Player Development - Westphal's Ultimate Downfall

When you start at rock bottom, there is only one way to go and that is up.  At least that's what we thought before the Kings began the 2010-2011 season.  17 wins in a season felt like rock bottom at the time but for some reason this season feels a whole lot worse.  That year the team of uncaring veterans gave up and showed up for games simply because they wanted to get paid.  We as fans gave up as well, so the indifference was mutual and somewhat less painful.  Kings management did the right thing and dumped as much dead weight as possible, finally admitting that it was time to gut the team and do a proper rebuild.  Westphal was brought in to stabilize the coaching carousel and develop the young talent.  After a promising(?) first year we are spiraling down into the depths once again and fans that had rekindled that passion are lighting torches and grabbing their pitchforks.  

Is Westphal the coach for this young team?  I think it all comes down to one thing:  Player Development.  I honestly don't think Petrie cares one bit about Win-Losses at this stage of Westphal's tenure.  Don't get me wrong, the Maloofs care and so do the fans, media, STR members, etc. - but I really don't think Petrie is that concerned with it.  I think Petrie is focused on whether Westphal is making these players that he has brought in better.  He hired PW on the premise that he could take young gifted athletes and turn them into star NBA players or at least solid NBA players in some cases.  Admittedly I think it is too early to come to a unquestionable conclusion on Westphal's success in this department at this point.  However, in my opinion the early signs are pointing to failure in player development that will ultimately lead to his firing whether that be this year or next. 

This post is ripe for some statistical analysis but I'm strapped for time so I'll leave to someone else if they want to crunch the numbers.  I'll stick to the subjective stuff...  

Tyreke Evans:  Reke came into the league with a bang and remained a force throughout the year.  The NaPG title was a running joke in the background but just a joke at that point because he was so effective doing what he did.  This year however, NaPG is turning from a joke to an issue.  PW refused and refuses to label his player as a 1 or 2 and therefore fails to define his role with the team.  Is Evans to be a distributor or simply a scorer?  PW needs to choose so Evans can move on to the next stage of his career.  Either he is going to run the team and be responsible for running the offense or he is simply a scorer and he doesn't need to concern himself with assists etc.  I believe the indecision is hurting Evans in his play this year (as well as sore ankles).  He waffles between being too aggressive and taking bad shots to too passive and trying (poorly) to make plays for his teammates. 

PW Development: Neutral

Comment:  PW's job rests on the development of 2 players.  He better get this one moving in the right direction.

Hope for the future:  Kings make a trade for a PG and put Reke at the 2 forever more.  Role defined he can get back to what he does - score.  PW's decision made for him by Petrie.

Omri Casspi: Omri shocked everyone I think last year with his early success - particurlary the rate in which he was knocking down 3s.  We all know the 'rookie wall' issue that PW blew out of proportion but I would argue that there was a bigger factor.  In the beginning of last season Omri was knocking down 3s within the offense, primarily as a catch & shoot guy on the wing.  The second half of the season he didn't get those looks as Reke looked mainly for his offense and Landry came in and took a good portion of the shots.  Omri resorted to trying to make his own shots - taking shots off the dribble, taking shots when he was covered, etc.  With a breakdown in the offense he (as did other players) attempted to do it themselves because they couldn't rely on their teammates.  That I would argue is on PW's head.  His offensive game plan and his unwillingness to direct Reke's play has left Omri (a player that needs other's to create for him) on the outside looking in.  Omri wasn't apart of this team in the 2nd half of last year and he remains outside this year.  More than any other player on this team I think Omri suffers from not having a PG or at least having PW define which of our 2 best guards is the PG.

PW Development: Neutral

Comment:  I don't think PW is going to get a player more willing to learn.  Let's see what he does with that.

Hope for the future:  See Tyreke's above.  Kings get a true PG that puts Omri back on the wing knocking down 3s.  Once again Petrie move saves PW. 

