by Andrew Pasquini / Sports 1140 KHTK
It’s been a little less than two weeks since Boogie was sent to the Bayou and Sacramento was set on fire with all the hot takes on how the Sacramento Kings would look without DeMarcus Cousins.
With the trade, the Kings opened up opportunities to play the younger players on the roster and give a look-see into the immediate future for the Kings and what direction they plan to go with the current roster. Here are the five players to watch for in the remainder of the season:
The most obvious choice for player to watch because he was the focal point for the Kings in the Cousins trade. What Hield gives the Kings is a true shooter, which is something they haven’t had in a while and is necessary to be successful in today’s NBA. While shooters like Jimmer Fredette and Nik Stauskas have come and gone, Hield feels like he has the potential to become an elite shooter.
Since the trade, Hield has averaged 14 points per game on 51% shooting and 42% from behind the arc in just 26 minutes per game. When Hield becomes more familiar with the system and works his way into the starting lineup, those numbers could go up.
The Kings first round pick in 2015 was stuck behind DeMarcus Cousins in the rotation averaging just 13 minutes per game before the trade. Since the trade, Cauley-Stein has averaged 30 minutes per game coming off the bench. With young players, the key is getting them on the court in real time game situations and with Cousins gone, Cauley-Stein will get his chances.
The biggest question for him is what player will the Kings get? Against Denver (the first game after the trade), Cauley-Stein scored 29 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Since then in three games, he’s combined for 25 points and 13 rebounds. Seeing which player is the real Cauley-Stein is something to pay attention to.
Evans could be an interesting piece to the Kings’ puzzle and it all depends on whether or not he’s on the roster next season. His contract expires at the end of the season, but having a veteran presence like Evans is important.
Evans, who was originally drafted by the Kings in 2009, is in his seventh year of his career and you know what you’re going to get out of him: 10-20 points per game, three or four assists and five or six rebounds. He can be a key piece coming off the bench as a sixth man for the Kings in the future for a young team, much like Andre Iguodala does for Golden State.
While his defense lacks, he has the potential to be a solid offensive player off the bench.
The wild card of this group. The first round picks has only played 12 games this season but like Cauley-Stein, he’s seen significant minutes since the Cousins trade (6.1 before, 16.5 after). Unlike Cauley-Stein, however, he’s been consistent averaging 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in the four games. His per 40 stats are just as impressive:
Feel and physicality a work in progress but Skal Labissiere showing flashes these last four games - 21.3 PTS & 16.9 REB per 40 on 57.6 FG%. pic.twitter.com/IDyQYjFC0Q— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) March 2, 2017
As the tweet references, he has things to work on, physicality being one of them. Labissière is only in his first season but if his production continues, he could be a hidden gem.
Every draft prospect in the NCAA Tournament
I’m cheating a little bit on this last one but the Kings have a chance to have two lottery picks and possibly a top three pick if they try to swing those lottery picks in a trade. This draft is a deep one and the Kings can get two quality players or one great player depending on how they play it.
While a player like Washington’s Markelle Fultz might miss the tournament, players like UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kansas’ Josh Jackson and Duke’s Jayson Tatum will all be in the big dance for all Kings fans to see and dream of those prospects playing in Sacramento next season.