Not from Kings fans, or really the basketball side of the Kings organization. The team has shown patience when it comes to young players -- perhaps too much patience. On the business side, Casspi has been used as a selling point more than any other rookie in recent Kings memory. That's a good thing for the team and the player -- the franchise need to score support any way it can, and popularity will only help Casspi down the line when he's up for a contract. It's a win-win.
But the basketball court is what we're concerned with, and it's really a mystery as to exactly how Omri plays and exactly what he'll be able to do from Day 1.
We've heard about the toughness, the energy, the passion. But what about his skills? What will Casspi do for the Kings in his early escapades?
The first thing that stuck out from Casspi's summer league run was that he's really not afraid to mix it up in the lane. Only Hoss Brockman and Bob Battle recorded more offensive rebounds per minutes than Casspi, who spent most of his time at the small forward. Yep, Omri outrebounded Jason Thompson (a top 20 NBA offensive rebounder last season) per minute. Casspi ranked fifth on the team in per-game rebounding, with 4.4 in 22 minutes. That translates to roughly 7.2 rebounds per 36 minutes; for contrast, that outpaces every 2008-09 Kings small forward (including Andres Nocioni, who averaged 7 reb/36 min). This is summer league, yes, but there are plenty of great rebounders in summer league. Like, you know, Hoss Brockman and Bob Battle.
This contrasts a bit with Casspi's Euroleague profile, where he didn't rebound quite as well. We'll see how that shakes out, though Casspi should by default be a better rebounder than John Salmons or Francisco Garcia.
Casspi actually became a very good (if infrequent) deep shooter in Israel, something which did not translate to Las Vegas. Last year in 16 Euroleague games, Casspi shot 45% from three. In five VSL games, he shot 29%. Nailing the three is critical for most NBA small forwards, and developing (or refining) that shot is vital to Casspi's development. He, David Thorpe and the Kings coaching staff all surely know that. Pete Carril is essentially playing the role of shot doctor this season, and I bet Casspi will be a top client.
Where I'm most excited about Casspi's long-term opportunities is as a point-forward in the mold of Hedo Turkoglu: someone to make smart decisions and take the pressure off of Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin. But that will take time, so in the immediate I'm most excited about Casspi's transition game. We have seen the highlight reels, and ... actually, what the hell. Let's watch one again.
He runs like a damn Springbok! And he knows how to finish with authority. Just know that our new point guard will be one of our top defensive rebounders next season, and the new coach is a man who has long emphasized the importance of easy baskets in transition. If Casspi can sprint the floor and give Tyreke Evans a good target. fun will be had. We will have fun and cake and pop and DUNK.
At the same time, Francisco Garcia and Andres Nocioni are proven veterans, and they need minutes. Garcia is probably a better defender, and Nocioni is tough and a decent scorer. Unlike Evans, who almost takes the top PG spot by default at some point, Casspi will have to prove he belongs in the rotation first of all, and high in the rotation eventually. Luckily for us, he's working his ass off to make it, and he's bonded closely with the team's star. I have a good feeling about Omri, and I hope this season makes that feeling grow stronger.