• Omer Kahn over at Sactown Royalty was tweeting on Saturday about Entitlement Minutes and I appreciated the terminology because it really gets at the heart of what a coach is tasked with when guiding young players.

    You can check his Twitter feed right here for his thoughts and I usually agree with most of them, so I thought a (somewhat) deeper examination of what was going on here was in order.

    Coaches have struggled with this for years and at varying levels. Sometimes it happens on lottery squads but veteranism can also cost teams playoff series or even chances at a championship.

    Some coaches get so fixed on their own dogmas that they do things like play guys named Kendrick Perkins in actual playoff games despite opponents repeatedly going at the weakness – all in the name of ‘making (Serge Ibaka) earn it.’

    The Kings find themselves square in the middle of that question as their veteran roster isn’t half bad.

    George Hill is a top-20 point guard without having to really think through the rankings, and Garrett Temple will finally get the Internet respect he deserves a year later after defensive awards voters crapped themselves.

    Zach Randolph can still control tempo on offense and Kosta Koufos is a high-end backup big in this league.

    If we want to dig a little further Bogdan Bogdanovic is not really a rookie and could easily push to be the team’s best shooting guard.

    Behind the vets you have the kids and as we’re seeing they’re damn good, too. De’Aaron Fox already looks to be in the mix as the top rookie of this year’s class and he’s making a difference right away. Skal Labissiere went from being very shaky in the preseason to putting together some tight minutes over the last week.

    Willie Cauley-Stein has a number of flaws one can pick at but he got back on the glass before the Kings punted in Denver and that’s an encouraging sign.

    Buddy Hield still needs to learn how to pass and play defense but he has shown he’s going to be a great scorer. Justin Jackson does the 3-and-just-be thing pretty well.

    Frank Mason had a rough night in Denver but has otherwise looked great.

    Everything has worked pretty smoothly but when Bogdanovic returns from his ankle injury it’s going to get complicated fast.

    And that’s where the question of Entitlement Minutes vs. Making Them Earn It starts to get real interesting.

    In Denver, Hield and Mason were outright bad in the first half.  Mason whiffed badly on two defensive assignments and Hield got yelled at by Dave Joerger for not passing loud enough so the entire arena could hear it.

    Hield would continue to push the issue in a bad matchup against Gary Harris and Will Barton and neither player got anything going.

    So those were Entitlement Minutes. They had nothing to do with the return on investment in short-term but were more about what you’re getting in the long-term.

    As Kahn states, the problem with giving Entitlement Minutes is that you have removed the pressure to do things correctly or even enabled the furthering of bad habits. In other words a player can do stupid stuff and stay on the court.

    If you force players to ‘earn it’ they will focus on how exactly to do that, improve and fit into a team’s mantra of having to earn your keep.

    All of that makes binary sense until one gets to the issue of ‘having to learn from one’s own mistakes,’ a powerful and time-tested method of learning. And that’s where the Entitlement Minutes kick in.

    Entitlement Minutes are a coach’s way of putting their thumb on the scale and this is where real development occurs.

    Give a player too many Entitlement Minutes and bad habits get created. Give them too few Entitlement Minutes and they don’t have a chance to improve or learn from their mistakes.

    Last year was an example of that when players like Labissiere sat the bench or had offensive sets not optimized for their development — while Tyreke Evans and other players no longer with the Kings jacked up bad shots and didn’t fit into a team’s mantra of having to earn your keep.

    In that case, a blanket policy of ‘you gotta earn it’ was applied to young players while old players were given license to be bad examples. Sometime it’s easiest to have the different standards and just make the young guys push through the barriers.

    That said, a blanket policy and a lack of Entitlement Minutes probably slowed the development of a player like Labissiere to some degree. Does he get more value watching Evans jack another shot or by missing a rotation and searing the result into his circuitry?

    It’s the tao of coaching and the results are hard to judge in a micro-view.

    Joerger and the Kings are going to be judged in the macro-view when these guys either develop or they don’t.

    Luckily, Joerger has started the season strongly in this department.

