December 6, 2017, 3:50 pm
The Kings announced a pair of important roster moves on Tuesday, more specifically a pair of moves that will test the team’s frontcourt for at least the next two games.
The Kings announced Willie Cauley-Stein was not travelling with the team for their two-game road trip to Cleveland and New Orleans, however, Sacramento then followed that up with the decision to send Skal Labissiere to Reno rather than Cleveland.
Cauley-Stein had been producing in his five games off the bench, averaging about 15 points per game and more than six boards in about 27 minutes per game.
Labissiere, who shifted into the starting lineup when Cauley-Stein was sent to the bench, hadn’t been having the same success. He was averaging less than eight points and about four rebounds in 17 minutes per game during that time.
With the two away from the team for the next two games, the question now becomes “who will get the minutes?” The two combined for 44 minutes per game so there’s definitely a window of opportunity for the bigs on the Kings roster.
Zach Randolph had started in every matchup he played in for the Kings this season before coming off the bench against the Bucks last Saturday. Randolph, however, ended up playing 33 minutes (the most of his season) as the Kings fell to the Bucks.
Kosta Koufos has been a player who’s seen his minutes decrease over the past couple weeks, though. Koufos went from playing a consistent 20 minutes to just around 13 over the past six games. Koufos’ defensive presence has been a positive this season, but his lack of offensive ability and athleticism has been something that’s limited the youthful Kings.
JaKarr Sampson had played in just 11 minutes all season before the Bucks game, but he played 24 minutes in that game, which was the second of a back-to-back. Sampson saw more minutes than Labissiere and Koufos in that game and put up four points and three rebounds.
It was just his third game, but the fire he brings off the bench could be something the Kings need, especially against teams like the Cavaliers and Pelicans. Sampson has the size and bounce to play above the rim and he brings a defensive prowess to a lackluster Kings defense. His offensive talents are limited to say the least, but paired alongside Randolph, Sampson could potentially see some valuable minutes.
When Labissiere was sent down, Georgios Papagiannis got what seems like his 15th call-up of the year. Papagiannis has been a project since being drafted last year and has only played four games this year, but at 7-feet he brings some much needed size, especially for the Friday game against the Pelicans when they’ll face DeMarcus Cousins. Whether he can compete with a player of Cousins’ caliber is yet to be seen.
While Koufos, Sampson and Papagiannis are the obvious choices to see some minutes while Cauley-Stein and Labissiere are gone, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Vince Carter saw some time at the stretch-four. Carter may not have the legs he once had, but he can still knock down the three ball and could help stretch the floor.
Carter has played some time at the four with the Kings already this year, but he’s averaging just 11 minutes per game.
While the situation may not be ideal, coach Dave Joerger has been in this position before. He dealt with a variety of injuries while with the Grizzlies and made the most of what he had in front of him. He’ll be tested to do the same with the Kings — if he hasn’t already — for the next two games at least.