More than half of the Sacramento Kings roster has three years or less of NBA experience. Last season also featured many young players, but with veterans like George Hill, Garrett Temple and Vince Carter around, minutes were difficult to come by in head coach Dave Joerger’s rotation.
This season may be different as all three of those players are no longer on the roster and two new young players in Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles are vying for minutes. The 30-year-old stretch four, Nemanja Bjelica, and 28-year-old Iman Shumpert have been added, and veterans Kosta Koufos and Zach Randolph are still around, but Joerger says he is ready to give his young guys more run.
”It’s a season where we’re going to commit to playing even more young guys than we have in the past. Last year, as we’ve talked about, we played I think the sixth-most first- and second-year guys minutes in the last 15 years. We played a lot of young guys minutes, and adding Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles in as first-year guys will continue to make that number go up and up,” Joerger said at Kings Media Day on Monday. “It’s an opportunity for guys to develop and it’s an opportunity for the organization to evaluate long-term which guys will still be considered a core guy two, and three or four years from now.”
At 37 years old, Randolph certainly isn’t considered a core piece of the future, but is someone who Joerger relied on heavily early last season as a go-to scoring option, and he did win the Kings some games. Chances are Joerger still plays Randolph, Koufos and other veterans this season because when it comes to mentoring young guys, the coach said, “your voice is always heard more the more you play.” He followed that up, however, with this: “We are committing to play a lot of young guys, I’m not saying that those guys [veterans] won’t play, but the bigger priority is to play as many young guys as possible.”
Playing those young guys is likely going to result in a fair amount of losses considering how stacked the Western Conference is with talent. The alternative of playing all of the veterans on the Kings roster likely wouldn’t result in too many more wins (and certainly not a shot at the eighth seed) considering the talent level of the competition the team will be facing. Therefore, developing/finding a core for the future by giving the young players minutes does make the most sense moving forward.
How do we measure success this season though if wins may end up being few and far between?
Joerger offered this:
”If you come into practice at the end of January and you can’t tell if we’re 40 and 10 or 10 and 40. Similar to last year, we practiced, we played it out the whole way and we continued to get better,” Joerger said. “We get along with our players great, the communication is fantastic, we develop, develop, develop, develop – that’s our No. 1 goal as a coaching staff and so how measurable is that? You don’t really find out those kinds of things until two and three years down the road.”
Last season, there certainly was an optimistic vibe around the team all the way up until the final game.
While a moderate win total increase over last year’s 27 wins would be a step in the right direction, here’s to hoping this willingness from Joerger to get the young guys as many minutes as possible leads to a solid core sooner rather than later.