Youth Movement: Grading the Kings' core halfway through 2017-18 season
Where do they stand?
Just over halfway through the 2017-18 season, the Kings have handed the reins over to the young core. Five players with three years or less of NBA experience are playing major minutes since the start of the new year and another four will see increased time.
Coming into the season, the team needed to identify a group to move forward with. So far, there are some positive signs of improvement.
For the next three months, we’ll rank the young guys and track their development through the final 35 games of the regular season.
1. Willie Cauley-Stein -- Trending Up
Season Stats: 12.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steal, 27.8 min
January Stats: 15.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 30.5 min
Cauley-Stein is attempting to take the leap from defensive specialist to offensive weapon. He’s shown an increased arsenal, but his bread and butter is still running the floor and finishing off the alley-oop. His rebounding numbers have jumped and he’s finding a way to fill the stat sheet in Year No. 3.
2. Bogdan Bogdanovic -- Trending Up
Season Stats: 11.4 points, 3.0 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 39.8% 3-pt FG, 26.8 min
January Stats: 14.8 points, 4.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds, .7 steals, 45.5% 3-pt FG, 30.7 min
No one on the Kings roster considers Bogdanovic a rookie. The Serbian-born shooting guard is finally getting a shot to play at his natural position and he’s thriving. His basketball IQ is off the charts and he’s one of the team’s best playmakers.
3. De’Aaron Fox -- Trending Up
Season Stats: 10.4 points, 4.3 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 43.8% 3-pt FG, 26.5 min
January Stats: 13.0 points, 5.6 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 43.8% 3-pt FG, 30.2 min
Fox is showing flashes of improvement. The Kings think they’ve found a keeper at the point guard position and the Kentucky product is starting to grow into his role. He needs to improve his perimeter shooting, but he’s figuring out how to use his incredible speed in the halfcourt.
4. Buddy Hield -- Trending Even
Season Stats: 12.5 points, 1.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 43.8% 3-pt FG, 24.1 min
January Stats: 12.4 points, 2.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds, .8 steals, 40.4% 3-pt GF, 26.9 min
Hield is a work-in-progress on the defensive end, but he can really score the ball. He struggles as a playmaker for others, but his assists numbers have climbed a bit in the month of January. He’s been a knockdown 3-point shooter all season, although he’s cooled off from the 58.3 percent he shot in November.
5. Skal Labissiere -- Trending Up
Season Stats: 8.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, .7 blocks, 46.4% FG, 17.8 min
January Stats: 11.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, .9 blocks, 49.4% FG, 24.3 min
Labissiere is nursing a sore shoulder, but that didn’t stop him from having a season-best 23-point outburst against the Hornets earlier in the week. He’s playing more minutes and his activity level has improved. The Kings need to see what they have in him over the second half of the season.
6. Frank Mason -- Trending Even
Season Stats: 7.6 points, 2.9 assists, 2.1 rebounds, .5 steals, 41.9% 3-pt FG, 18.6 min
January Stats: N/A
Mason earned his way into the rotation with his tenacious play early in the season. The Kings like him so much, they moved George Hill to the shooting guard spot to free up minutes at the point. An injury has derailed him until early February, but he’s earned his spot in the ranks.
7. Malachi Richardson -- Trending Down
Season Stats: 3.5 points, .5 assists, 1.4 rebounds, .4 steals, 30.8% 3-pt FG, 12.8 min
January Stats: 2.3 points, .2 assists, 1.3 rebounds, .7 steals, 25.0% 3-pt GF, 11.1 min
Richardson is in a rough spot. The Kings have plenty of options at the wing, including a glut of young players. He’s improved his shooting stroke in practice, but he hesitates in game. His body has improved greatly in year two, which has helped him on the defensive end.
8. Justin Jackson -- Trending Down
Season Stats: 4.9 points, .7 assists, 1.9 rebounds, .4 steals, 30.4% 3-pt FG, 17.4 min
January Stats: 2.3 points, .7 assists, 2.3 rebounds, .7 steals, 18.2% 3-pt GF, 16.1 min
Jackson has struggled to find a niche with the Kings in his rookie season. His numbers are down across the board in January, which doesn’t bode well. It’s tough for a young player when they play spotty minutes, but Jackson needs to take advantage of the opportunities when they come.
9. Georgios Papagiannis -- Trending Even
Season Stats: 2.3 points, .4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, .4 blocks, 41.0% FG, 7.6 min
January Stats: 1.7 points, .5 assists, 2.2 rebounds, .5 blocks, 29.4% FG, 7.0 min
Papagiannis has bounced back and forth between Reno and Sacramento all season long. With the veterans sitting, the 7-foot-2 20-year-old out of Greece is seeing playing time in meaningful spots. He needs to work on securing the ball better and show that he can adjust to the speed of the NBA game. If the Kings move one of their veteran bigs at the deadline, Papa G might get a much longer look.