What started out as a rough week with two bad losses to the Bucks and Warriors ended on a positive note, as the Kings strung together back-to-back one point victories over the L.A. Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. The Kings haven’t had back-to-back victories like that since Mike Bibby had those back-to-back gamewinners in 2005... against the L.A. Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies.
The High Post
Earlier this year I was one depressed Kings fan. It got to the point where I had people who read the site note “Man, you’re really down on the Kings aren’t you?”. And I was down on them. The Kings seemed to be doing the same old thing they do every year and it wasn’t working.
Now, the Kings are doing something different, and it’s exciting. Sure, it might blow up in their face but at least it’s a new direction. And boy is this team fun to watch when they play as hard as they have. An 18 point comeback in 5 minutes? Sure. Following that up with another late comeback against another playoff contender the next night? Easy.
That the recent play also involves Sacramento’s youth is a big plus. We’re seeing guys like Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein play big minutes, while Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis earn rotation spots with solid play. You see how much these guys enjoy playing with each other from the reactions on the bench and the quotes they give after games. Just take a look at this quote from Anthony Tolliver:
.@kayte_c on Anthony Tolliver’s comments to Skal Labissiere: “My job is to teach you how to take my job.”— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) March 26, 2017
How many vets would have that mindset? And look at Garrett Temple praising the young guys.
Just in case you forgot, our comeback last night was CRAZY!!!! So proud of the young fellas Lang, Buddy, Papa, and Willie! #SacramentoProud— Garrett Temple (@GTemp14) March 27, 2017
This is a team that has become easy to root for, win or lose.
The Low Post
Speaking of losing, there’s a sentiment among some fans that the Kings aren’t losing enough. I get it, the odds of us getting a better pick go down with each win and the Kings aren’t playing for anything but pride at this point.
But man oh man, does the NBA need to do something to disincentivize losing. No fan should feel unhappy when their team wins or feel encouraged to root for their team to lose just so they have an extra few percentage points at a higher draft pick. I don’t know what the solution is but I hate seeing an awesome Kings win and then in the back of my head immediately thinking “Damn this puts us to 8th instead of 6th”.
Our old commander-in-chief Tom Ziller recently suggested eliminating the NBA Draft as one way to stop tanking completely. Of course, even as he notes, this will never happen because the NBA Draft is an industry to itself and small market teams especially would revolt. But the current system isn’t great either. This is a copycat league, and while everyone was crying foul over Sam Hinkie’s tactics, if the 76ers ever become a serious threat because of the draft picks that Hinkie acquired, teams will follow suit and try to adopt their own long-term tank.
It’s a problem, and not an easy one to solve. Until then, I’ll keep rooting for the Kings to win every game, and simply not care if we lose. Let the dice fall where they may.
The View From Section 214
Mock Draft Premature.0 –
If there is anything that is a bigger waste of time than a mock draft, it’s a mock draft when the draft positions have not yet been established. There are still a couple of weeks left in the season, and the draft lottery is a month and a half away. Add in the fact that a couple of lottery picks have restrictions on them (Lakers and New Orleans each have top 3 protections in place), and it becomes a massive exercise in futility. Anyone with a shred of intelligence would at least wait for the season to end and the ping pong balls to drop, right? So without further ado…
1) Boston (via Brooklyn): Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington – Unless Josh Jackson crushes his workout/interview with the Celtics, I can’t see them passing on Fultz as their point guard of the future. The young Husky can come in and learn the NBA game under the expert tutelage of fellow alum Isaiah Thomas, whose contract with the Celtics expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.
2) LA Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA – I’m guessing that the Lakers out-lose the Suns down the stretch, as they have so much more to gain, given the top 3 restriction on their pick. But even if the Suns finish ahead of the Lakers, I see the Suns going with Josh Jackson and the Lakers going with Ball. A Ball/D’Angelo Russell pairing would have its challenges, but Russell has not established himself to the point where Magic Johnson would pass on Ball’s dynamic talent. Properly executed, a three guard rotation of Ball, Russell and Jordan Clarkson would work in any permutation, and one would think that Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle would benefit from Ball’s passing acumen.
3) Phoenix: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas – For me, Jackson is the best player on the board here, and he fills a need for Phoenix as well. I just see Jackson as being a cut above Jayson Tatum or Jonathan Isaac as a wing prospect, and it would shock me to see the Suns dive back into the guard pool. That said, I could at least envision a scenario in which they trade Eric Bledsoe and draft De’Aaron Fox if they think that Fox is the ying to Devin Booker’s yang.
4) Orlando: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky – Elfrid Payton is not making progress as a shooter, and after next year the Magic will have a decision on their hands as to whether or not they want to pay market rate for him. Enter Fox, who solves that problem and perhaps provides the Magic with a transcendent guard for years to come.
5) Philadelphia: Malik Monk, PG/SG, Kentucky – I could see the Sixers entertaining thoughts of Dennis Smith here, but Monk’s potential to be an explosive scorer tips the scale in his favor.