    The Kings pushed the Rockets on opening night and with Randolph (dental) out in that game the Thin Towers of Labissiere and Cauley-Stein both played 32-33 minutes, Jackson got 19 and Hield played 33. Fox saw 24 minutes and easily could have played less if Joerger wanted to restrict him, but he was playing well and Joerger let it flow.

    Heading to Dallas, a place the Kings haven’t won in since the glory days, Joerger shifted into win-now mode when he correctly sensed that Sacto had the better team and that a road win would reap tremendous intangible benefits.

    He rolled with Randolph for 30 minutes and effectively relied on him down the stretch, giving Labissiere 13 minutes in which the second-year player made major contributions.

    Hield struggled a bit and was restricted to just 27 minutes, and Hill was tasked with leading the bunch at 32 minutes and 21 points. Fox was given 26 minutes because he was one of the better players on the floor.

    This was a perfect minute deployment scenario, unless you want to quibble with Koufos’ guaranteed 20 minutes but let’s give both coach and player a break for a guy who isn’t hurting too much.

    Labissiere earned the minutes he was given and though he might have continued earning the minutes, he left the game with a sense of accomplishment and he got to watch first-hand how Randolph controlled a game late.

    That’s leaving some money on the table but at least you got to take your spouse to a nice dinner and spring for some Gunther’s Ice Cream on the way home.

    In Denver the Kings faced very real challenges offensively, as the lineup with Paul Millsap at center and various matchup advantages Denver had put the team in a bind early that they never recovered from.

    By the second half nobody other than Fox could do anything and everybody will be partially correct in blaming a SEGABABA notorious for killing squads in the Mile High City.

    Were the Entitlement Minutes that Hield and Mason got the right answer?

    Maybe it was a schedule loss and Joerger wanted to let those guys play through some mistakes.

    Neither played a ton in the second half and that was the adjustment, but you can see the wheels turning for a coach with a tendency to play veterans and a roster that’s as log-jammed as it gets.

    It’s this specific piece of the development process that will determine if the season is a success or not for the Kings.

    Were Entitlement Minutes appropriately doled out, did the young players get max benefit out of those minutes and were veterans given more rope than they should have received?

    In the case of players like Fox or Labissiere that start to show they deserve minutes over their veteran counterparts, were they given increases appropriately?

    The good news for Kings fans is that Joerger has walked the line very well to start the year.

    But it’s early and Bogdanovic returns anytime now. Let’s see what happens next.

Fantasy News

  • Jimmy Butler - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers

    According to Tom Moore, it's a good move for the Sixers to sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to big deals over the summer.

    Moore points out that the move to acquire Butler at the NBA trade deadline was with the intention of keeping him with the team long-term. Butler was one of the more reliable Sixers players in the playoffs and his experience and composure shined through. Both he and Harris are expected to get a lot of suitors come free agency so it will be interesting to see how much the Sixers will be willing to cough up to retain their talented veterans.

    Source: Tom Moore on Twitter

  • Brook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks have multiple decisions to make when free agency starts but re-signing Brook Lopez is a priority, according to Malika Andrews.

    The Bucks will likely lock up Khris Middleton first and then will have to decide on Malcolm Brogdon. He is a restricted free agent, but keeping him may vault Milwaukee into the luxury tax. After those two, Lopez is a priority over the other pending free agents such as Nikola Mirotic and George Hill. The Bucks won't have Bird Rights on Brook Lopez meaning they'd only have the mid-level exception to offer him, and if they go into the luxury tax, the mid-level exception drops from about $9 million to about $5 million. He'd almost certainly be taking a discount to stay in Milwaukee, but it's still possible he remains a Buck.

    Source: Malika Andrews on ESPN

  • Nick Nurse - Team - Toronto Raptors

    According to Peter Yannopoulos, Nick Nurse will be the coach of Team Canada this summer at the World Championships in China.

    Nurse will be succeeding Hornets assistant coach Jay Triano, and will be in a similar position that Gregg Popovich has with Team USA. Nurse has had a meteoric rise since being the innovator of the Raptors new offense in 2017-18 as an assistant, to being promoted to head coach, to making the NBA Finals and now being named Team Canada's head coach.

    Source: Peter Yannopoulos on Twitter

  • OG Anunoby - F - Toronto Raptors

    The Raptors are expressing optimism that OG Anunoby will be able to see the floor for their NBA Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors.

