, his playtime as a rookie should merit a more complementary and connective role when the minutes are there. He’s capable of doing that and can earn more responsibility in due time.

So in the longterm, there shouldn’t be one single answer. Versatility is part of what makes Jones alluring, and positional versatility will be seen. However, for now, expect him to play more as an off-ball two or three.

Should Colby Jones’ shooting struggles be a concern?

Relating to the previous question, one of the things that will be key for Jones as a connective piece will be his floor spacing ability.

Just as much as he’ll have to contribute defensively, hitting outside shots is absolutely imperative.

But the rookie shot poorly in six games played. Overall from three, Jones hit just 8 of 29 of his looks, good for a 27.6% clip. And further substantiating potential concern is the fact that his struggles followed him to the free throw line, where he shot a putrid 41.7% on 12 total attempts from the charity stripe.

Shooting was a considerable question mark for Jones coming out of college. As a Junior he shot 37.8% on 3.4 attempts per game, which was a nice improvement, but it was a sudden shift. In his initial two seasons at Xavier, he shot 30.3% on 2.0 attempts, including a 29.2% clip his Sophomore year. 

What always made the 37.8% three-point clip a possible outlier was the fact Jones shot 67.9% from the free throw line in three years of college. His percentages ventured up and down. Even as his three-point percentage climbed upward this past season, his free throw percentage dipped.

Summer League doesn’t tell the whole tale of course, but this was definitely not the best sign for Colby Jones even as he showed a ton of good things in other areas. 

Is the Neemias Queta experiment nearing the end?

In short, Neemias Queta did not receive a two-way contract when Keon Ellis and Jalen Slawson did. He then got hurt in the second contest in Vegas against the Clippers. And he frankly did not show substantial improvement as it pertains to an NBA role.

He could end up with another two-way, but he just turned 24. More importantly, the Kings have had plenty of time to evaluate him up close.

After the first California Classic games, Luke Loucks was asked about Queta not getting the third two-way contract spot. The head coach said he “can’t speak on” the topic of the big man’s contract before deferring to commending Queta’s character.

Maybe this is reading too far into things, but that never sounds like a good thing.

Anyway, this was Friday’s topic. Read more here.

How much will Kessler Edwards play at the 4 position?

Kessler Edwards played a lot of the power forward position. 

In Keegan Murray’s two games in Sacramento at the beginning of the month, he played the 3 position while Edwards manned the 4.

The lone trade deadline acquisition guarded 4’s at times last season, showing versatility, but in Summer League his opponents had some noticeable physical advantages. Edwards manned guys ranging from the hulking Kobe Brown and the long, face-up Mouhammed Gueye. 

Overall, he showed excellent rebounding ability, solid rotations down low, fearless contests (he got dunked on pretty hard at one point against Minnesota), and some strength.

Even before he spent most of this summer playing that position, that had to be in the cards. Versatility and swichability will be huge for Sacramento’s defense.

But nothing’s perfect. Speaking of the Minnesota game, there was one specific point where Leonard Miller clearly out-muscled Edwards. There were a couple similar types of instances at other points. And his success against other bigger guys could be attributed to his experience.

Even with that, Edwards still made it clear that he’s expanding his versatility and range of impact.

Will Keon Ellis make a bigger impact in his NBA time this season?

Keon Ellis was awesome last summer, but as a rookie on a two-way deal, his limited minutes in the NBA did not standout. 

He did, for instance, have a good showing in mop up time in a February game against New Orleans, but in more critical minutes, it was not the same story. In a game against the Mavericks, he struggled with some miscommunications, and later, in a game in Phoenix, he got thrown out there in an important moment and—of all things—committed a foul, which earned him a quick hook.

Will a year of familiarity under his belt pay off for whatever amount of NBA minutes he gets?

One of the things about Ellis this summer was he looked more and more like one of the better players on the floor as time went on. With more comfort and practice time with teammates, Ellis seems to play more freely, and thus, more effectively.

It stands to reason that his second training camp with the team could springboard him into a position where he’s more comfortable with the team, which would help in spot minutes and opportunities. That would make him a useful asset.

A two-way player only has limited windows to show what they have at the highest level, so they have to be ready at all times. Will better familiarity aid Ellis in that objective?

Did Jordan Ford earn himself anything?

More than a product of Folsom High School and Saint Mary’s College, Jordan Ford caught the eyes of more than just Northern Californians. During the Minnesota game, Jamal Crawford could not stop talking about Ford.

In six total games ranging from Sacramento to Las Vegas, Ford averaged 14.1 points on 50.0% shooting from the field and a 34.6% clip from deep to go along with 6.5 assists per contest.

His ability to create for himself and others with his crafty, high-awareness approach seemed to lure a large spotlight to point in his direction. Often times, he was the catalyst for the team.

With a third two-way slot available and room for a third point guard, could the Kings bring Jordan Ford on with a standard contract?

Other than maybe an invite to camp, anything like that seems unlikely.

Even as he played very well, he is extremely undersized at 6’1″ and with a weight of 175 lbs. He also does not have astounding athletic ability to make up for it in the NBA. And while he has an excellent feel for the game and the point guard position, his consistency was not the best.

