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Play The Kids

Kimani Okearah

I’d have to go back through the archives of StR and look, but I’d imagine we’d have some version of this post, or at the very least a strong sentiment of a similar feeling at this point in every season over the last decade – It’s time to play the kids.

For some the Kings’ ‘kids’, they should have been playing a long time ago, for others, injuries and James Anderson stood in the way, but with all of the Kings’ youth (seemingly) healthy, let’s see what they’ve got.

Willie Cauley-Stein and Seth Curry are no brainers. The fact that Cauley-Stein’s minutes have actually decreased as the season has wore on is worth its own post, but Cauley-Stein has been mismanaged all year, and once I go down that road I’ll never come back, so I’m better off keeping it simple. Free Willie.

George Karl has teased us more Seth Curry for months now, and in this instance, I actually think Curry’s inability to stay healthy any time a rotation opportunity opened up for him has held him back more than anything else. Two or three times this season he’d have a good game with Ben McLemore and/or Marco Belinelli injured and/or playing poorly, and then Curry would immediately go down with some sort of ankle or leg injury.

You could make an argument that Curry has been the Kings third best guard this season behind Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison. It’d be a somewhat absurd argument because he’s only played 11 minutes per game over 33 games this season, but he’s looked mostly competent in those minutes, and that is more than I could say for Ben McLemore and Marco Belinelli this season.

Marco has been a disaster. McLemore, I don’t know. He’s had an awkward, uninspiring season; I’ll leave it at that.

Willie Cauley-Stein is on a rookie contract, and he’ll be on the Kings for the foreseeable future. In some respects, giving him more minutes is less important than someone like Seth Curry who signed a two year deal with the Kings this summer, with a player option for next season.

I’d like to see what Curry could do in an expanded role. I think his ceiling is as a bench scorer, but that could be a valuable depth piece for the Kings next season. Play him.

Eric Moreland and Duje Dukan. What are the Kings doing with Eric Moreland and Duje Dukan?

I’ll start with Duje.

What was a more bizarre Kings summer move, signing Duje Dukan, a kind-of-summer-league-standout, undrafted rookie coming off a average college career to a guaranteed one-year deal with a team option for next season, or signing James Anderson, a known NBA quantity (which meant he was out of the league last season) to a two-year contract with the second year of that contract being a player option on one of the first days of free agency?

I actually like Duje. Giving him a guaranteed contract after summer league instead of a training camp invite was strange, but I liked what I saw in Vegas. His stroke looked Peja-esque, and no, I’m not comparing their game, but Dukan has such an effortless, gorgeous looking jumper that it did pique my interest. He has good size for a SF, not-so-great speed for an SF, and he’s very slight for a PF, but he has real skill, he can really shoot, and for my own curiosities sake, I’d like to see him play. I understand that there is a 95% chance his career in Sacramento won’t make it past this season, but he’s here now, and I’d like to see him play.

Eric Moreland. I like Eric Moreland a lot.

It’s unfortunate that both Dukan and Moreland have been injured for most of the season, particularly in Moreland’s case, because I think he could have actually stole some minutes this season had he have been healthy enough to do it.

Moreland has been the Kings’ best summer league player for two years now, and while that comes with a host of caveats, he’s done a few things at elite-or-close-to-it levels. Out of the Kings’ second tier youth, (Curry, Dukan, Moreland) I think Moreland is the closest to a real NBA player.

He plays extremely hard, he blocks a ton of shots, and he rebounds at Reggie Evans’ rate. I wrote about the latter in the summer, and again, sample size disclaimer belongs on all of this, but the guy rebounds like a maniac. Considering the fact that the Kings have been getting hammered on the glass recently, Moreland has an opportunity to shine here in an area of need, if given the opportunity to do so.

The Kings have 12 games remaining this season, and while Karl wouldn’t be the first coach hesitant to ‘throw in the towel’ by way of giving the end of his bench an opportunity to have NBA careers, I’d certainly appreciate it.