NBA Summer League Championship 2014: Top Storylines from Rockets vs. Kings Clash

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2014

Sacramento Kings' Ray McCallum, center, celebrates after he was named the game MVP for the NBA summer league championship basketball game against the Houston Rockets Monday, July 21, 2014, in Las Vegas. McCallum scored 29 points and made nine rebounds in the game. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

As the NBA puts a bow on the summer league, which gave rookies and D-League stars a chance to shine in front of team executives for more than two weeks, a litany of storylines developed in the championship game between the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings. 

The Kings won, 77-68, behind Ray McCallum's 29 points and nine rebounds. There hasn't been a lot of joy and celebration in Sacramento surrounding the basketball team in recent years, but at least this can be seen as a step in the right direction. 

While we will talk about McCallum's MVP-winning performance against the Rockets, that wasn't the only notable takeaway from Monday's action. These are the key things we took away from Las Vegas. 


Ray McCallum Poised for Breakout Season

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 21: Ray McCallum #3 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates during a game against the Houston Rockets  during the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 on July 21, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressl
Jack Arent/Getty Images

If you followed Ray McCallum's rookie season, odds are good you weren't impressed. He played in 45 games, averaging 6.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest while shooting a pedestrian 37 percent from the floor. 

However, there were reasons to be optimistic as the regular season ended. In April, McCallum was given more playing time (40.6 minutes per game) and averaged 12.6 points, 6.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds per game. 

That momentum carried over to the Las Vegas Summer League, as the 23-year-old point guard averaged 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. ESPN's Dick Vitale noted the vast improvement in McCallum's game on Twitter:

McCallum isn't likely to be the starter in Sacramento after the team signed Darren Collison in the offseason, but he gives them added depth on the bench. Collison is also capable of playing the 2-guard position if the Kings want to get McCallum in the lineup. 

At the very least, McCallum's development gives the Kings more flexibility and firepower. They could use the help after finishing 17th in points per game and 30th in assists per game last season. 


The Enigmatic Nik Stauskas

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 13: Nik Stauskas #10 of the Sacramento Kings stands on the court during a game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 on July 13, 2014 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

There weren't many players in the 2014 NBA draft who garnered more attention for their natural shooting ability than Nik Stauskas. The 2013-14 Big Ten Player of the Year at Michigan averaged 17.2 points per game, shooting 47 percent overall and 44.2 percent from three-point range. 

Trying to improve their scoring output, the Kings took Stauskas eighth overall and wanted to see that touch on display this summer. Instead, while he had moments of brilliance, the 20-year-old never found a rhythm. 

Stauskas had a solid effort in the championship game against Houston, notching 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting and grabbing four rebounds, but he scored just one basket in the second half. 

The problem, as noted by Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix on SI Now, is Stauskas doesn't have the strength or ability to create his own shot against NBA-quality competition: 

Early on (in the Summer League), when he was making some shots, he played pretty well, but as the Summer League progressed, he started to taper off a little bit. You started to see some of the questions really emerge with him. Can he beat guys off the dribble? Can he be a factor defensively? He's athletic and can shoot the basketball, but at that pick, No. 8 overall, I thought you could get someone with much more upside.

Teams will always find room for shooters, but if you are picking a player in the top 10, finding impact is of the utmost importance. 

Stauskas has time to prove that his shooting touch will translate to the NBA. Thus far, the results have been all over the map, often times in the same game. 


Rockets Have Budding Star

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 21: Nick Johnson #3 of the Houston Rockets drives against the Houston Rockets during the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 on July 21, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
Jack Arent/Getty Images

As much fun as the NBA draft is to follow, once you get past the top 10-15 picks, most of the time you are seeing role players or bench contributors get taken. That certainly doesn't appear to be the case this year, which isn't a shock given how deep the class was on paper. 

One of the gems in this class looks to be Nick Johnson, who was taken by the Rockets with the 42nd overall pick. The Arizona product slid because there were questions about his size (6'3", 198 pounds) as a shooting guard in the NBA.

While those concerns won't go away overnight, Johnson delivered highlight after highlight during the summer with his impressive dunking skills, including this monster slam on an alley-oop pass from Donatas Motiejunas. 

Johnson did struggle to maintain consistency with his shot, hitting less than 38 percent from the floor in the last four games, but he added value by grabbing at least five rebounds in each of those games. 

He also has the ability to be an impact defensive player, which was his hallmark at Arizona. Given where the Rockets drafted him, as well as his performance in the championship game with 17 points and six rebounds in a losing effort, Johnson is going to be a tremendous asset. 


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