He’s probably more likely to earn something with another team, but Jordan Ford nevertheless put on a show throughout Summer League.

What will Jalen Slawson’s role be in Stockton?

Jalen Slawson played as point forward that was the hub of the offense at Furman, but after being drafted this year, the projection for him is to be more of a complementary role player that does the little things.

Excluding what was a slow start to play in a Kings uniform that was almost entirely forgettable, Slawson had a Summer League filled with a lot of positives and a lot of concerns.

The 54th overall selection in the draft sometimes struggled to play a complementary role among other higher profile players on the team, and similarly, he had trouble fitting some of his on-ball offensive impact among them too.

But there was a massive contrast when Slawson was handed the reigns in the finale against the Bucks. Jordan Ford, Keon Ellis, Colby Jones, and Kessler Edwards all sat that contest out, and while Souley Boum and Dane Goodwin handled some point guard duties, Slawson played a lot of a role similar to his time at Furman. At some key moments, he was essentially the point guard.

With that opportunity, he played confidently and had his most complete game.

Will he play that way in Stockton, where he’ll spend most of his time? Or will he assume an offensive role more akin to the one the Kings envision as a possible NBA contributor?

Slawson played well defensively for the most part and was a contributor on the glass, but how he projects to squeeze in offensively remains up in the air for the moment as does how Lindsey Harding chooses to utilize him.

Does Mike Daum fit the description of Sacramento’s ideal 4?

Mike Daum finished his career at South Dakota State in 2019 as having scored the eighth most points in Division I college basketball. He’s shown in college as well as overseas that he is a special shooter with compact and quick mechanics.

But watching him play a lot of the 4 and even the small 5—including as a starter against the Timberwolves—it was hard to overlook that he has similar physical measurements to Trey Lyles. Lyles is 6’9″ and 234 lbs. while Daum is 6’9″ and 236 lbs.

Daum seemed to get better with every game. His three-point shooting was huge, he demonstrated some great work on the glass, and even had a 4-block outing in that game against Minnesota. In other words, he also stretches the floor, gets his body on guys to help on the boards, and can contribute as a team defender.

Is this the mold of power forwards/4’s that the Kings like?

Beyond Sacramento, it seems indicative of the modern NBA.

However, Daum might still leave a little to be desired. There were moments where guys out-muscled him on the glass, and worse, he averaged 7.1 personal fouls per 36 minutes in his five appearances in Vegas.

So Daum fits the bill in a lot of ways, but he definitely won’t be threatening guys who play the 4, like Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes, Trey Lyles, or Sasha Vezenkov. 

Will there be a heavier reliance on playing a small 5 this season?

Off that topic, the question of the small 5 rises to prominence since guys like Daum and Slawson manning the middle at times.

It’s already of peak interest given the fact that there are so many bodies to man the 4 while Sabonis and Alex Len exist as the only two true centers (at least for now). This points to the likelihood that Trey Lyles will see substantial minutes as the backup 5.

But could others see time as the small 5 as well?

It’s not likely the Kings would go so small to play Murray or Barnes at the 5, and Vezenkov doesn’t seem like he has the NBA know-how to make that adaptation—he’ll have enough on his plate trying to guard 4’s and contribute as a team defender at this level.

So, no. It’s unlikely, but the overall reliance on a small 5 should be expected to increase even if we’re talking solely about Lyles.

Len and Lyles—a big center and an undersized one—can platoon based on matchups behind Sabonis. Lyles will get his minutes still if Len gets his time; it’s Sasha Vezenkov who is probably the alternating guy, at least to start. Off the bat, it appears he’s getting paid to be able to step in and continue stretching the floor to an equal, if not better, degree while holding his own in other areas.

Even as that’s an easy conclusion to make, knowing the Kings mirror their NBA style in Summer League and seeing so much of the small 5 there, particularly after Queta’s injury, it’s a near certainty that Mike Brown will use the small 5 more often because he’ll actually be able to.

Will Mike Brown implement a rotational change that ends up resembling those Luke Loucks use?

As was the case last year, the Summer League played very similarly to the NBA team. The offense was similar with the center often operating at the top as a passer and the same principles, such as playing with a high pace, were being preached. One could certainly see how Luke Loucks’s summer squad mirrored the real beam team.

Will this be the same for rotations?

Aside from the game against the Timberwolves where Daum started at the 5, the starting center would typically come out about four or so minutes into a half’s opening period and return with about two minutes left with another break in the middle of the next period.

Sabonis typically gets to rest for about five to seven minutes of regulation time per half, coming out around the two-minute mark of the first and third quarters. 

Will he get two smaller rests per half?

Even as there was some peripheral and momentary discourse about maybe changing to the substitution rotations in order to get De’Aaron Fox rolling earlier into games, there isn’t much need to talk about that after seeing how Fox closed the year. Plus, Sabonis is the hub of the offense and more often than not serves as the tone-setting figure with his passing and rebounding.

It’s unlikely there will be a change here.

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