April 2, 2017, 5:44 pm
The Kings played some solid basketball this week, but is that a good or bad thing at this point in the season? Following Sacramento’s victory over Minnesota, there was quite a discussion on social media as to the result of that game. On one side we have the ‘tank for draft position camp’. On the other side we have the ‘win as many games as possible to build a winning culture’ camp. Both sides have great points, but is there a right or wrong side to be on? A more detailed breakdown of this dilemma will be featured below.
Sacramento began the week with an impressive, 91-90 win over the Grizzlies. It was neck and neck for the majority of the game but the Kings had enough in the tank to squeak by a playoff bound Memphis team. Marc Gasol was absent from this game with a foot injury and that certainly would have helped, but this was a game that Dave Joerger was determined to win against his former team which meant there was an exaggerated focus on playing the veterans in this one. Darren Collison led the way for Sacramento dropping 23 points, four rebounds and seven assists on 8-of-13 shooting from the field.
Things didn’t go as smoothly two nights later against the Jazz. Utah came out strong and never looked back, thumping the Kings, 112-82. The Jazz played a good all around game led by Gordon Hayward’s 20 points and Rudy Gobert’s 16 point, 15 rebound double-double. Rodney Hood was exceptional too going 5-of-5 from behind the arc. For the Kings it was Ben McLemore who stood out with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. It was a fairly bland game for Sacramento but it was promising to see Ben get hot and make some plays.
As many probably expected, DeMarcus Cousins put forth his best effort against the Kings on Friday. He went off for 37 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks on 12-of-21 shooting and 5-of-8 from three. He led the Pelicans to a, 117-89 victory over a lesser-talented Kings team. To be fair, he has been playing superb basketball of late so the Kings caught him at the worst time possible, but he was motivated to stick it to his former team and he did just that. Willie Cauley-Stein gave it his all against Cousins posting 11 points and 14 rebounds in 34 minutes.
The week concluded with a come from behind victory over the Timberwolves, 123-117. The Kings were down big early but bounced back over the second and third quarters to run away and snatch a win in Minnesota. Many players deserve a mention in this one; Willie Cauley-Stein and Ty Lawson managed double-doubles, Arron Afflalo and Langston Galloway got hot off the bench and Buddy Hield tied a career-high with 22 points. The Kings and Wolves are essentially side by side as far as draft position goes and many were hoping the Kings lost this one but they fought throughout the whole game without a thought of losing in mind.
Takeaway From The Week
To tank, or to win?
This topic was hotly debated this week, especially following the Kings’ victory over the Wolves. Everyone is well aware of Sacramento’s draft pick conundrum in which they cannot fall outside the top-10 otherwise the pick goes to Chicago, so in this facet, winning is bad. However, if they lose too much and have a worse record that the Sixers, the pick goes to Philadelphia. With the way the Sixers are playing at the moment, losing too much shouldn’t be a problem as it is highly unlikely the pick swap occurs.
The higher the draft pick the better, that is obvious, but the Kings should be trying to build a winning culture with the young guys they have and telling them to lose is the worse thing to do. This isn’t the case, team management hasn’t told this team to go out and play bad and it reflects in some of their recent wins. One thing should be clear though, playing the veterans to win games is pointless, but playing the young guys and getting wins is what they should be doing. The Grizzlies game is an exception because it was merely a personal thing for Joerger and everyone can respect that. This team should be trying to win as many games as possible to close out the season but they need to be playing their younger players in doing this; and for the most part they have been.
That is what the ‘playing to win’ camp is advocating for, success with the younger players. It helps with their development as a player and mentally moving forward. The ‘tanking for draft position’ camp have very valid points, but the Kings are essentially locked into the top-10 at this point, and could even have two top-10 picks if things go to plan. There is a ton of talent available at the top of this draft so there will be plenty of options for the Kings whether they land in the top-3, or are down at six or seven.
Player Power Rankings
Note: These rankings are based on each player’s performance from this week, not on the entire season.
#1 –WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN (LAST WEEK: #2)
Cauley-Stein gets the nod at number one this week after some impressive play. He was the Kings’ most consistent player with averages of 11.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals on 50.0 percent shooting from the field. He tied a career-high against the Pelicans with 14 rebounds which is impressive considering the talent he was up against.
#2 – BUDDY HIELD (LAST WEEK: #1)
Buddy Hield put in another solid week posting averages of 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds on 48.8 percent shooting from the field. He’s starting to take better care of the ball which is promising considering that was a big issue for him when he first joined the Kings. As mentioned earlier in the piece he tied a career-high against the Wolves with 22 points and it was his third 20-plus point performance since joining Sacramento.
#3 – TY LAWSON (LAST WEEK: #6)
Lawson played in three of the Kings’ four games this past week and he was above average on the whole. His most impressive outing came against the Wolves where he managed 22 points and 11 assists on 5-of-8 shooting. For the week he averaged 14.0 points and 4.7 assists on 68.8 percent from the field which is exceptional for a backup point guard.
#4 –BEN MCLEMORE (LAST WEEK: #10)
Benny Mac broke out this week compiling averages of 11.8 points and 4.0 rebounds on 48.7 percent shooting from the field. He had two solid games and two not so good games but his play was good enough to earn him the number three spot for this week.
#5 – DARREN COLLISON (LAST WEEK: #3)
Like McLemore, Collison had two solid games but dropped off in the other two. For the week he averaged 11.8 points and 5.0 assists on 44.4 percent shooting. His most notable performance was mentioned above and that was against the Grizzlies where he was on fire and was a big part of the upset win.
#5 –SKAL LABISSIERE (LAST WEEK: #7)
Skal grabs the number seven spot this week. He wasn’t great but he was respectable enough, especially for a rookie. He only shot 40.6 percent from the field in four games this week with averages of 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds. On the whole he shoots efficiently from the field but he had a rough shooting outing against the Pelicans which dragged his average down a bit.
#7 – GEORGIOS PAPAGIANNIS (LAST WEEK: #8)
Papa G moves up slightly this week after some steady play. 7.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in three games is pretty good for the rook and he only played 21.6 minutes per game too. His rebounding was a little underwhelming but he had some stiff competition this week so we will give him a pass.
#8 – GARRETT TEMPLE (LAST WEEK: #4)
Temple wasn’t the best this week but he still put in work on the defensive end. He continues to do all the little things for the Kings and at this point in the season that’s all he really needs to do. He will rest from time to time as he only played two games this week so don’t expect too much from him moving forward.
#9 –LANGSTON GALLOWAY (LAST WEEK: #11)
Galloway moves up this week after a great performance against the Wolves. He went off for 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from three. He didn’t do much else in the other games but he got hot in Minnesota and was a big reason for the Kings getting the win.
#10 – ANTHONY TOLLIVER (LAST WEEK: #5)
Tolliver’s minutes will fluctuate over the last week or so of the season and he will rest from time to time. When he does play he will be out there to hit threes and not much else. He did have an impressive three blocks against the Wolves which is somewhat noteworthy for him.
#11 –TYREKE EVANS (LAST WEEK: #9)
Evans was forcing it a bit this week. He played in two of the four games and only shot 33.3 percent. He did average 10.0 points but he just wasn’t effective for the Kings. His time with the Kings is coming to an end as he likely won’t be returning next season.
Injured: Rudy Gay (Achilles) and Malachi Richardson (hamstring).
Not enough minutes: Kosta Koufos and Arron Afflalo.