Beno Udrih:  Beno is a scoring PG but he is a PG.  PW's use of Reke has killed Beno's effectiveness on most nights.  Beno does something that Reke can't do which is make the right pass at the right time.  Whereas Reke is leaping in the air throwing the ball to the win because he can't get a shot off, Beno is drawing the defense knowing ahead of time who will be open for the shot.  In terms of development, I don't see Beno as any better or worse than he was 3 years ago - he simply plays his game when he is allowed to. 

PW Development: Neutral

Comment:  PW needs to put the guy in a place to earn that cash.

Hope for the future:  Beno's role is defined as the starting or backup PG - but let him play PG and control the team when he is out there.

Jason Thompson:  JT is in a key stage - he's either going to cement himself as a starter this year or as a career backup.  PW's inability to get JT to control his emotions last year cost him a lot of PT in my opinion.  Getting him to shut his trap should have taken 1 week - talk and get sat - shut up and play would have been a simple fix.  JT is a smart guy and would have learned right away - instead he had an up & down year with inconsistent minutes etc.  JT needs his role defined and consistent playing time.  Is he or isn't he a post option?  I would make him primarily a pick & pop guy who's main job is offensive rebounds.  I think lack of direction from PW has allowed JT to try and do too much on offense and as a result he has struggled.

PW Development: Neutral

Comment:  JT's motor has been stuck in Neutral as PW struggles to coach a Stick Shift Team after previous years of coaching teams that were Automatics.

Hope for the future:  PW simplifies it for JT.  15 ftrs & offensive rebounds is all we need.  Move your feet on D and keep your mouth shut and you have a 12 & 10 guy at the PF future for years to come. 

Carl Landry:  He's a starter?  He's a 6th man?  He's a finisher?  What we do know about Carl Landry is that he likes to shoot - regardless of whether he is making it.  What Carl does is make you appreciate what Kevin Martin was able to do getting to the foul line because it seems like he takes just as many shots as KM did but doesn't score nearly as many points.  Hard to gauge the PW impact on Carl at this point because he hasn't even played half a season for the kings yet but suffice to say things are not going in the right direction.  CL has lost his starting job to a human foul and even worse he has lost his 4th quarter clutch minutes to...oh wait, I imagined that.  Despite his season long struggles CL continues to get minutes down the stretch of games and has continued to fail in those opportunities.  What PW sees in his 4th quarter performances I can't imagine,

PW Development: Negative

Comment:  CL has gone from 6th MofY candidate to MIA under PW's system. 

Hope for the future:  CL has to earn the 4th qtr minutes, until then it's up for grabs.  JT, DMC, DG - I don't care - just put in the guy that is playing well that game. 

Donte Greene:  Role?  Apparently PW made it clear to DG that he was going to be competing for the 3 spot this year yet he came in thinking he'd be the next KG.  DG is mainly to blame in the situation but when a guy is working out in your facility with your training staff you have share in the stupidity of the failure.  What DG is not at fault for is the ridiculous nature in which he was named starter, lost the job immediately and then regained it thereafter.  In terms of player development I'm not sure whether we should think of PW as a genius to motivate DG to lose the weight and regain the PT or as an idiot for benching a guy that you claimed was your best option for Game 1.  I would side with the latter.  In terms of DG's development and potential for the future, I think he's in the same boat as JT.  Until PW simplifies the game for him and forces him to 1 or 2 things really well, he will continue to do 6 or 7 things adequately.  Furthermore, I think Donte's successes have come completely as a result of PW's bad coaching and for the same reasons as Omri's failures.  Where Omri needs someone to make a play for him, Donte excels where there is a complete breakdown of the offense.  Off balance drives to the lane, quick 3 pointers in transition - essentially bad offense is Donte's home and where he puts his stamp on the game.  

PW Development: Positive

Comment:  DG was not even playing pre-PW so we must give him credit for giving him time and getting this far.

Hope for the future:  Donte's personal hope should be that PW continues to suck as an offensive planner because that will give him many more opportunities to score.  However, for the good of the team I think Donte's role needs to be smaller - no more 3s in transition, stick to the backdoor cuts and 3s within the offense on the drive & kicks. 

