Note: Sactown Royalty is looking in some depth at each player projected to be on the Sacramento Kings' opening day roster in the run-up to the start of the 2005-06 NBA season. This is the first installment, on C-F Brian Skinner.
Brian Skinner is not a typical Kings big man. He doesn't pass well, for one. He doesn't protect the ball. He has no real shooting touch to speak of. He'll rarely pull defenders away from the hoop when in the high post, and doesn't sink too many free throws.
He plays defense. He rebounds. He (gasp!) blocks shots.
So, what's this guy doing on this team?
Considered the least valuable piece Geoff Petrie got in the Chris Webber auction last February, Skinner made believers out of Kings fans in the waning months of the 2005 season by surpassing his career averages in nearly every category.
In 25 games with Sacramento, Skinner racked up 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes, had a very respectable 55.4 effective field goal percentage and surprised everyone with a 16.5 PER (see Basketball-Reference.com's glossary for details on these stats). All were career highs, and helped offset his terrible Philadelphia experience.
Skinner also saw his rebound rate jump profusely when coming to the crappy-boarding Kings (17.5 rebound rate - by comparison, Brad Miller's career average is 15.6).
Skinner is the only clear option behind Miller on the center depth chart for Sactown, even though he stands a ridiculously undersized 6'9 (he's shorter than Peja, for what it's worth). Yet, it looks like he could flourish in his role.
The Kings thirst for rebounding and for blocked shots. Last season, opponents were able to get an offensive rebound in a whopping 30.9 percent of opportunities, the third worst mark in the league. The team only blocked 4.5 percent of the shots taken against it, while having 5.2 percent of its own shots blocked (both numbers are low for the league, one painfully so).
So Skinner is just what the cowbell ordered, right? Not so fast. Remember, #54 ain't starting on this squad, barring an incredibly punishing injury to B-52. The starting five will presumably continue to struggle to block shots and close off the defensive glass.
But realizing that Skinner will most likely be paired on the second unit with guys like Jason Hart and Kenny Thomas - Hitman is a fine defender and the other an unusually strong rebounder - could mean good things for this team's bench. As undersized as Skinner at the 5 and KT at power forward seems, they're both proven glass-cleaners and muscley defenders that may get shot over but won't get run through.
Can Skinner provide crunch-time minutes for this team? It's hard to say - Miller is too good on offense to remove in close games, and likely starting 4 Shareef Abdur-Rahim has averaged 19.8 points per game for his career. Don't forget that Skinner is the worst free throw shooter on the squad not named Jamal Sampson (#54 shot - ready for it? - 35.7 percent from the stripe last year). So crunch-time minutes are unlikely.
But Skinner as a defensive-minded back-up big for just under $5 million isn't the worst option - in fact, it's a good option. He fits better with this team than Greg Ostertag would have, and is way more skilled than the 7-foot vagabonds (not unlike Sampson) that were available come August. He's overpaid (what NBA player isn't?), but he's serviceable.
He also might be tradeable - he's owed $5.4 million in 2007, but the 2008 campaign (at $5.8 million, yikes!) is a team option. Corliss Williamson is obviously the most tradeable chip right now, but Skinner wouldn't be impossible to move.
What does #54 need to do to have a successful 2006 season? Well, continuing to plug the rebounding and blocked shots holes would be a great start. A rebound rate of somewhere near 17 percent to would be great, and a blocked shot every 20 minutes would be a godsend. I'd love Miller to get limited to 35 minutes per game in the regular season (wishful thinking), which would leave 13 for Skinner, assuming he gets no love at the crowded 4-spot.
Ten minutes per game is a more realistic estimate, which would give Skinner 3.1 rebounds and 0.5 blocks a game (prediction alert! prediction alert!). Any points are gravy, and will more than likely come on really open shots, second chances and blown plays. Keeping his turnovers down near his assist total would be preferable, too.
Staying healthy should be a priority for #54, too - that thumb injury late last season, combined with B-52's broken leg, made it impossible for us to beat the Sonics. The drop-off from Skinner to Sampson could be so unbelievably bad that an injury to someone I'd consider our ninth-best player (sorry, Brian) could weigh heavily on the season.
Also, Skinner needs a good nickname. Any help with that would be appreciated.
Sunday, Sactown Royalty will look at Kevin Martin. Hopefully.