The Sacramento Kings have truly found a diamond in the rough

Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings - Play-In Tournament
Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings - Play-In Tournament / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The entire city of Sacramento has been buzzing with his name for quite some time already and now the rest of the NBA world is learning who Keon Ellis is as well. The attention is well deserved. 

Keon Ellis is a hooper. It is easy to love the game when you always get the big opportunities and everyone believes in you. Ellis did not have that luxury. He took one of the most difficult paths to the NBA, first having to play his way from junior college to a D1 school. Leaving Alabama in 2022, he went undrafted, signed a two-way deal with the Kings, and spent his first NBA season in the G League. 

Now, just two years later, he is a starter on a team with playoff hopes in a stacked Western Conference. Ellis is a defensive-minded player, and the Kings desperately needed that. The 24-year-old navigates screens like almost no other player, gets steals and deflections at a very high level, and never backs down from a challenge. 

His activity has completely transformed the Kings’ defensive identity, but he has also emerged as a capable offensive contributor, shooting around 40 percent from three. Ellis’ two-way potential was on full display in the Kings’ first Play-In win over the Warriors. 

Ellis just played the biggest game of his young NBA career

Missing two key offensive contributors due to injuries, the Kings were not the favorite in yesterday’s Play-In Tournament game against the Warriors. Nevertheless, they came out and secured the win with an impressive two-way performance to keep their playoff hopes alive. 

Ellis was a big part of that. He guarded Stephen Curry as well as humanly possible and chipped in 15 points on the other end of the floor. In his very first NBA postseason game, Ellis played almost 40 minutes and did everything he needed to do. 

Especially his offense was huge. Malik Monk has been a crucial part of any success the Kings have recently had over the Warriors. Someone had to step up in his absence, and Ellis answered the call, providing some secondary playmaking and three-point shooting. 

He is a good shooter but does not have the same reputation as Monk and Kevin Huerter. The Warriors were willing to leave him open at times to focus on De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis instead. He made them pay, knocking down three of his four three-point attempts. 

A player’s first postseason experience can be difficult but Ellis survived the first spotlight as he just continues to get better. 

Keon Ellis could be a key contributor for the Kings for years

Discovering Ellis in this fashion is huge for the Kings. 3-and-D players do not come cheap in today’s league because every team needs them, but Ellis is on a very cheap contract for the next three years. 

He has already established himself as a defensive mastermind and solid rotational player. With more experience, he will only become an even better player, and that will be valuable for the Kings as they continue to try and build a contender in the West.