By Mardeio Cannon | OBSERVER Columnist
Sacramento Kings fans are breathing a sigh of relief after seeing top draft pick Keegan Murray perform in the recent California Classic, in which the Kings went undefeated. That relieved sigh turned to awe as Murray reached a new level in his first two games at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
Kings fans already were on edge before the draft knowing this year’s pick was very significant. Kings General Manager Monte McNair and his staff were under enormous pressure to get it right, as drawing the fourth pick in the draft lottery appeared to be a stroke of good luck.
I outlined in my last column how Kings fans were succumbing to the hype for McNair to draft Purdue’s Jaden Ivey with the fourth pick. So, when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called out Murray, out of the University of Iowa, as the Kings’ pick, many fans on social media expressed disappointment.
So when Murray proved the doubters wrong with his stellar play in his first game at the California Classic in San Francisco, many Kings fans began to change their assessment of Murray.
It became apparent that Murray was the best player at the California Classic, which also featured the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. A bigger test would come the following week in Las Vegas.
The Kings’ first game in Vegas was against the Orlando Magic where the draft’s top pick, Paolo Banchero, was expected to show why he went No. 1.
Most of you know what happened. In a game before a packed house at the Thomas & Mack Center in downtown Las Vegas, the Kings were down 16 points late in the fourth quarter before a ferocious comeback.
With less than 10 seconds left in regulation, the hustling Kings stole the inbound pass and the ball went to Murray, where he drained a corner three with less than a second to go.
Kings fans shouldn’t get too excited about summer league performances because two thirds of the players will not wind up on NBA rosters. However, summer league does showcase whether a high draft choice has NBA skills. Murray is proving to be among this year’s elite picks. Kings fans have a right to be excited about what this rookie can contribute to helping Sacramento break its playoff drought this upcoming season. If he stays healthy, I believe he is the real deal for the Kings this upcoming season.