August 27, 2017, 12:18 pm
Hoop Ball Kings is proud to bring you the fifth installment of a brand new series that we are rolling out in the lead up to the 2017-18 NBA season. Over the next two months we will be doing a roundtable series which involves all three of our writers here at Hoop Ball Kings. We’ll be discussing various topics including season projections for each player on the Kings roster, record predictions and more.
First and foremost, we will run through every player currently on the Kings roster and provide our personal predictions for their output this season.
Willie Cauley-Stein is entering his third season in the league with the Kings, and he is already the longest tenured player on the current roster; purely due to all the recent moves over the past two seasons. He started 21 games last season, all of which coming following the All-Star break (for obvious reasons) and he produced a mixed bag for Sacramento. He would break out for games where he stuffed the stat sheet and looked like the best player on the floor, but then he would follow it up the next game with two points and two rebounds.
Inconsistency was his biggest flaw throughout the season, and many were writing him off after a forgettable start to the 2016-17 campaign where he couldn’t stay on the floor. In 72 games last season, he posted averages of 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game on 53.0 percent shooting from the field. His rebounding is his biggest detriment and reeling in just 4.5 boards per game is a big reason why he didn’t get as many minutes as he probably should have.
This is going to be a big season for Cauley-Stein. Will be blossom into the Kings’ center of the future? Or will he be another high draft pick turned role player in Sacramento?
Stat-line Prediction: 9.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.1 blocks. 52.3% FG, 0% 3PT, 69% FT.
Cauley-Stein should start showing more improvement this season. He made strides on offense near the back end of the 2016-17 season but his rebounding continued to hold him back big time. He’s going to need to step up his efforts on the glass if he wants to stay on the floor consistently. I don’t think he will start at center to begin the season too, he’ll have to earn that starting spot and we’ll know fairly early on whether he’s got a shot to take it.
I’ve projected his stats to pretty much go up across the board. I have faith in Cauley-Stein to put it all together and be the guy everyone thought he would be out of college, and beyond that too. He’s got all the tools to be an effective player in this league, and in my eyes it’s only a matter of time. With that said though, his poor rebounding still really scares me and getting off to a good start in that department is going to be key in regards to his progression.
Playing next to Zach Randolph won’t make that easy either, because we all know what he’s like on the glass. If anything, the fact that it’s that way could be a good thing for Cauley-Stein as it will teach him to fight and go get the ball on the glass. The mindset, athleticism and length is all there. He just needs to add some more muscle to help him gain an edge in the rebounding department and then everything should start to come together for the 24-year-old.
Stat-line Prediction: 13.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.3 blocks. 53% FG, 10% 3PT, 66% FT.
Cauley-Stein will more than likely never become the type of player DeMarcus Cousins was, and that’s fine if he can do what needs to be done around the rim. His reach is obviously one of the biggest advantages he has. His size, on the other hand, is an issue as he doesn’t have the most dominating build.
Willie has averaged around 20 minutes in his first two seasons, but I expect him to range closer to 30 minutes per game this season and that’s why his stats will have a bit of an inflation compared to his rookie and sophomore seasons in the league.
His interior defense will be something to watch for as he only averaged 0.6 blocks per game last season in just under 19 minutes per game. If he isn’t able to manipulate shots and block some as well, he may not see much playing time.
As a starter last season, Cauley-Stein proved his potential is there. In 30 minutes he averaged 13.1 points and 8.8 rebounds, so if he can put up numbers around that vicinity, the Kings have to look at it as a big positive.
Stat-line Prediction: 10.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks. 50.5% FG, 0% 3PT, 70% FT.
Entering his third season with the team, Willie Cauley-Stein will likely be given plenty of opportunity to win a spot in the starting rotation. He made some major improvements offensively during the second half of last season, but the team will need him to be more of a presence defensively.
If Cauley-Stein can be more of a factor on the glass, something he struggled with during his time with Kentucky as well, then he could definitely find himself playing 30-plus minutes per game. He has a wide range of outcomes next season, and the team will want to see what they have in him heading into the final year of his rookie deal in 2018-19.
Missed the previous installments of Hoop Ball Kings’ Roundtable Series? Click HERE to read them.
May 26, 2019, 10:12 pmJimmy 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
May 26, 2019, 4:01 pmBrook 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
May 26, 2019, 3:53 pmNick 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
May 26, 2019, 11:48 amOG 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
May 26, 2019, 11:19 amMichael 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
May 26, 2019, 11:04 amJonas 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
May 26, 2019, 10:06 amKawhi 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
May 26, 2019, 1:17 amKawhi 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.
May 26, 2019, 1:14 amGiannis 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.
May 26, 2019, 12:59 amKyle 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.