Neemias Queta is gearing up for his second season in the NBA and could be primed for something big. The 7-footer from Portugal played three years at Utah State before he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2021. In his debut season in the association, the center played just 15 games for the Sacramento Kings. Queta’s youth was combined with a positional logjam in the front-court in Sacramento that consisted of Marvin Bagley, Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes, Damian Jones, Alex Len, Chimezie Metu, Domantas Sobonis, and Tristan Thompson. This didn’t create an environment that facilitated an abundance of playing time for Queta, so he spent plenty of time in Stockton playing for Sacramento’s G League counterpart.
In Sacramento, Queta played 15 games and averaged 8 minutes per game. He shot 44.7% from the field and averaged 3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, 0.4 assists and 0.1 steals per game.
In Stockton, Queta played 14 games and averaged 28 minutes per game. He shot 60% from the field and averaged 16.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.8 assists, and 0.8 steals per game.
His 14 games in Stockton certainly showed talent and his 15 games for Sacramento certainly showed room for improvement. Talent and room for improvement are essential building blocks for an NBA rookie.
Going into his second year, the center could be on the verge of a breakout season. Based on league history and the fact that Queta has never had an off-season like this one, Queta should be prepared for a drastic improvement. The signs might already be showing. The season hasn’t started yet, but with Summer League in the rearview mirror, Queta has already had a chance to showcase some of his growth from last year.
Head coach of Sacramento’s summer league team Jordi Fernandez believes Queta has a future in the NBA. Fernandez said of Queta: “He’s improved. He is a good NBA player and he is part of our club and our future. His willingness to do the right thing is what matters the most. He’s a great, great guy, and all these guys love him for how hard he plays.”
This July, the big man signed a two-way contract with the Sacramento Kings, meaning, for the first time in his adult life, Queta will start and end an entire uninhibited off-season with the same team. After signing the contract, Queta promised to have a good season saying “I think I’ll be making big strides this year.”
His claim isn’t just possible, it might be the most likely scenario. Queta is certainly poised to utilize his first full offseason of training and preparation to follow the lead of centers that have come before him to make the next natural progression and step up his game in a big way for his second season.
For NBA players, the importance of the off-season is impossible to overstate. The season is physically and mentally taxing so players need that valuable time to rest, recharge and reload their bodies and minds. It is also a crucial time for players to improve their game. Many players return to their hometowns or college towns to take advantage of gyms and open courts. Other players meet up in hubs and scrimmage against each other. Players have the opportunity to study film to develop and fine-tune parts of their game in a way that’s not possible during the gauntlet of the regular season. Players work closely with coaches and trainers from their team as well as private clubs and organizations. Queta has never had that. Unfortunately for him, none of that is possible when a player doesn’t know his future, when he is hurt, or when the world is shut down.
Prior to his freshman year at Utah State, Queta was living in his home country of Portugal. Even with the help of Diogo Brito, Queta didn’t sign with the Aggies until August, just three months before tip-off. He arrived in Logan after classes had already started, missing summer workouts with the team. Even without much time to acclimate, Queta didn’t take long to have an impact. In game five, Queta had the team high in both scoring and rebounding in a 80-63 win against Saint Mary’s. That season, Queta’s 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game led the team and his 11.8 points per game put him only behind Aggie Legend, Sam Merrill, and his 20.9 PPG.
After an impressive freshman season, Queta briefly entered the NBA draft and was invited to the NBA combine before deciding to go back to school. During the off-season, Queta represented his home country to compete in the FIBA Under-20 European Championship. While playing Queta suffered a sprained knee with kneecap dislocation. This, yet again, removed him from any off-season training in Logan. After missing the first nine games of the season, Queta made his season debut coming off the bench and playing 10 minutes in a 77-70 overtime win against Fresno State. He finally found himself back in the starting lineup in a 76-74 overtime win against USF. The next game, against the Florida Gators, Queta was injured again and was forced to sit out for the remainder of that game and two others. Although plagued by injuries, the season was a success for Queta and the Aggies who once again led the team in blocks, now averaging 1.7 per game. His scoring, again behind only Merrill, rose to an average of 13.0 PPG, and his rebounding, now behind only Justin Bean, fell to 7.8 RPG.