Last night the Sacramento Kings were once again without the suspended DeMarcus Cousins. Jason Thompson picked up two quick fouls. And just like that the Kings were once again running thin in the front court. The Kings have played James Johnson and Travis Outlaw for extended stretches at the power forward position with decidedly mixed results. And yet the Kings still maintain an open roster spot.
Although the Kings may not utilize the D-League (or advanced metrics, or scouting) as much as other teams, I still think it's an amazing resource that's available to NBA teams. But, like the Kings, I don't pay close attention to the day-to-day happenings of the D-League. Luckily, SB Nation's Ridiculous Upside is your one-stop shop for all things D-League. They do a great job with their coverage. Keith Schlosser, Managing Editor of Ridiculous Upside, was nice enough to join me for a Q&A to let us know what kind of help might be out there.
The Kings seem to have a noticeable lack of depth amongst their big men. DeMarcus Cousins has missed multiple games to suspension this season. Thomas Robinson has not had the immediate impact Kings fans had hoped for, and has also missed two games to suspension. Even when the Kings are at full-strength, both Cousins and Jason Thompson are prone to getting into quick foul trouble. It seems they could use their open roster spot to add some depth. Kings fans are familiar with and call for options such as former Kings Hassan Whiteside, Darnell Jackson, or Jon Brockman, but who are some D-League big men who have impressed you so far this year?
The top big man out there, to me, is Henry Sims of the Erie BayHawks. He's a physical defender who likes to use his frame to pester opponents, and his prowess on that side of the floor has always been his bread and butter. But after some time in the D-League, we're seeing him become a little bit more aggressive on the offensive side as well. He's as versatile as they come for centers.
Tim Ohlbrecht of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers is also a promising prospect. He's probably played a little less than he should have this season, because the minutes have gone to Rockets' assignees instead. That said, he's a big man who can score in bunches, and could certainly provide a boost off the bench for an NBA team.
For Kings fans familiar with a guy like Hassan Whiteside, he just recently signed in the D-League. Give him some more time to strut his stuff, and he too may be a candidate for a later call-up
Well now I'm in love with the sound of Henry Sims. You mention his defensive ability, how would you describe his defensive style? Is he much of a shot-blocker, or more of an energy and positioning type of guy?
He can definitely block shots, that's what he's built to do. But what makes him special is his defensive IQ. Sims understands exactly how to get in an opponent's face enough to distract them. He may average less than one steal per game, but Sims' pestering nature still often causes his opponent to lose the ball under the basket, leaving him or a teammate to pick it up and run the other way.
Ok, good to know. Since the Kings have plenty of scorers (or alleged scorers), I think most Kings fans are looking for any sort of defensive big. For a little variety in the options, are there any guys in the D-League who stand out as skilled shot-blockers?
There was, but if the Kings came calling today, they'd be inquiring about three days too late. Jarvis Varnado of the Skyforce had been protecting the lane and standing in the way of any scorer who tried to make their way inside all season long. After leading the D-League in blocks with 3.9 per contest, he signed with the Celtics on Monday.
NBA vet Jamario Moon of the L.A. D-Fenders can block shots, but he's not much of a big man. Next best choice may be Mickell Gladness, who has experience playing for the Warriors and has been known to man the middle effectively in the past. He spent training camp with the Heat this past fall.
The Kings are a couple days late on a promising prospect and were scooped by a better-run organization? I'm stunned!
Alright, I don't want to take too much of your time, so I'll ask one last question. We've covered big men in depth. But, putting specific team needs aside, are there any other players you think are primed for a call-up to the NBA that we should be aware of?
Aside from Varnado, I think the trend we're beginning to see is NBA teams prefer players with past big league experience who went to the NBADL simply to hone their skills. If that trend continues, expect Andrew Goudelock of the Skyforce to receive a call-up soon. After playing for the Lakers last season, Goudelock has really been coming into his own as a natural two-guard. Scoring is what he does best, but he knows how to find his teammates and make plays without the ball too.
A guy who may be a bit under the radar is Tony Taylor of the Tulsa 66ers. He's the usual starting point guard for the team, but has recently lost some minutes due to the assignment of Reggie Jackson. His stats may not be too eye-popping, but Taylor is undeniably a floor general who understands how to run an offense.
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