3 goals: Louis King – pack on muscle, prove doubters wrong

Louis King, who was one of three players tested at the NBA draft combine who failed to complete a repetition in the bench press, will use his first pro season to add strength.
David Dox/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

(Editor’s note: Today continues a series looking at the 17 players – 15 under standard contracts, two on two-way deals – who comprise the 2019-20 Pistons roster heading into the home stretch of the off-season. Today: Louis King. Coming Monday: Luke Kennard.)

Louis King and Naz Reid were New Jersey AAU teammates and McDonald’s All-Americans who went to college – Oregon for King, LSU for Reid – with the clear intention of coming to the NBA at their first opportunity.

Both were widely expected to go in the top half of the second round at worst after declaring for the draft on the heels of standout freshman seasons, both given some shot at going in the first round. Neither was drafted, which immediately made their cell phones blow up with teams scrambling to sign undrafted players they rated highly.

By the time they went to bed that night, Reid had agreed to a two-way deal with Minnesota and King had done the same with the Pistons. They saw in him the ingredients that make up one of the modern NBA’s most coveted assets: wings with great length – the tools to be a plus defender – who also offer scoring potential.

As a two-way player, King will spend most of his season toiling for the G League’s Grand Rapids Drive. He’ll get 45 days during the G League calendar that he can spend with the Pistons, which means he can go through all of Pistons training camp and the preseason without it counting against his 45-day limit and be able to finish the season with the Pistons after the Drive conclude also without counting against the days cap.

King had a promising only season at Oregon, averaging 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in 30 minutes a game while shooting 39 percent from the 3-point arc. He finished on an uptick, too, being named to the Pac-12’s all-tournament team and averaging 16.4 points over seven postseason games as the Ducks advanced to the NCAA’s Sweet 16.

Dwane Casey’s practice is to present his players with a three-item card with their core values to the team before training camp starts. In keeping with that protocol but with a twist, we’ll look at the three goals for each player on the roster heading into the 2019-20 Pistons season. For Louis King, those are …

STRENGTH PLUS LENGTH – King is long and willowy, measuring with a 7-foot-¼ wingspan at the May NBA draft combine. He’s also just 195 pounds and was one of three players tested who was unable to bench press 185 pounds even once. There’s no question that King needs to become a significantly stronger player in order for his combination of size and shooting touch to translate into production at the NBA level. He’ll probably find G League competition challenging, as well, for the same reason. He’s a long-term play that cost the Pistons relative pennies on the dollar and it could pay off in a big way down the road. But adding the degrees of strength King must gain to be able to play at both ends – to have a chance to hold up defensively and fight through screens or to create the space to put his size and shooting touch to his advantage offensively – are essential for him to convert potential to production.

TIGHTEN UP THE HANDLE – The classic 3-and-D guys are players who offer reliable perimeter defense and pretty much limit themselves to catch-and-shoot triples on offense. Pistons newcomer Tony Snell fits that description to a T, taking 57 percent of his career attempts from the 3-point line. King might be able to go a step beyond that because he’s shown the willingness and ability to put the ball on the floor some, too. He’ll need to become a little tighter with his ballhandling, though, in order for it to become a respected threat. That, too, is something that added strength will complement for King. Getting more than 1,000 G League minutes should give King ample opportunity to experiment with his offense against more physically mature and stronger defenders to gauge what needs polishing and what his niche can become.

PROVE YOUR MINDSET – The buzz on King in the predraft process was that he was a good kid but not necessarily the most mature. King admitted that the reason he most often heard for going undrafted was questioning about his maturity level. King, who turned 20 in April, seemed determined during his time in Summer League to put those questions behind him. There isn’t a ton of security for players on two-way contracts, which can be terminated at the team’s discretion, and King acknowledged in Las Vegas that he knows he’ll be under a microscope this season as the Pistons gauge not only his potential on the court but his maturity off of it in weighing what his future could hold. If you squint a little, you could see King molding himself into a player like one the Pistons drafted in 2012’s second round, Khris Middleton. King is similarly sized – a half-inch shorter with 1½ inches more wingspan, though 20 pounds lighter – with a similar profile if he can hit his mark. Showing the same work ethic and aptitude for learning as Middleton will define King’s course.

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