Can the Kings Use the D-League Effectively?

Regarding the Kings' traditional ignoring of that whole "D-League" thing, the tide turned somewhere between Donté Greene's five-game stint in Reno last season and the hiring of Bryan Gates as an assistant coach to Paul Westphal. Prior to Greene's sojourn, the Kings had never sent a player to the team's D-League affiliate, and had only "called up" a D-League player once (Justin Williams in 2006-07, who also happened to be the final training camp cut that season).

The Kings are not in a position to use the D-League as San Antonio has. The Spurs own their affiliate (the Austin Toros) and as such use it as a bit of a true farm team, as documented by Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell. The Kings do not own the Reno Bighorns, and given current economic conditions with the franchise will not soon own the Bighorns. (I'd love to be proven wrong, but ...)

But other teams have used the D-League with some success. Can the Kings do the same, now that the franchise's attitude toward it has apparently shifted?

The answer: probably not. Who exactly do you send down to Reno? Tyreke Evans? No. No no no. He should be your sixth man until he supplants Beno Udrih as the starting point guard. Evans needs to be on the big team.

Jon Brockman isn't the type of second-round pick who belongs in the D-League. You know what he is. Sure, he could use some polish -- a lot of polish -- but beating up on sub-NBA talents isn't going to provide that. Unless you make him play off-guard in Reno. Which I would support with all of my heart.

What about the two young small forwards, Greene and Omri Casspi? Casspi is an interesting quandary, in that while he needs floor time to learn the NBA game he already provides something the Kings need: high energy play on the wing. You plug him in, and he'll do stuff -- chase down loose balls, go after offensive rebounds, scream a bit, run the floor. And he won't be taking a lot of shots in the process. I can see Omri playing 20 minutes and taking only four or five field goal attempts.

I can't see Donté doing that. That's not to the detraction of Greene -- I want him to shoot, I'd love to see him try to fill it up when he gets in the game. He can get his shot off cleanly against just about any defender you throw at him. When he finds the touch, the range, he could be a killer scorer. So we want him to shoot shoot shoot. But the Kings also need to compete, and if Greene hasn't yet found his NBA rhythm (Vegas would indicate he has not) the team can't have him hoisting up 15 FGAs a night.

But the Reno Bighorns? Yes, please. Donté actually had decent numbers with Reno last season: 20 points on less than 17 FGAs, very few turnovers, a goodly number of blocks and steals. He shot 54% from two-point range. He was good! except that he took (and missed) a lot of threes and didn't rebound particularly well. He was able to play his game, which is predicated on firing away at will. And I think it helped his confidence (though it's quite hard to tell, given his lack of action in Sacramento). It certainly didn't hurt anyone, as he wouldn't have played in the Kings' games during that spell.

Omri may get to shoot more in a dozen games with Reno than he would with a dozen games with Sacramento, but it just doesn't seem like Omri's game will depend on his shooting ability. It will be predicated on energy and activity. You would like Greene to be similiarly focused, with the electric offense we pray for more of a nice addition than a requirement. But you would also like a bowl of chocolate pudding for lunch, and that's just not in the cards right now, is it Billy? IS IT?

So, my verdict, here on July 28, some four months before the beginning of the D-League season: only Greene can ride the Bighorn.

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