The Sacramento Kings continue to assert themselves, for what’s been another difficult year overall. But fortunately, success could most likely await them at season’s end.
That “success” is based off of potentially ending an elusive eleven-year postseason drought, which has haunted the entire organization to it’s core. But here they are, currently 22-32 (11th overall) in the NBA’s Western Conference, and just two-and-a-half games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth seed. There’s still plenty of work to do, but we’ve seen an incredible display from the Kings’ supporting cast, in recent games.
So a Kings’ article that doesn’t solely involve All-Star Center DeMarcus Cousins‘ superstar numbers, as well as his on-court explosions, you say?
SACRAMENTO KINGS BENCH RANKINGS
- Third-highest Field-Goal Percentage (46.8%) behind only Houston and Golden State.
- Eighth-highest Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage at 36%.
- Top-fifteen in Scoring, Offensive Rebounding, Total Rebounds, Efficiency, and Free-Throw Percentage.
- Top-ten in Minutes Played, Assists, and Steals.
Sacramento’s bench is above-average in today’s NBA, but with the way they’ve been currently playing, the Kings have come across some meaningful victories.
Their most notable were over the Warriors, the Boston Celtics, and you can include last night against the Atlanta Hawks. The Kings are simply getting it done, as they’ve gone a reasonable 5-5 in their last ten games.
On last Saturday’s close 109-106 finish over Golden State, the Kings emphatically outscored the Warriors’ bench 45-16, with a +/- of of 24. They also had a large rebounding edge, 20-10.
This past Wednesday, the Kings were able to score 31 points in the final quarter of play — as they defeated the visiting Celtics 108-92. Sacramento’s bench outplayed Boston’s, as they held down a scoring margin of 50-32.
And last night against Atlanta, Sacramento had yet another close outcome, squeaking by the Hawks 108-107. The bench stepped up once more, coming away with a 32-14 output.
Bench production has always been an underrated aspect in the game of basketball. A common complaint in today’s era is that teams are too “top-heavy,” meaning that there’s no support for their starters and/or best players. Well for the Sacramento Kings, their superstar Center Cousins has had much-needed help in his shadow.
1. WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN
For anyone who asks me which big-man (from the 2015 NBA Draft) do I believe could have the best two-way impact on a winning-team, I don’t tell them it’s Karl-Anthony Towns. In fact, I don’t tell them it’s Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis, Myles Turner, Nikola Jokic, and not even Bobby Portis.
It’s Willie Cauley-Stein.
If you haven’t seen what Cauley-Stein is exactly capable of, and why he was taken sixth-overall last year, then you probably wouldn’t understand why I have him above those six other players. Willie’s Per 100 numbers are through the roof, at 22.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.8 blocks. He’s more than capable of putting up these kinds of averages through different stretches.
And maybe, he’ll even showcase more stuff like this:
In his last-ten games, Cauley-Stein has improved to 9.6 points on 60% field-goals, and 4.2 rebounds in just 17.6 minutes. He put up fourteen-points in both games against Golden State and Boston. Some will look towards his rebounding as a concern, but with extremely-low minutes, as well as the presence of Cousins and Kosta Koufos inside, there isn’t much room for Cauley Stein to fully flourish on this team.
It was reported earlier that Cauley-Stein wasn’t happy with his playing-time, and he shouldn’t be. He brings such a Rodman-like energy to teams, and a great example of it was his days at Kentucky. As he expands his game around one-dribble spin moves and left-handed hooks, he’s an extremely talented big-man that today’s NBA would love to pursue.
2. BEN MCLEMORE
I’m not sure if I’ve seen anyone understand his role, as well as trusting that his team will need him in further events — like Ben McLemore has.
Like Cauley-Stein, many forget that McLemore, a former Kansas Jayhawk, was a lottery-pick of high-hopes for the Kings. At least at one point. Some declared him as the next Ray Allen, and as blasphemous as it may sound, the composition as far as focus and mechanics draws some vast similarities.
Particularly in his last two games, McLemore has looked revamped in this Kings’ five-game home-stand. After scoring 17 points (7-12 shooting and 3-5 from three) against Boston, he played one of his best games in a while against the Hawks. He filled up the stat-sheet with 22 points (6-10 from three), nine rebounds, three assists, and four steals.
As the season went on, McLemore fell out of the rotation on numerous occasions. Of his 39 appearances, he currently has thirteen DNPs. In 34 of those 39 games, he was only getting less than fifteen minutes, which to me, was preposterous.
As he just turned 24, there’s plenty of time for McLemore to take on a bigger role. The Kings should rely on he and Arron Afflalo to become stronger scoring options, as Rudy Gay will miss the remainder of the season with an Achilles tear. This can only be a blessing in disguise for Ben.
3. TY LAWSON
Although he’s currently dealing with a strained adductor muscle, Lawson is still proving himself as one of the league’s most capable floor-generals.
In 23 minutes played off the bench, Lawson is averaging 9.2 points, 5.4 assists, and 1.1 steals in his last nine games. His best performance was off of last Monday’s loss against the Chicago Bulls, but still came down with 22 points on 8-13 shooting, as well as seven assists and even a block.
Lawson of course, isn’t nearly close to the flashy 5’11” Point Guard that we briefly saw in Denver, but for him to give Darren Collison meaningful production as a backup, is certainly a great sign for Sacramento.
4. MATT BARNES
Even though he shouldn’t even be playing basketball right now, Matt Barnes is still giving the Kings a much-needed express of solid two-way, physical basketball.
Barnes turned himself in to the NYPD on February 1st, following a nightclub altercation, which also involved teammate Cousins. He was charged with misdemeanor assault, and is also being sued by the couple who were involved.
Other than that, life is going perfectly fine for Barnes, especially on the court.
Barnes is averaging a collective 8.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, and is shooting 38% from three in his last-ten games. And for someone who’s really given the Kings life on both-ends of the court, Barnes’ recent play will be vital, if it can translate to more wins in Sacramento.
5. ANTHONY TOLLIVER
Tolliver is giving the Kings an excellent spark with his shooting. His averages of 9.5 points on 53% shooting from the field, and a lights-out 47% from three best describes his impact.
The former Detroit Pistons Forward was huge on Friday’s game against Atlanta. After shooting just 1-for-7 from three against Boston, he knocked down 5-of-7 from three against Atlanta, for fifteen points. He’s also receiving minutes in Gay’s abscence.
Tolliver has played on nine-different teams in his seven seasons in the NBA. With the Kings’ push to the postseason, he’s a vital addition for their floor-spacing and locker-room leadership.
6. MALACHI RICHARDSON
He hasn’t necessarily been involved in much of the Kings’ past outings, but I have a very sharp eye on the 21 year-old rookie Guard from Syracuse University. Malachi has some impressive skill. He has a lethal ability to pump-fake defenders, and create shots for himself.
In eleven games with the NBA Development League (Reno Bighorns), Richardson averaged 21 points and 4.3 rebounds, as well as 44% from distance. And after recently scoring twelve points in Sacramento’s road-win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, there’s not much to dislike about his game.
As I’ve said earlier, the Sacramento Kings have much to do before considering themselves a contender for the playoffs, but if they do achieve this feat, their strong bench production will be within reason. Less we forget that I haven’t even mentioned Omri Casspi, or even Garrett Temple, who are both missing time due to injuries.
The Kings will have a incredibly balanced team, if they can just stay on the court. And yes, that dismisses any-and-all setbacks.