Sounds odd to mention the Kings young players when they themselves are the youngest team in the league and their two cornerstones in Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are a few years removed from shopping at Toys’R'us, but the youthful Kings are finally coming into their own.
We’ve seen what phenom Isaiah Thomas can do, so I don’t even need to delve into that. Despite some momentary mental lapses or his sometimes desire to do a bit more than the situation calls for (he is a rookie, after all) the former Huskie has been nothing short of brilliant for the purple and black.
For others though, say like Jimmer Fredette or Hassan Whiteside, the initial transition wasn’t as smooth but both are showing why the Kings held them in the regard they did on their respective draft nights.
For Fredette, who as Scott pointed out last evening, struggled mightily on the defensive end earlier in the season, he’s finally looking adequate (at times) on the defensive side of the ball. No, certainly nothing to brag about – but you can see the improvement. In addition to his better man-to-man, Jimmer has stopped with the offensive hesitation, no longer seeming afraid to step on toes – putting up the shot he’s paid to shoot and along with the better decision making and solid passing, the “rookieness” is starting to shed its skin for Jimmertime. Like any young player, growing pains will linger and he’ll have his “doh” moments but to watch Fredette right now as opposed to game four or five of the season, it’s a huge change for the better.
For some perspective, in the past 30 days, Jimmer is putting up over 7 points a game on 44% shooting to go with a board and a 2/1 assist ratio – all that in fifteen minutes a game. Hard to find fault in that.
Then comes Hassan Whiteside, who, many might have thrown down the river after his inability to find time in a questionable rotation last year and even earlier this year. But after getting some time and work in Reno with their big man coaches, Whiteside has looked very competent in what could be considered his first serious NBA playing time. Let us not forget, Whiteside is still just 22 years old after coming out of Marshall a VERY raw 20 year old. We all knew Whiteside was a project and while many of those fizzle out, he’s looked solid when given an opportunity this season.
The playing time for Whiteside is still sporadic and will continue to be for a while given he’s simply playing off sheer athletic ability (as in he still doesn’t understand where to position himself, etc) but he’s shown the tools as to why the Kings valued him in the ’10 draft as are the Kings other young guns.
I’ll say this – the rest of 2012 is going to be a challenge as will 2013 to a lesser extent – but by the time 2014-2015 rolls around and the new ESC is ready to be christened the following season, the Kings are going to have a very competitive team to open up the new arena.