• DeMarcus Cousins rumbled into the Golden 1 Center this week and with that came the closing of a massive chapter in Kings history.

    And no, it’s not all the way closed.  Sacramento will have that conversation each and every time the Kings and Cousins clash for the rest of his career.

    But now that this high-profile game has passed we’re on to the epilogue, and we’ve been given a decent-sized window to peer into the kingdom and see what is what.

    Already, the complaints about Dave Joerger’s rotations have warmed up, but the product has been mostly encouraging and that’s a place this team hasn’t been since the Michael Malone days.

    Still, the Kings leave a decent amount of money on the table when it comes to the business of rebuilding.

    That’s not to say that we’re looking at a fatal flaw in the design — yet — as we’ve discussed this year’s Kings will be judged in the macro-view by how the big pieces develop.

    Does the De’Aaron Fox development vehicle resemble the F-1 racing machine it’s meant to be, or does it plod along within the confines of a high-post, high-school bus ride.

    Against the Pelicans he drew a matchup with Jameer Nelson, who has been a great player in this league but can’t cover Jose Calderon, let alone perhaps the fastest player in the league.

    Rather than spread the floor and let one of their best offensive players create against an obvious mismatch, the Kings went right back into the offense like a bunch of Hoosiers.

    Does Skal Labissiere head in the direction of Chris Bosh or does he spend an entire season waiting in line to ‘earn it?’

    Labissiere has been strong in the minutes he has played, whereas Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos are who we know they are, and sometimes they haven’t been as effective as the second year player has been.  Will the veteran Entitlement Minutes turn into minutes for the youth, whether they’re earned or bequeathed?

    Can the Kings get Buddy Hield to take better shots, pass the ball faster and can they wrap their heads around the fact that he is a classic Sixth Man?

    His defense has improved but he’s still a work in progress when it comes to all things not related to scoring.  Sticking him into some defensive bench lineups would go a long way toward optimizing his talents.

    Will the acquisition of George Hill prove to be a good fit for this squad?  Yes, he surely appreciates (and deserved) the money he received but eventually Hill wants to be a part of the vision he was sold upon during free agency.

    His slow start has raised questions about whether or not he’s healthy (already), but more notably is the system going to wash over him and render him just another Kings player.

    He has $19 million reasons lording over his lack of production and no amount of veteran leadership he provides is going to make that go away for anybody involved.

    As for the system, it has actually been an improvement for Joerger and the Kings to start this season so the news isn’t all bad on the front.

    Rather than forcing Horns sets with two bigs at the elbows, they’ve popped a big out of the formation and that has created more space for everybody to operate.

    The sets have been crisp at times and multi-faceted, but the larger issue is that so much decision-making gets run through non-threats in Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos that too many possessions grind to a halt.

    Randolph has brought an important element of tempo via his extended-post game and that’s an important change-up for Joerger to have in his arsenal.  If the matchup presents itself and especially if the team needs to settle down, they can at least put a defense on its heels for a few seconds.

    Still, there are players like Hill, Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic that can thrive in the pick-and-roll, and the guys defenses fear because of their physical attributes — players like Cauley-Stein and Labissiere — they’re not being paired into that action because that action is usually secondary to the dribble-handoff and off-ball pindowns that the bigs in this offense facilitate.

    The deployment represents a classic decision that a coach has to make.

    Refine a structure by going to it repeatedly over and over and over again or try to ride the razor’s edge and maximize the output for each given situation.

    In today’s game, coaches like to bring their bigs out of the paint and the high post is a perfect place to involve them in the screen game and the passing game.  It brings the opposing big out of the paint and creates the lanes for drive and kick.

    You’ve heard it so much that it’s now a rallying call for those both inside and outside the game. Spacing, spacing, spacing ….

    Still, you don’t enter a basketball into a Kosta Koufos to create an off-ball motion situation when you have a Ferrari in Fox that can get whatever he wants when he wants against a VW bug in Jameer Nelson.

    Even the great squads lack this recognition.  The Warriors lost a 3-1 lead in the Finals because they refused to adapt to the Cavs’ switching-and-clenching defense a few years back, and the Cavs regularly let LeBron James take jumpers rather than beating up his overmatched counterparts.

    The days of going repeatedly at the opposing team’s weakness have increasingly appeared be a thing of the past.

    The Spurs, Heat and Celtics, among others, would argue against that.  Maybe the audacity of great players on great teams like the Warriors and Cavs is the tipping point for that discussion.

    Whether the Warriors want to jack up bad 30-footers or the Cavs want to let LeBron shoot over defenses rather than barrel through them, they’re good enough to do that.

    Everybody else has to look at best practices and the Kings certainly fall into that camp.  They’ve only played five games entering Sunday’s contest against the Wizards, winning one, and it’s way too early to say anything definitively about this squad.

    But the 20-game evaluation timeline that has been floated by Joerger and others in the organization is a long ways away.

    The concrete is currently very, very wet.  Things that might appear to be problems now can simply go away with a quick and efficient choice.

    Encourage Fox to break off sets against overmatched opponents, make the veterans earn all of their minutes and give the kids more minutes as their play dictates.  Bend the system to match the personnel with more pick-and-rolls and know your own personnel by matching scorers like Hield with players like Kosta Koufos who need a dribble-handoff play to have any effect on offense.

    Let a guy like Hill be a focal point so he doesn’t have to face criticism in December over his contract.

    Do that stuff now and you’re riding the razor’s edge.  Wait until 2018 and some of that concrete could be too dry to work with.

     

Fantasy News

  • 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.

  • Marc Gasol - C - Toronto Raptors

    Marc Gasol scored six points, all from behind the arc, in Saturday's Game 6 win, adding three rebounds, two assists and a block/steal in 26 minutes.

    Gasol continues to do what the Raptors ask of him though the years of grinding in the paint for Memphis are long gone. He has adjusted his game play and now acts as a facilitator for the rest of the team. Gasol continues to split time in the post with Serge Ibaka (25 minutes, nine points) and will see his minutes fluctuate based on the Raptor's offensive scheme heading into the NBA Finals.