Three games into the season, here are my WAAAAAY too early thoughts and grades:
George Hill: Co-leads the team in scoring with our next player, albeit at a modest 13.7 points. What’s amazing is his shooting efficiency, at 57.1 for both 2’s and 3’s. That’s insane. Turnovers are a bit high at 4 per, but overall the exact solid player we expected. Very Spurs-like as a matter of fact. Grade: B+
De’Aaron Fox: This is very interesting. He’s not starting. But he’s co-leading the team in scoring with the aforementioned George Hill. Though he doesn’t share Hill’s efficiency, he’s still pretty damn good for a rookie at 46.3 and 50% (small sample size on those 3’s though). Even crazier, he’s almost doubled Hill’s rebounds, and has about 2-1/2 times the assists (with half the turnovers). Yes he gets a little too fast for himself sometimes, and will continue to learn the tricks of the trade. But overall, what a start. Grade: A
Zach Randolph: After missing the opener due to oral surgery, Randolph has returned to do just about everything we expected. 15 pts, 7.5 boards, but that FG% coming in under 40 is a bit worrisome. Overall, Zach is who Zach is. Grade: C
Buddy Hield: Buddy is getting killed early on by fans, some of it fair, some of it not. Dude likes his shots (which is fine), but dude isn’t making his shots (not fine). 34 and 23 percent from the field and from 3? YOWCH. But his rebound and assist numbers are about average, nothing to be ashamed of, and he’s not turning over the ball. But he has to figure out if he’s Diet Steph, or Streaky Jamal Crawford. Grade: C-
Willie Cauley-Stein: Willie is currently 4th on the team in scoring, but leads the team in PER (ahead of Fox and our next player). He is 3 tenths away from averaging a double-double, which is all we wanted out of him this year. Add in a FG percentage that is better than his FT percentage and you get to the point- Willie can be simultaneously mesmerizing and bewildering. Hey, he’s doing exactly what he needs to do, but he still fights the occasional bouts of the Bumble-Willies. He just puts of this vibe of being streaky with his attention, as if distracted by a pretty bumblebee. But damn, he can be good. Grade: B+
Skal Labissiere: Behind only Willie and Fox in PER, isn’t this exactly what we wanted? Our young core beginning to shine? Skal isn’t bowling anyone over this year, he’s being patient and not making many young mistakes. Is he making the leap? We haven’t seen it yet. Grade: C
Justin Jackson: Its always tough to rate rookies, but if we are going to sing one’s praises, its only fair to criticize the other’s. But with JJ, its tough to criticize, he’s just kind of….invisible. He may be starting, but he’s almost 9th in minutes on the team. He seems very careful, very hesitant, seemingly paralyzed at times by wanting to fit in. Perhaps the expected move to the bench when Bogdan Bogdanovic makes his debut this week will help him. Grade: D+
Rest of team:
Its an up and down list. Garrett Temple seems like a Spurs-type player on the Kings, as of course does George Hill. So smart, so efficient. Malachi Richardson looks lost most of the time, and Kosta Koufos may anger some fans, but he’s an efficient guy down low that has earned Dave Joerger’s trust. As Skal and Willie get more minutes with Z-Bo, KK may be the odd man out. Frank Mason has only played one game at the time of this writing, but looked like he belonged when he did play.
Let’s be honest though, and this HURTS. Vince Carter looks straight up OLD. I love him, and I’m sure (hope) this is all start of season stuff, but he just looks like a shell of the guy that changed his game to adjust to getting older already. Way too early to judge, and he earns every bit of his money just being on the bench with these kids, but knowing the competitor he is, that’s far from enough. I’m rooting for him. How can you not? Grade: C
Coaching Staff: I’m actually really impressed, but I’m not surprised. This is a very good coaching crew. And they’ll need to be. Odds are, there will be many more games like the one vs Denver than the one vs Dallas. I don’t envy Joerger’s task of having to find rotational minutes both for flashy rookies of the future, and proud veterans who still believe they have something to offer. I don’t expect it will get any easier as the season goes on, and the youngins improve.
Overall Team Grade: Depends on what angle you want to look at, so I’ll offer a few-
As an NBA team? D
As a young team trying to build? B
As a team trying to stick to its plan? B
I’m fine with the start to the season. The game vs Phoenix should be a win, but hey its the Kings. Then back home for what will prove to be a very emotional reunion with Demarcus Cousins and the Pelicans.
Things could be completely difference after game 6.