With the 2016-17 NBA regular season officially behind us, I thought it’d be a fun little exercise to compile a bunch of post-All-Star break statistics in one place so everyone can share some impressions and/or thoughts as we head into what should be a very exciting post-season, and an incredibly important summer for the Sacramento Kings.
As Akis detailed in his preview for yesterdays finale, this has felt like two entirely different seasons for the Sacramento Kings. Before the All-Star break, the goal was making the playoffs relying heavily on DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. After the All-Star break, the goal transitioned to player development, and with Gay injured and Cousins traded to the Pelicans, it really was a completely different team with a different focus and a different vibe.
Despite my massive issues with the Cousins trade that have less to do with trading Cousins, and more to do with how they traded Cousins, I found the second half of the season a lot more enjoyable than the first half of the season. Gunning for the playoffs this year was always misguided. Noble, maybe, but completely unrealistic and somewhat irresponsible considering the roster Vlade Divac put together this summer.
The ceiling was a first round sweep to the Warriors, and if they had played 82 games with that goal in mind, we wouldn’t have been able to see guys like Skal Labissiere, George Papagiannis, and Willie Cauley-Stein flourish. Trading Cousins recalibrated the Kings’ mission to something attainable and realistic - player development and building towards the future.
I’ll pump the breaks on my optimism there, because I still have concerns about the Kings’ braintrust, but the on-court stuff in the second half of the season was both encouraging and enjoyable. On to the numbers.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com - (click the pictures to enlarge)
I can drop an endless amount of different splits and tables and lineup data, but I’ll stop with the simple stuff here. Boy, that is a lot to digest! Some quick impressions:
- I love that Willie Cauley-Stein led the team in minutes during the second half of the season. For a guy who has been called out for his conditioning, has an issue with sickle cell, and had his minutes notoriously limited by Cal at Kentucky, his ability to play 30 minutes in an NBA game was no given. Seeing him go out there and not only prove he could do it, but thrive doing it, was a huge development. Huge.
- Buddy Hield can shoot. The Kings have drafted their fair share of college sharpshooters that couldn’t find consistency from beyond the arc once they landed in the NBA. Hield led the team in 3-point attempts in the second half, and knocked down nearly 43% of them. As a rookie.
- I must say, after watching Papagiannis in summer league, not only did I think the Kings made a bad selection, but I thought he’d be damn-near unplayable this season. He lost a ton of weight, and managed to average 6.6 points and 4.5 boards in 18.7 minutes per game after the All-Star break. It wasn’t all good, and I have serious questions about his ability to play good, consistent, professional NBA basketball, but I feel way more optimistic now than I did when the Kings drafted him. He didn’t look like he didn’t belong on the court.
- Anthony Tolliver and Garrett Temple played well the entire season. Considering both players were NBA journeymen up until this point in their careers, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with regards to their solid play. Surely they couldn’t be this good on and off the court for an entire NBA season, but they proved me wrong. Kudos to them. They can play on my team any day.
- What can I say about Skal Labissiere that hasn’t already been said? I’m probably slightly less head-over-heels in love with him than other Kings fans, because I think we saw nearly as much ‘Skal is lost’ as we saw ‘Skal is the greatest player to ever play the game’ but overall, it’s hard to be anything but incredibly happy with his play this season. He reminds me of a young Giannis Antetokounmpo, or even Kristaps Porzingis to a degree. The Kings haven’t had this kind of prospect since DeMarcus Cousins. A true ‘limitless potential’ guy who is already proving worthy of heavy playing time. I can’t wait to see what he does next season, and his numbers across the board only support that label.