Young Kings Showing Flashes of Future

Despite a 1-2 road trip, four Kings players aged 23 or younger showcased glimpses of what’s to come in Sacramento.
by Shahbaz Khan
Managing Editor, Digital

During the team’s recent three-game road stand, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, Willie Cauley-Stein and Buddy Hield put together their most promising stretch as a group.

Labissiere, 21, began the trip with a 32-point, 11-rebound performance in Phoenix – the biggest scoring output by a 2016 NBA draftee. Most impressively, the performance came on just 15 shots and set the tone for No. 3 during the trip. The 21-year-old power forward finished the three-gamer with 14 points and seven rebounds in San Antonio, marking his fourth-consecutive contest scoring in double figures while shooting above 50-percent in each.

“I feel like I can score the basketball whenever. I feel good about the confidence the team has in me [from] guys like Garrett [Temple], Darren [Collison]. Whenever I get the ball, guys clear out and let me go to work,” said the rookie.

Meanwhile, Labissiere’s frountcourt companion Willie Cauley-Stein displayed a broad skillset over the past week, tallying assists at a career-high rate from the high post. In two of the three road outings, Cauley-Stein matched a career-best with five assists.

Additionally, the Kentucky product scored in double figures in five of the team’s last six games, nearly missing an impressive 5x5 stat line versus Phoenix. WCS finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and four steals, nearly achieving a feat that has yet to be completed in the NBA this season. Able to read defenses and find his teammates for open looks, Trill has been an integral part of Sacramento’s young offense.

Included in that offense has been 19-year-old Georgios Papagiannis, who appeared in just eight contests prior Sactown’s most recent trip away from Golden 1 Center.

Throughout those eight games, Papagiannis accumulated 10 points and 13 rebounds – totals he nearly matched in his first game seeing 20 or more minutes of action. Facing the physical frountcourt duo of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter in Oklahoma City, the 7-foot-1 center recorded his first career double-double. No. 13 scored 14 while grabbing 11 rebounds, three nights after swatting a career-high three shots in Phoenix. To follow up, the Kings first-round draft pick secured 10 rebounds in San Antonio, marking back-to-back games in which Papagiannis led the team in rebounding.

“Great coaches, great players and great teammates. They helped me get better every day and it was the first step to come here,” said Papagiannis on his time in the D-League.

Now, the big man trio is setting the stage for what could be Sacramento’s frountcourt for years to come, with a backcourt player that’s poised for the same bright future.

Buddy Hield has been an efficient scorer in his time donning a purple jersey, shooting 50-percent from the floor and 46-percent beyond the arc in 13 games with Sacramento. According to Basketball Reference, the Oklahoma product is recording a 61-percent effective field goal percentage with Sacramento, which would rank him in the top five in the NBA if he held throughout the entire season.

Hield has scored 10 or more points in 11 of his 13 contests with the Kings, equaling his best of 18 points versus one of the NBA’s best defenses in San Antonio. Most notable came No. 24’s ability to finish in transition and find others, with the 23-year-old rookie dishing out a career-high five assists at the AT&T Center. Hield has been a consistent offensive threat showing continual effort on the defensive end, posing well for the team’s future.

With four of the team’s young stars showing out as of late, there’s much to be excited about in the final games of Sacramento’s season, including the return of another first-year prospect in Malachi Richardson.

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