In the final few moments prior to the trade deadline’s expiration two weeks ago, the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings agreed to swap two similarly struggling young big men. Caleb Swanigan, the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft was sent to Northern California, while Skal Labissiere, the 28th overall pick from the year prior, was shipped to Portland.
On Wednesday, the front office assigned their newest addition to the Stockton Kings, and the 21-year old had himself a night. Swanigan scored 18 points, snagged 18 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists, while turning the ball over 7 times:
The big man had a big game in his Stockton Kings debut— Stockton Kings (@StocktonKings) February 21, 2019
18 points - 18 rebounds pic.twitter.com/ZRsiReucGR
Those numbers, while impressive at first glance, also correlate with what the big man does well and the areas in which he struggles. In his 334 career minutes, Swanigan has made just 38 of his 104 shot attempts, resulting in a field goal percentage of 37%. Against the Santa Cruz Warriors, he made 6 out of his 15 shots (40%). He did manage to hit one of his two three-point attempts, which is a far cry from his 15% average in his brief time spent on the hardwood for the Trail Blazers.
His glass cleaning abilities, unlike his accuracy, cannot be brought into question. In his sophomore season at Purdue, Caleb recorded a defensive rebounding percentage of 32.7%, the third-highest of any college player, and last night he blew that number out of the water, snatching 37.7% of available defensive rebounds. Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect the forward to maintain those numbers at the pro-level, but he’s still managed to snag 27.9% of available defensive rebounds in his 145 minutes this season.
The passing and turnovers also reflect Swanigan’s past, especially his college days. He averaged 3.5 assists and 4.2 whoopsies in his final year at Purdue, while he posted an assist percentage of 8.8% and a turnover percentage of 22.8% while playing in Portland. The young big man wants to share the rock with teammates, but he’s historically been far too careless with the ball.
A strong G-League premiere by no means indicates long-term success in the NBA, but Caleb Swanigan showed his strengths, as well as his weaknesses, in his Stockton Kings debut. He’s an undersized, bruising big man who will snatch up every available rebound when granted the opportunity, and he’ll outhustle every person on the floor. There’s no telling if the former Boilermaker will ever become polished enough to enter Dave Joerger’s rotation, but his energy and effort on the glass could provide a boost to a squad that struggles mightily to corral opponents’ misses.