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How Kings' new Bighorns relationship could keep Summer League players in the pipeline

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The Kings now have a hybrid relationship with the Reno Bighorns. That could mean players we saw at Summer League will be back with the Kings at some point.

Jason Miller

The major, obvious benefit in the Kings gaining a hybrid affiliation with the Reno Bighorns is that current and future youngsters drafted by the team have a place to develop if they aren't getting any run at the NBA level. That hasn't worked out in the past for the Kings -- Tyler Honeycutt didn't develop at all in his D-League sojourns, and let's not even get into Hassan Whiteside. But now the Kings can install a coach, a coaching style, a playing style and have greater control over what type of run players get. A Kings draft pick assignment will not be strapped to the Reno bench unless Pete D'Alessandro and Co. want him strapped to the bench.

But there's another benefit: creating a pipeline of non-roster players.

Under NBA rules, the final three D-League players cut by NBA teams in training camp are assigned to that team's affiliate. In the past, that just meant that whatever D-League players the Kings invited to camp and then cut ended up with Reno, which was run totally independently with no input from the Kings, and in one case run by a coach previously fired by the Kings. Now, the Kings run the Bighorns' basketball operations. So those three camp cuts are still being exposed to the Kings system, the Kings style, the Kings philosophy. And the Kings have eyes on those players -- inside eyes. Eyes in practice. Eyes on the team bus. Eyes everywhere.

If Will Clyburn and Drew Gordon elect to stay in the D-League and try to make the NBA in 2013-14, the Kings could invite them to training camp, cut them (unless they decide to sign them outright), and keep them in Reno to watch and impact their development. If injury or a trade strikes, the Kings could call them up on 10-days or for the full season having a much better idea of what they bring to the table.

I omitted David Lighty from that paragraph because I think he's more likely to head back to Europe if he doesn't have a contract. Guards do really well in Europe, and there's more competition and less opportunity for a call-up, if my read over the past few years has been accurate. (That'd actually be interesting to look at.) But big men are always needed in the NBA, and Gordon has enough promise that I think sticking around could pay off sometime in the next two years. Clyburn is a wing, but a similar case applies. Heck, he could have been drafted last month. If there's a third player the Kings could camp-cut-assign from the Summer League team, I'd guess it'd be Nick Minnerath. But the front office could also look outside the VSL squad for candidates.

It's important to note that while roster players the Kings assign to Reno (like Ray McCallum, potentially) cannot be called up by any other squad, camp-cut-assign players could be. So the Kings could bring Gordon to camp, cut him, work on developing him in Reno, and watch him get picked up by the Rockets or something. It's a risk, but the Kings don't really have the roster openings to sign-and-assign to prevent that.


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