Justin James’ push for an NBA roster spot began with his professional debut late Monday night.
The former Wyoming standout played 22 minutes in the Sacramento Kings’ 81-77 win over the Golden State Warriors in the Summer League opener for both teams as part of the California Classic in Sacramento. It was a solid start for James, whom the Kings took in the second round of this year’s NBA Draft with the 40th overall pick.
James played the sixth-most minutes of any Kings player and the second-most among the team’s draft picks. Playing exclusively off the ball, he finished with seven points, five rebounds, two steals and an assist without a turnover.
It wasn’t the most efficient night for James, who shot just 2 of 7 from the field and went 0-for-2 from 3-point range. But the 6-foot-7, 190-pound wing was active, as indicated by his rebounding totals. James also flashed his defensive instincts in the first quarter when he broke in front of a pass for a steal and finished with a one-handed dunk on the other end.
Former Virginia sharpshooter Kyle Guy, who was traded to the Kings after being drafted 55th overall by the New York Knicks, finished with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 23 minutes. Second-year forward Wenyen Gabriel paced the Kings with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
James, who led the Mountain West in scoring last season and finished his career No. 3 on Wyoming’s all-time scoring list, is competing for a spot on the Kings’ 15-man roster next season. One of the team’s wings, Harrison Barnes, reportedly has agreed to a new four-year, $85-million contract to stay in Sacramento. The Kings are also adding veteran Trevor Ariza.
James’ next opportunity to impress will come Tuesday when the Kings take on the Miami Heat at 9 p.m. MT. The Kings will wrap up the California Classic on Wednesday with a 3 p.m. MT tip against the Los Angeles Lakers before beginning pool play in the Las Vegas Summer League on Saturday.