The Kings have been partnered with the Reno Bighorns exclusively for a few years now, but the whole endeavor has seemed to be more of a science experiment than anything else. The Kings hired Dave Arseneault Jr. of Grinnell College to institute his father’s high octane system that revolved around shooting as many threes in as little time as possible, and to some effect, it worked. The Bighorns finished first in the D-League in both Pace and Offensive Rating for both of the last two seasons and it wasn’t particularly close.
The Kings never instituted the Grinnell system for their main squad, but the focus on pace and offense was definitely something that Sacramento was aspiring to up until they fired George Karl. Under Dave Joerger, the Kings will likely be looking to slow it down a bit, and as such, Arseneault is out in Reno and former King Darrick Martin is in his place as the new coach. Martin had previously served as an assistant of Player Development for the Minnesota Timberwolves and also as an Assistant Coach at St. John’s, but this is his first head coaching opportunity, and it’s my hope that the Kings go back to the core of what the D-League is supposed to be about; Development.
The Kings made some surprising moves on draft day that ended with them having three first round picks, the most they’ve had since the infamous four first round pick draft in 1990. Also unlike almost every draft the Kings have had for the past 10 years, this year’s rookies likely won’t be expected or even needed to be played right away. That means for the first time in a while, the Kings might actually utilize the D-League to develop their first round picks. Wouldn’t Georgios Papagiannis be better served in the long run starting most games for the Bighorns than watching games from the bench for the Kings? Malachi Richardson, a player who needs the ball in his hands to be effective, could continue to develop his offensive talent while also being taught to rein in his worst tendencies in a place where it doesn’t affect the main team negatively. Skal Labissiere could continue to hone his game and develop his outside shot in a real game environment. Heck, even Isaiah Cousins can continue to develop his Point Guard skills if he opts to stay in the USA and play for the D-League rather than go overseas.
The Kings have mainly reserved the Bighorns in years past for training camp cuts and rookies like Duje Dukan who were never expected to really play in the NBA. But now with a lack of playing time and three rookies, it makes too much sense to not see them play a bunch in Reno. They can still have them hang around the team for practices and homestands, but during long road trips and the like where they won’t see much time, why not send them to Reno for a week or two? This is a golden opportunity for the Kings to get some quality development time out of the Bighorns, and it’ll be fun for the fans in Reno who will get to see more of the future talent of the Kings than they’re used to. Plus, it will have Kings fans themselves more interested in the exploits of the Bighorns as they look to see how the rooks are performing. This is a win-win scenario, and I’m kind of glad the Kings aren’t so starved for depth that they can actually afford to ease their rookies into the NBA instead of hoping that they can contribute 20 minutes a game from Day 1. It’s time for the Sacramento-Reno relationship to become more of a partnership and less of a science experiment, and I’m hopeful that the moves made this summer make that one step closer to a reality.