This article will give a rundown on how some of the players on the Reno Bighorns have fared this season. Some of these players include the rookies of the Sacramento Kings.
Through 20 games, the Reno Bighorns have managed a record of 7-13 which ranks them 9th in the Western Conference and 4th in the Pacific Division of the NBA D-League. Their youth has certainly been on display as they have struggled to win on the road to this point in the season with just a 2-9 record away from home.
Sacramento Kings’ rookies Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, and Malachi Richardson have all spent time in the D-League getting as many minutes under their belts as they can. Also joining them is Isaiah Cousins who was drafted by the Kings in the 2nd round (59th overall) in the 2016 NBA Draft. Along with Cousins, Lamar Patterson was with the Kings during the preseason, but he was among the final cuts on October 24th.
Let’s take a look at how the Kings’ three rookies, along with other members of the Bighorns, are faring through the first 20 games of the season and whether they are showing any real signs of improvement.
In 15 games with the Bighorns, Skal has put together averages of 14.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steal, and 1.2 blocks in 31.1 minutes of action per game. He is shooting 46.1% from the field, 18.5% from three, and 69.5% from the free-throw line.
During his first four games with Reno, he really struggled to get anything going. But since then, he has been one of the better players on the team which is a promising sign.
His best game with the team was back on December 8th when he registered 25 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 steals, and 3 blocks in 36 minutes while shooting 9-20 from the field and 7-13 at the line.
He has shown the ability to be an efficient scorer and his length gives him an advantage on the glass and on the defensive end. He is certainly showcasing his potential and the fact that he’s getting 30-plus minutes a night is only going to do good things for him moving forward.
Papagiannis has played just 10 games with the Bighorns but he is starting to show signs of improvement. He has posted averages of 10.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.5 steals, and 2.4 blocks in 29.1 minutes per game. He is shooting 48% from the field, 50% (1-of-2) from three, and 70.6% from the free throw line.
There is no denying how raw he is. He has shown it in his time with the Kings and he also looks very raw when competing against other D-League players. Let’s put it this way, if you thought Skal Labissiere was raw, then Papagiannis is on a whole different level. He has only posted one double-digit rebounding performance in his 10 games, which is a bit concerning as he is 7’2, but his size certainly helps him block a ton of shots.
He has a long way to go as far as development is concerned. Moving forward, he will likely continue to spend most, if not all, of his rookie season in the D-League, but it’s the best thing for him. Down there he will get 30-plus minutes a night and he has a chance to get in real good shape which was a concern for him coming into the season. It’s a long-shot, but hopefully, he is ready for the big league come next season.
Malachi has played well enough to earn himself a spot on the bench with the Kings, so he hasn’t actually played a game for Reno since December 11th. However, he did still play 11 games with the Bighorns, so it’s still worth mentioning how he fared during his time in the D-League.
Richardson has averages of 21 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.9 steals in 35 minutes per game. He has shot 42.9% from the field, 44% from three, and 76.3% from the line. Richardson blossomed in his time with the team and it is no surprise to see him spending time with the Kings as a result. He managed at least 20 points in seven of his eleven games with the Bighorns and he was a lights-out shooter from deep.
After watching a handful of his games with the Bighorns, and through his limited time with the Kings, Malachi has the potential to fill the mold of a J.R. Smith, Nick Young, or Jamal Crawford type player. He can score in bunches and his ability to both spot up and create his own shot is a valuable component that any team can use. The hope is that he can find a way into the Kings’ rotation at some point this season, but nonetheless, Malachi Richardson certainly has a place in the NBA.
While the Bighorns own his rights, the Sacramento Kings themselves do not own his rights, meaning he is free to sign with any NBA team that shows interest in him. Obviously, the Kings can still sign him if they wish, but that doesn’t seem likely as a point guard isn’t a position of need at the moment.
Cousins has played all 20 games for Reno and he has posted averages of 12.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 0.2 blocks in 32.5 minutes per game. He is shooting 42.1% from the field, 27.1% from three, and 79% from the line. After a somewhat slow start to the season, Cousins is starting to heat up recording 20 or more points in four of his last five games.
He really fits the mold of a combo-guard type player who can run the point but create for himself at the same time. While his three-point shot still needs some work, he has become a solid mid-range shooter and someone who can get to the rim on a frequent basis. He has quick hands on defense and has shown the knack to be a strong rebounder for his size and position.
While he isn’t officially Kings’ property, Cousins is putting together a strong season for the Bighorns and he seems to be getting better with each game.
Like Cousins, the Kings do not own the rights of Lamar Patterson. Patterson spent time with the Kings during the preseason after being acquired off waivers back on July 14th. He has undeniably been the MVP of the Bighorns so far this season with averages of 22 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.3 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 35.1 minutes per game. He is shooting 43.1% from the field, 33.9% from three, and 78.7% from the line.
Patterson has NBA experience, and it certainly shows when he is on the court. Over the last 11 games, he is averaging 25.5 points on 48.4% shooting from the field. He is getting better and better as the season goes on, and NBA teams are sure to come knocking on his door soon. He has had numerous big games where he fills up the stat sheet including a recent game in which he dropped 31 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, and an impressive game-winning three-pointer in overtime.
Patterson is currently ranked 13th on the NBA D-League Prospect list, and a call-up for the 25-year-old is just around the corner. It would be a shock if he didn’t find his way onto an NBA roster by season’s end.
What’s next for the Bighorns?
The Bighorns have at least 30 more games in their season, meaning there is will be plenty of more time for the Kings’ rookies to continue their development. It would take an impressive turnaround for the Bighorns to find a way into the D-League Playoffs for a second straight season, but this young team is starting to click which could signal a change in fortune.
Malachi looks as though he will remain with the Kings for the time being whereas Labissiere and Papagiannis should stay with the Bighorns unless something unforeseen happens. Lamar Patterson is the only player who will likely receive interest from NBA teams now that 10-day contracts are allowed, but Isaiah Cousins could be worth keeping an eye on too.
Where to watch Reno Bighorns’ games
All NBA D-League games are streamed for free on Facebook live through the D-Leagues Facebook page so head on over there if you are interested to see how the team or the rookies are doing.