6) New York: Dennis Smith, PG, N.C. State – Triangle, shmiangle. Good grief, the Knicks are a mess, and that makes this an even bigger exercise in stupidity. But Rose will be gone (and Phil Jackson may not be long for his job), and the Knicks may view Smith as a good pairing with Kristaps Porzingis. Jayson Tatum and Jonathan Isaac are still on the board here, but for now I’ll give the nod to Smith.
7) Sacramento Kings: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke – Now, imagine for a moment that the first six picks play out as I have listed above, and that the Kings are now on the clock with Jayson Tatum still available. Do you begin to dread the falling knife? Are you wondering if Vivek Ranadivé and Ivan Rabb are already Facebook friends? Does the existence of Vlade Divac have you scrambling for the proper pronunciation of Anzejs Paseckniks? Have no fear, Tatum is not a falling knife here when you consider the prospects that were taken before him. He is simply a guy that could have gone anywhere between four and eight, and seven is where he landed. And yes, he can play small forward!
8) Minnesota: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona – The T-Wolves are a team on the move, and Markkanen or Miles Bridges look like the guys that might be able to help the team sooner than later. Markkanen would work in well with Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng, and while Bridges’ skillset is tempting to Tom Thibodeau, Markkanen’s perimeter shooting gives him the edge.
9) Dallas: Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State – The Mavs could use help in a lot of places, but in the end they choose Bridges because they like him just a tad more than Frank Ntilikina…they see Bridges as being ready to contribute much more quickly.
10) Sacramento (via New Orleans): Frank Ntilikina, PG, Strasbourg – And Kings fans, who were faced with potentially no 2017 draft picks and a middling, unlikeable roster just three months prior, walk away from the lottery with perhaps their small forward and point guard of the future. It will be highly unlikely that Ntilikina will be ready to take the reins in 2017 – he may not even be ready to crack the core rotation – but King fans are now presented with a young and promising cauldron of hope that will both fascinate and frustrate the masses in 2017-18.
11) Charlotte: Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State – To be clear, I like Isaac, and I would not be disappointed if he wound up in a Kings uniform. Heck, he could wind up in the top five. But in the butt-pulled-not-enough-information-to-make-anything-close-to-an-informed-decision-world-of-premature-mock-drafts, Isaac winds up in Charlotte.
12) Detroit: Og Anunoby, SF, Indiana – There are a lot of centers that Detroit could go with here, as the Andre Drummond honeymoon appears to be at its end. But SVG loves what he sees in Anunoby (or maybe he’s never seen or heard of him - who knows?), and if he winds up coming out, Detroit grabs him.
13) Denver: Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Zalgiris - Yes, I have Portland landing the 8th playoff spot in the West, so the Nugs land here. And in a perfect world, Denver trades out of this pick and picks up point guard Jawun Evans a little later on. But for this exercise, let’s give them another Euro big.
14) Miami: John Collins, PF, Wake Forest – In this scenario Chicago lands the 8th playoff spot in the East and the Heat land Collins, though they kick the tires hard on Justin Jackson.
35) Sacramento (via New Orleans from Philly) – The good news: The player that I predicted would be chosen with the Kings’ #59 pick last year was indeed drafted by the Kings. The bad news is that he (Georgios Papagiannis) was selected 46 picks earlier than I had anticipated. With that said, Let’s go with either Semi Ojeleye (SF/PF out of SMU), Monte Morris (PG from Iowa State) or Aleksaner Vezenkov (SF/PF, Barcelona).
Based on history, I would hazard a guess that fewer than five of these selections come to fruition. The only thing more ridiculous than me taking the time to write it is that you took the time to read it.
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
This picture’s begging to get memed, get on it guys.
Highlight of the Week
It has to be Buddy’s 6 points in 9 seconds. He sprinted from halfcourt to steal that inbounds pass!
Player of the Week
10.5 PTS, .607 FG%, 8.5 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.3 BLK, 1.0 STL in 30.2 MPG
Ever since about the halfway point of the season, it’s like a switch has been turned on for Willie Cauley-Stein. At the beginning of the year he just looked so tentative and afraid to make mistakes instead of going out and just playing.
Now he’s putting together a great stretch of basketball where he’s making an impact on both ends of the floor. Just look at this hustle play he had in Monday’s win against the Grizzlies.
When the Kings drafted Willie it was with the idea that he could become one of those “roleplayer stars” who do all of the little things that don’t necessarily pop up in the stat sheet. He’s starting to do that, and he’s also expanding his offensive game to be much more varied, from hooks to spot-up jumpers. He’s also seemingly made it a focus recently to be more active on the glass, grabbing a career-high 14 in the game against the Clippers, including the game-winning putback, as seen here, set to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”.
It went unnoticed Sunday night... Kings closed on a 22-3 run to steal one from the Clippers! WCS' put-back is better w/Titanic music! pic.twitter.com/okhYy2MCy7— Titanic Hoops (@TitanicHoops) March 28, 2017
Willie’s improved a lot over this year alone, and I’m excited for him to be featured in a more expanded role next year.
(all times Pacific)
Mar. 29th vs. Utah Jazz at 7:30 p.m.
Mar. 31st at New Orleans Pelicans at 5:00 p.m.
Apr. 1st at Minnesota Timberwolves at 5:00 p.m.