The Kings weren’t going to be better after trading DeMarcus Cousins, but one thing you can say with absolute certainty is that this team doesn’t have the word quit in them. We’ve seen over the last couple weeks that this team will continue to play hard, and they’re doing so with a mixture of veterans and youth. The wins might not be there, but unlike some other tank jobs, these games aren’t chores to watch.
The High Post
You know what’s kind of neat? For once, the Kings are actually a really good shooting team. For years I’ve wanted the Kings to add shooters to take advantage of DeMarcus Cousins’ interior presence so it’s a little funny that it’s only now without him that the team has really done so. The Kings are 6th in the NBA in 3P% at 37.3%, and that number is all the way up to a ridiculously good 43.3% since the trade. Part of that has to do with the fact that the Kings acquired some really good shooters in that trade: Buddy Hield is at 46% as a King, Langston Galloway is at 40% and Tyreke Evans of all people is at 51.9%. But existing Kings have stepped up as well. Anthony Tolliver and Darren Collison are both above 40% for the season, and Arron Afflalo and Ben McLemore are basically right there as well. The only Kings to not be shooting at least 37% from three aside from the big men are Malachi Richardson (28.6%) and Ty Lawson (27.7%).
I would like to see the Kings increase their attempts from outside however. They’re only 22nd in attempts on the season at 24.3, but factoring in pace they shoot them at about the 20th highest rate. They’ve actually been even more selective since the trade at just 19.5 attempts a game, likely because without someone like DeMarcus Cousins to draw a lot of interior attention, there’s less opportunity for kickouts and nobody on this current Kings-squad really commands a double-team.
Still though, this is a promising sign going forward, as it seems like it’s pretty tough to be a great team in today’s NBA without at least being competent from the perimeter. Now if only they could stop other teams from making their threes...
The Low Post
It’s hard for me to find too many negatives about this team right now because the goals are completely different. This isn’t a team that’s trying to compete for the playoffs (well the players are but you know what I mean). This season’s about developing the youth now and I think Coach Joerger and his staff have actually done a pretty good job of that, especially as minutes for the young guys have continually seen upticks, even though it’s perhaps a little slower than some would like.
So what’s bugging me? Maybe it’s just that I’ve been burned so many times that I can’t fully trust this front office to build the right way. This summer is absolutely critical, and I’m worried that the team will overspend on Free Agency or make a whacky trade to try to improve the team drastically when next year should be a full year of development and if the young guys play out of their minds and the team wins great, but if not, we at least get another solid pick. I don’t want to see more shortcuts taken, because we’ve seen time and time again that it just doesn’t work. Hell, we still haven’t paid off the debts from the last time the Kings tried taking a shortcut.
So this isn’t really a negative per se, it’s just a nagging doubt in my mind. The Kings will have to earn a lot of our trust back before it goes away.
Willie Cauley-Stein will probably never be a featured part of an offensive attack. His touch around the rim is questionable and although we've seen recent growth in his post-game and his scoring ability, the vast majority of his contributions are predicated on his athleticism and length.
The good news for Kings fans is that we don't need him to be the focal point on that end of the court. Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere already look like they will eventually be able to carry a heavy offensive load and Sacramento still has Malachi Richardson, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and multiple rookies to add next season.
While Willie may not ever average 20 points per game, he's already showing huge development in an area in which anyone can contribute on any given night: passing. In his rookie year, the young big man only averaged 0.6 assists per game. This season, the raw numbers have only increased to 0.9 assists per game, but the advanced statistics as well as his leap after the DeMarcus Cousins trade tell a different story.
Willie's 0.6 APG last year stemmed from a paltry 3.8 AST% (an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor), but his AST% has jumped to 9.1% in his sophomore season. Not only has his passing increased from year-to-year, but it's also taken another jump since the All-Star break and his minutes increase. Prior to the Boogie deal, the 7-footer posted 0.5 assists per game with a 6.8% AST%. Post-trade he's put up 2.5 assists per game with a 11.3 AST%.
There are still major holes in our center's game. His rebounding percentage is absolutely dismal and he still struggles with lapses of discipline throughout entire games, but if he can become a passing threat as well as a rim-runner, we may just have a future long-term starter on our hands.
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
Highlight of the Week
Skal’s big night has to be the highlight
Three-point range, post moves and more. Relive Skal's standout 11-of-15, 32-point career-high pic.twitter.com/ZKOshqjqVg— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) March 16, 2017
Player of the Week
17.5 PPG, .651 FG%, 7.3 RPG, 1.0 BLK, 0.5 AST, 0.5 STL in 22.9 MPG
I can’t get enough of Skal. His game in Phoenix was a sight to see, and even though the Suns were an ideal matchup for him, you don’t see many guys his age dominate like that. He went head to head against Marquese Chriss on multiple occassions and looked like twice the player. He struggled a bit more the rest of the week against more experienced frontlines, but Skal’s got all the makings of a future star. Nobody on the team has yet established themselves as a future franchise cornerstone, but Skal at least has looked like he could grow to one day be that player. I think one day we might look back at that draft day trade of Chriss for Skal, Papa, Bogdan and a 2020 2nd rounder as one of the best trades we’ve ever done. Early returns are looking good.
March 22nd vs. Milwaukee Bucks at 7:30 p.m.
March 24th at Golden State Warriors at 7:30 p.m.