Every team has had to deal with player absences from the NBA bubble, whether related to the coronavirus or not, but it seems like the Sacramento Kings were hit particularly hard during the scrimmage phase.
De’Aaron Fox missed one game with a sprained ankle. Marvin Bagley III was sent home after injuring his foot. Richaun Holmes missed two games for inadvertently stepping outside the bubble. Harrison Barnes just made it in time for the last scrimmage after the coronavirus hit his household, and Alex Len still hasn’t played while he recovers from the virus.
In the midst of all that attrition, DaQuan Jeffries had an opportunity to play extended minutes for Sacramento for the first time all season, having spent the majority of his time with the Stockton Kings as a two-way player. He only played 19 minutes with the parent club all season, but saw 74 minutes of game action through the first three scrimmages, the third-most on the team behind Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield.
“It’s a big opportunity for me, you know, I’ve prepared myself during quarantine just for an opportunity like this,” Jeffries said before the start of the scrimmage games. “I definitely feel like with me getting those reps in front of the coaches, I feel like I’m building trust with the coaches, so I feel like when game time comes around they’ll be able to trust me to put me in the game and do what I can do.”
His words proved prescient. Initially, the main thing Jeffries brought to the Kings was availability. But it quickly became apparent that Jeffries has skills on the wing that are unique to this roster, and even when the games start to matter on Friday, Jeffries has made a case to be a part of the rotation.
The first thing that sticks out with Jeffries is are his hops. He can get up for dunks, like he did against poorly-executed Miami zone in the first game.
Miami opens up the 2nd with some 2-3 zone aaaaaaaaand pic.twitter.com/MaSQNTSpcg— Karens In Paris (@NekiasNBA) July 23, 2020
But Jeffries is able to make his athleticism functional in addition to just being a lob threat. He showed good rebounding instincts, particularly for a player only 6’5, and that’s a continuation of his G-League play, when he averaged 6.9 rebounds per game.
He also started to use verticality to contest shots. In the first scrimmage against the Miami Heat, Jeffries had some trouble keeping his arms straight up when he jumped, but he got better at that throughout the week, and was able to stay tall to deter opponents at the basket.
The two-way forward also had some good instincts on offense. The efficiency sticks out — Jeffries shot 12-of-21 in the three scrimmages, the best of any King to take more than 10 field-goal attempts, and he made 4-of-10 threes. The fact that Jeffries’ jumper look smooth makes him easily plug-and-playable.
However, Jeffries also just has good feel. He cuts to the basket when a teammate is driving so he’s there for the dump-off. He makes the extra pass when the ball is swinging around the perimeter, and he can hit the open man when the defense collapses. He sprints to the wings or the corners in transition to clear the lane. He’s doing the little things right.
Jeffries hasn’t really been scouted yet by NBA teams, and there are obviously weaknesses of his that become more apparent as he is asked to do more. His handle needs some tightening, and he doesn’t quite have the creative juice to generate his own shot in the half court. But for now, Jeffries only needs to be a complementary player, and that’s a role he has filled with aplomb.
In the third scrimmage against the LA Clippers, Jeffries completely displaced Corey Brewer from the rotation as the backup power forward (or small forward, depending on how you classify Harrison Barnes). Luke Walton made it clear, though, that was a matter of still trying to figure out what the team has in Jeffries.
“The scrimmages, we’re trying to use them to get our guys going,” Walton said postgame. “DaQuan’s earned the right for us to keep looking at him, so I know and I’m confident with Brewer, with what he can do. Playing DaQuan is more, he’s earned minutes and I’m continuing to try to evaluate him.”
Even if Jeffries hasn’t cemented himself in the rotation yet, he has certainly made it difficult for Walton to keep him on the bench during the seeding games. For a team that wants to play fast and is still bringing players back up to speed, it would be a waste not to give Jeffries minutes, considering he is already in rhythm.
Jeffries may not have been the player most Kings fans considered an X-factor heading into the restart, but his ability to fit within the team concept makes him a useful contributor. He did what he could with his opportunity. The rest is in Walton’s hands.