At the Kings’ first predraft workout June 2, some of the team’s executives were intrigued by Oregon State forward Eric Moreland.
Moreland was an active player for the Beavers, averaging at least 10 rebounds and two blocked shots in his last two seasons. He declared for the NBA draft after his junior year but wasn’t chosen.
The Kings have been looking for athletic big men, and with a payroll that is close to luxury tax status, they must be resourceful in filling holes on the roster.
So it was no surprise the Kings invited the 6-foot-10, 218-pound Moreland to join their NBA Summer League team, and he’s been all the Kings have expected.
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Moreland had six points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in Sunday’s 74-62 semifinal win over Washington at Thomas & Mack Center. The Kings (5-1) face Houston (5-2) for the tournament title today at 6 p.m..
Moreland is averaging 8.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in five summer league games. His rebounding and defense might be enough to earn him an invitation to training camp.
“I would think so; I think I earned a contract,” Moreland said. “That’s what they asked for, that’s what they’re looking for, that’s what the team needs. But at the same time, I’m not worried about that. I’m focused on winning this game (today).”
Moreland quickly became a favorite of the coaching staff. He comes off the bench and energizes the Kings while irritating opponents.
“It’s a tremendous thing to watch a guy play with a lot of energy and have success and helping his team win as a result of his play,” Kings summer league coach Ty Corbin said. “We’ll need him to continue to do that, and that’s what he’s going to have to continue to do to have an effect in this league until he can grow into something else. A lot of guys don’t play with the energy that he has.”
Moreland’s blocks have been demoralizing at times to summer league opponents. He met Chicago’s Lance Thomas at the rim and denied him on a dunk attempt, and Thomas landed hard on the court.
Moreland blocks shots by players posting him up, too, sending the ball right back at his opponent.
His style bothers opponents. Washington’s Glen Rice Jr. had words for Moreland more than once and was called for a technical foul for pushing him after a play.
“If I block a shot and say something to (an opponent), he’ll try to do something and that will get them out of their game,” Moreland said. “Blocking shots is a real momentum changer and it really sets a tone. So I’m happy to go block a shot anytime I’m in there, block as many shots as I can and get under their skin.”
Moreland was part of a second unit that propelled the Kings to the summer league title game. Every reserve had a positive plus/minus rating Sunday, led by Moreland’s plus-20 points, while every starter had a negative plus/minus.
MarShon Brooks led the Kings’ scoring with 14 points off the bench.
Moreland said he doesn’t plan to change his approach today against the Rockets.
“I’m completely locked in,” Moreland said. “That’s what this team needs, shot-blocking and rebounding. That’s just my niche. I don’t necessarily focus on it, but I go out there ready to play every day, and I just want to bring my energy because that’s what they’re looking for and that’s what’s going to help us win.”