    Anunoby's size and defensive versatility could make for a very valuable weapon against the Warriors' small-ball lineups. That being said, he has been out for nearly a month and a half, and the Raptors' eight man rotation has hit its stride in the crux of this playoff run. It remains to be seen if he will make it back, but in the event that he can, there is no guarantee that he will be able to crack meaningful minutes in Toronto's tight rotation.

    Source: Ryan Wolstat on Twitter

  • Michael Porter Jr. - F - Denver Nuggets

    As a symptom from his back surgeries, Michael Porter Jr. developed drop foot, and will wear to a leg brace to help stabilize it when he makes his professional debut in Summer League according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

    Drop foot makes it hard for one to lift the front part of their foot and is a common symptom of back related ailments, of which Porter Jr. has had two surgeries to address over the last year and a half. Porter Jr. remains an unknown commodity with a laundry list of health concerns as an NBA player. There has been some recent success with young guys being able to bounce back in big ways after suffering year-long injuries, but Porter Jr. will remain a mystery until we see him on the court for his inaugural season.

    Source: The Denver Post

  • Jonas Valanciunas - C - Memphis Grizzlies

    Jonas Valanciunas said that he wants to see who the Memphis Grizzlies hire as their next head coach before deciding on his $17.6 million player option.

    Valanciunas saw his role increase in Memphis after being traded from Toronto, and actually played to compete with the Grizz trying to win enough games to convert their, at the time, low-end lottery pick to Boston. Valanciunas made it clear that he doesn't want to return to Memphis if their plans are to pivot to a rebuild and not compete again next year, saying, "I want to know, how we gonna look in 82 games. I don't want to be a tourist. I want to win.". The Hoop Ball favorite will be hard pressed to find a situation that will give him as much run, and fantasy value, as Memphis did, making this a decision fantasy owners everywhere should monitor.

    Source: Dontas Urbonas on Twitter

  • Kawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors

    Kawhi Leonard held Giannis Antetekounmpo to just .353 shooting from the floor with an offensive rating of 89.4 when guarding him in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    This is needed to emphasize just how dominant of a defensive player Leonard really is. For reference, Giannis shot .578 from the floor with an offensive rating of 121 through the regular season. A total swing of nearly 23 percent and 32 less points per 100 possessions is preposterous for any player, especially an MVP caliber offensive juggernaut in Antetokounmpo. Keep these numbers in mind as the debate over Leonard being the league's best player continues to heat up.

    Source: Micha Adams on Twitter

  • Kawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors

    Kawhi Leonard posted a monster line in Saturday's 100-94 Game 6 win, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, seven assist, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers.

    Leonard put the Raptors on his back and carried them into their first NBA Finals appearance. After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Raptors stormed back to take the next four to seal the series. Kawhi has been simply marvelous for this team and found a way to crank it up another notch, averaging almost 30 points per game this series. He was all over the court this game and dominated the Bucks from inside the paint. A 4th quarter dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo punctuated this dominance and sent the hometown crowd in a frenzy. The Raptors will try to keep their hot streak going as they face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks

    While Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract worth over $247 million, ESPN's Malika Andrews is reporting that the 2020 playoff run could swing whether or not Antetokounmpo stays with the Bucks long-term.

    The Bucks have three of their starters and two key bench pieces heading into free agency this summer, so they might have to make some bold choices to keep the necessary parts around while also improving the team on a budget. It's possible that this is the Antetokounmpo camp's way of encouraging Milwaukee to empty the wallet and keep the current group together, but it goes against what Giannis has said publicly about the team and city from day one. The Bucks were eliminated mere hours ago but we're already having this conversation. The NBA news cycle is perpetual.

    Source: ESPN

  • Kyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors

    Kyle Lowry posted a solid line in Saturday's Game 6 win scoring 17 points while adding five rebounds, eight assists, three 3-pointers, one steal and only one turnover.

    After a pedestrian series against the 76ers, Lowry stepped it up against the Bucks, averaging almost 20 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals. He did a great job making smart plays for the Raptors and they will need him to continue to operate at this high level as they head off into the NBA Finals next week.