Francisco Garcia: Cisco, or as my friends & I call him Machismo, is the leader on this team.  I've got nothing but respect for Garcia's effort, leadership and tenaciousness, I just wish PW would make up his mind how he wants to use him.  One thing is for sure, Machismo has an impact on the game when he is on the floor - I personally prefer it when he is not a main option on the offense.  Machismo knows how and when to get his shots so you don't need to run plays for the guy.  That being said, with the offensive struggles the Kings have had PW keeps going back and forth on whether he wants Machismo to be the next Rip Hamilton.  Kings will come in for 1/2 a game and run plays for Machismo, setting screens and getting him looks....then you won't see that again for 2 games.  Make up your mind PW.  Is he or isn't he?  I say he isn't and just let him be a secondary scorer. 

PW Development: Neutral

Comment: Define a role PW.

Hope for the future:  PW loses his Rip dreams for Machismo and runs the offense for other guys.  Let Machismo be a secondary scorer and you will be rewarded.

Jon Brockman: A quick one.  Brockman went from fan favorite to one of the best performers on the team some nights and that earned him Zero in the coach's scheme.  PW used Brockman as a Hail Mary pass but never let the guy play his way into the rotation for good despite him consistently outplaying Spencer and JT for portions of the year.

PW Development:  Positve

Comment:  Credit for playing him enough to get the guy a nice contract for a 2nd round pick. 

Hope for the future:  Play the guys that play well.  This might mean JT getting minutes over CL or Head getting minutes over Beno - but play the guys that play well. 

Kevin Martin: Small sample size but I want to bring one thing up.  Kevin only played a couple dozen games for PW but one thing was very clear - he didn't like his role and he wasn't enjoying himself.  Once again this goes back to PW's inability to define roles for Reke and others on the team.  Kevin was the best player on the team - Reke was going to be by the end of the year but to start out Kevin was the best player and he didn't have a role.  How do not have a role for your best player?  He wasn't the primary focus of the offense despite scoring 20+ each year.  They kings weren't running the same plays obviously let alone any plays for Kevin it seemed - just a complete waste of a unique talent.  He was left to try and figure it out on his own and he did - he got his agent to force a trade. 

PW Development:  Negative

Comment:  What a waste.  CL for KM trade is going to go down as a failure when CL leaves at the end of this year if he isn't traded.

Hope for the future:  PW can define roles for these guys. Give them positions, give them purpose but stop treating everyone like they are just interchangeable 'players' because they aren't.  That's not how they got to this level and not how they will succeed at this level as a group.

Spencer Hawes: Epic Fail.  I won't blame Spencer's failure on PW but I'll just say he didn't do anything to help the guy turn it around.  Players have to take initiative ultimately but PW's handling of Spencer was horrible last year.  You have to understand the player and what motivates them and PW was terrible with Spencer - my biggest fear is that he is DMC is Spencer Redux in terms of PW development.

PW Development: Negative

Comment:  You have to understand your players. Please don't screw DMC up.

Hope for the future:  Please, please, please let PW learn from this fail and don't repeat it with DMC.

DeMarcus Cousins:  TBD - too early to tell at this point but we do know a couple things - DMC is going to get PT so we should know as the year goes on whether he has developed or not.  Also, PW & DMC will not vacationing together next summer.  I like the fact that they've fined DMC etc. but I'm guessing that has been done with him at other levels and it hasn't worked.

PW Development:  TBD

Comment:  The other guy your job depends on. 

Hope for the future: DMC keeps his head on straight.  PW continues to give him the PT he needs on the court.

Andres Nocioni/Sean May/Imee Udoka- Develop/Not develop - we don't care enough about these guys to bother analyzing despite the number of games they played.

Pooh Jeter/Danell Jackson/Hassan Whiteside etc: Incomplete - sample size too small at this point

In summary, scanning through the list you see more negatives/neatrals and very few positives.  Even throwing out the folks that are no longer on the team, I don't see a whole lot of development going on with this team so far under Westphal.  Hopefully a couple guys will figure it out soon and we can change a few neutrals to positives by year end - but to me there is just not enough there to keep PW around next year.  If things stay as they are now I see Petrie making a change at the end of the year - but I don't think there is enough negative now to force his hand for an in-season move.

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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