November 24, 2017, 8:44 pm
Following a 46-point loss to the then 2-12 Atlanta Hawks, it was clear the Kings needed a major shakeup. There was an expectation entering the season that the team would struggle, but losses like that can be a real issue for a young roster looking to build up confidence.
Sacramento then bounced back with an 86-82 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, one of the better teams in the association, and a shakeup in the rotation appeared to be one of the key difference makers. Prior to tip-off, it was announced that De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere would be replacing Willie Cauley-Stein and Bogdan Bogdanovic in the starting lineup.
While this was the easiest change to notice, subsequent lineup changes were also made that dramatically changed the roles of quite a few players that had been struggling in recent contests.
Not all of the adjustments were positive, but with a 2-2 record against some fairly good competition the results speak for themselves. The sample size is small, but the three players below have had an impressive impact on the team over the last four games.
Cauley-Stein has undoubtedly benefitted from a renewed energy on both ends the floor, but his confidence has (somewhat surprisingly) soared since being moved to the bench four games ago. Cauley-Stein is leading the team in scoring with 17 points per game over the last four games and doing so while only averaging 12.8 shots.
Cauley-Stein’s counting stats would point to him being the team’s anchor offensively and the advanced metrics paint a similar picture. Since November 17th, the Kings’ offensive rating with him on the floor is an impressive 107, and that number plummets to 88.5 with him on the bench. For reference, 107 would be good for eighth best in the NBA, just ahead of the Washington Wizards, while 88.5 would put the team solidly behind the 30th-ranked Bulls (94.4 ORTG).
Hield found himself stuck in a massive slump to start the season and was eventually relieved of his spot in the starting lineup by Bogdan Bogdanovic. Hield has been forced to miss two of the team’s last four games with an ankle injury, but his impact off the bench in those contests has been tremendous.
Over his last two games, Hield has averaged nine points per game in just under 16 minutes while shooting 58.3% from the field and 50% from behind the arc. The sample size is obviously small and his averages are surely going to come back down to earth, but he looks comfortable operating as an instant-offense player off the bench – something that may end up being his best role moving forward.
Moving to a starting lineup featuring two point guards has certainly had a positive impact on George Hill, but it has arguably had the biggest impact on Frank Mason.
Over the team’s last four games, Mason has averaged 22 minutes per contest and has led the team with 4.5 assists while committing just 1.8 turnovers. Hill has struggled to operate as the primary ball handler this season, and Fox will need more experience before he is ready to handle that role full time, so Mason’s ability to run the offense consistently and confidently has been a welcome sight.