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The Kings need their veterans

I’m not eager to see a full youth movement.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of yesterday’s FanPost by Otis, I’ve been thinking about the role of the veterans on this Sacramento Kings roster. The Kings have plenty of young players, and it’s only natural that a segment of Kings fans want nothing more than to see the youth unleashed. Give the kids minutes, let them sink or swim. Stop playing Zach Randolph and George Hill and Garrett Temple so many minutes. And I get it. I just don’t agree with it.

I disagree with throwing the kids into the fire because I’ve seen that before. I watched the organization feed Tyreke Evans minutes and possessions instead of bringing him along slowly. It earned him a Rookie of the Year award, but I don’t think anyone around here would argue that as a successful model of player development. Better yet, let’s look at the year before Reke arrived, 2008-2009.

The Kings starting front court for the majority of the season was a 20 year old center and a 22 year old power forward. A 20 year old small forward played 13 minutes a night and had Kings fans convinced he could be part of the future. The Kings won 17 games. But hey, the kids on the roster played a lot and gained a lot of experience, while tanking for a draft pick.

That front court was Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson. The wing was Donté Greene. The Kings had the worst record in the league but still dropped to the fourth pick. And it was a miserable season to watch. I loved those players at the time, and I loved their potential, but the games were ugly. You think we’re tearing each other apart right now? Imagine if we got only 8 more wins the rest of the year.

How many young players have we seen thrown into roles they weren’t ready for? Beyond the players already mentioned, we could add Omri Casspi, Ben McLemore, Jimmer Fredette, and Nik Stauskas. Obviously, some of the problem is that many of these players weren’t good enough, but they certainly didn’t get better simply by virtue of playing lots of minutes.

Minutes on the floor does not equal development. The Kings have a lot of young pieces, and have been deliberate in when those players get minutes. When they earn their opportunity, we’ve seen them receive more minutes. De’Aaron Fox looked ready to move into the starting lineup, and Dave Joerger made him a starter. Frank Mason looked great in a few minutes, and Joerger found him more minutes. Justin Jackson got an opportunity to start right away, and didn’t do a lot with that opportunity. He wasn’t a disaster, but he wasn’t great and he moved to the bench.

But what I’m ultimately getting at is that the young guys are getting opportunities to show their ability in small windows. If they perform well, they get more opportunities. I’d love to see more of Skal Labissiere (probably the guy whose minutes I take the most issue with), Justin Jackson, and Malachi Richardson. But I also know it’s a long season, and Joerger has shown a willingness to tinker with his lineups and try new things. I’m not worried that the current rotation will remain the same for the rest of the year.

We’re always going to complain about rotations, but I believe there’s value in rookies learning from veterans who have had sustained success in this league. Seeing how they prepare for games, how they practice, and how they handle themselves in defeat. I believe there’s value there.