In the grand scheme of the NBA, playing for a Las Vegas Summer League championship means very little. That is, unless you are the Sacramento Kings, who are looking for some momentum heading into the 2021-22 season.
After cruising past the Dallas Mavericks to improve to 4-0, the Kings anxiously waited to see the outcome of both the Minnesota Timberwolves' and New Orleans Pelicans' games on Sunday. While both teams came away with overtime victories, they didn’t do enough to stop the Kings from advancing to the championship game on Tuesday against the Boston Celtics.
This is positive news for the Kings and an excellent experience for everyone involved. Winning, at any level, is a good thing.
There are plenty of reasons the Kings have found success in Las Vegas, but here is a closer look at the four that stand out the most.
Vegas is full of guys trying to stand out and make a name for themselves. For some of these players, this is their last shot at making a meaningful impression, but that is a double-edged sword.
Bobby Jackson has accomplished one of the most important aspects of coaching in the Summer League. Every player who steps on the floor plays hard and plays defense.
No coach had time to put in a bunch of play sets or schemes leading into Summer League. If a team buys into what the coach is selling, it has a shot. Jackson had this team focused and ready to compete every game. This is a very good sign for the Stockton Kings' head coach.
When the Kings drafted Davion Mitchell, they did so with the understanding that he was as close to an NBA-ready prospect as you are going to find. The 22-year-old hasn’t disappointed.
On the offensive end, Mitchell has shown potential as a shooter, distributor and leader. He has had some highs and lows, but you can see the outline of the player he will be, especially when he’s surrounded by players like De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton.
Mitchell is a complete game-changer on the defensive end. What he did to fellow 2021 draftee James Bouknight was ridiculous. He is a culture-changer for the Kings and we’ll see plenty of three-guard sets this season in Sacramento.
Monte McNair and his staff built a winner. The first step was to get commitments from the core of young players already at their disposal, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Surrounding Mitchell with rostered players like Jahmi’us Ramsey, Robert Woodard and Chimezie Metu was a strong move. Adding in two-way players Louis King and Neemias Queta gave the Kings the size, length and athleticism to compete.
There were plenty of other additions that played well, but this is the group that will decide whether the Kings take home a Summer League title or come up short. There are some experienced players in this lot, but also rookies in Mitchell and Queta, who both have started every game and held their own.
Diamond in the Rough
When the Kings initially released their roster for the California Classic, a league source mentioned one player to watch out for: Emmanuel Terry. They were right.
Terry isn’t a household name, but he has a skill that you just can’t teach. Call him a pogo stick. Call him a hustle player. Call him the energizer bunny. However you want to describe him, he has been incredibly impactful off the bench for Sacramento.
Through four games in Vegas, Terry has averaged 6.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game. He has kept countless offensive possessions alive, and whether it’s in Sacramento or elsewhere, he likely has earned a training camp invitation somewhere this season.
While nothing is set quite yet, it’s very likely that Terry will get the nod at the power forward spot in the finale with Metu missing the game due to suspension.