2016 Roundtable Report Cards: Point Guards fare better than most
Now that we've had a little time to digest the season that was, I thought it'd be a good idea to do some report cards for the Kings. Last year I did the grades individually, but I thought I'd be more inclusive this year and get the opinions of both my fellow staff and also you guys, the commenters. You've already voted, and this week you'll see the results.
As per the poll, the grading scale I used was as follows:
B: Exceeds Expectations
C: Met Expectations
D: Below Expectations
We'll start off our series by taking a look at the Sacramento Kings Point Guards and moving on from there. Feel free to share what your own individual grades are in the comments below!
Go look at his stats in the month of April and you will see why. Three 20-point or more games, a game with 15 assists, a 6-10 from three night. Curry was busy waiting to get his number called by Karl all season, but it wasn't until the 8th playoff spot was officially off the table that he got his chance. Curry surprised and many are hoping he will be back.
I had no expectations for Curry, and he became one of the few reasons for hope. His development from his last season at Duke is crazy, and while I'm not sure he's going to be able to live up to the hype he's generated, Vlade should make every reasonable effort to get him to lock in quickly. If Curry signs on with the Kings rather than gets forced back by his restrictive free agent status, that'll say a lot about trust in Divac.
I'm still in the camp of not putting too much stock into end-of-the-season production, because we've been fooled by it before. Still, Curry far surpassed anyone's expectations. The kid can play.
Coming into this season, I really had no expectations for Seth. I knew he could score a bit in the D-League and had a pretty good showing in Summer League, but I originally felt that his signing was much more about his namesake than his actual skill level. I'm happy to see I was proven wrong. Seth's shooting, passing, ball handling and poise were well above where I thought they would be, and he was a positive in just about every game he played in. Will Seth ever be an All-Star? No. But does he have NBA-level skills and intelligence? Absolute. The performances that Seth was able to put on near the end of the year was more than enough to show that the kid could be a productive member of an NBA roster.
Seth Curry was our best shooting guard this season. He played the least amount of minutes this year. 90% of the time he saw minutes, even if it was two minutes to end a half, he did more than the other shooting guards put together. The coach said that he was a great defender and then didn't play him for weeks. Last game aside, when Seth got minutes during the last couple of weeks, he showed he belonged on the court more than any other shooting guard on our team.
Now, I'm guessing that this will represent the low grade here at the table, but I'm just not feeling Seth Curry all that much. No doubt, the 45% (albeit small sample size) shooting from deep is eye-opening. And while the 1.6 assist/turnover ratio leaves a lot to be desired, small sample size and inexperience can play a role here. He was a God against a mail-it-in Phoenix team in mid-April, but he was reduced back to a mere mortal a couple of days later when playing a more engaged and enthused Houston team.
But in the end, here is my yardstick: Seth Curry is a point guard, and he is the third best point guard on this team. He was not, in my opinion, a very viable option at shooting guard, especially with Darren Collison soaking up more and more of those minutes. Through pure misfortune, he was unable to play on a few occasions while Rajon Rondoor Darren Collison were out. When the team went "small," it usually went small with Rondo and Collison on the floor together, leaving Curry as the odd man out. As a result, he logged fewer than 700 minutes. So within the context of the 2015-16 season, Seth Curry had an average season for an end-of-the-bench guy. Maybe I bump his grade to a "B-" if we are factoring in potential, but I still think that you are throwing caution to the wind if you are relying on Seth Curry to a be a core rotation guy for you next season.
I really liked what I saw from Seth Curry this year. At the time, the signing didn't really excite me, as Curry had yet to find a home in the NBA after a few years of trying. Still, it's clear he can play in this league, especially on the offensive end, where he showed an ability to score at a high rate and to do so efficiently even with inconsistent minutes. What really hurt Curry though was the fact that he got injured twice this season at perhaps the most inopportune time; Both times came off of games where Curry had a great night and both times also preceded the Kings having one of their other Point Guards injured, meaning Curry would have had ample opportunity if he had been healthy.
He'll need to become a better floor general in the long run (he's too small to play Shooting Guard for large stretches), but I definitely see him having a future in the NBA as a roleplayer, especially since he's shown that he can hit the 3 at a consistent clip. I'd like to see him back and hope the Kings can do so, especially since he's a restricted free agent.
Out of 1,061 responses, 51.7% voted for B, 28.5% voted for A, 18.2% voted for C, 1.3% voted for D and 0.3% voted for F. On a 4 point grading scale, this comes out to a 3.07, a B.
Collison is a true professional who lays it all out on the floor every time he plays. Overcoming a serious injury last season, Collison returned to regular form and then some this season all while he took a backseat to Rondo, who did not run the offense as efficiently as Collison did. Collison had the best shooting season of his career - 48 percent from the field.
Praise the basketball gods for a guy like Darren, who never gave up on the team and was fun to watch even when his offense was ice cold. Here's hoping he's the starter next year (with Kris Dunn learning the ropes behind him - get on the bandwagon!)
Collison impressed me this year. I really thought he would regress if Rondo was gifted the starting spot. Collison remained professional and played his butt off. Darren is one of the few guys I desperately hope the Kings don't trade this summer.
Darren met expectations this year. When transitioning from the starting point guard to the back-up, Darren never seemed to hold a grudge or slump because of the change in roll and was for many game, the most consistent guard the Kings had on the floor. He shot 48% from the floor and 40% from behind the arc, and though every couple of games there seemed to be a boneheaded play, Collison seemed to always play with poise on the offensive floor.
Collison came to play every game. He had some mental lapses, but there were many games where his good performance was buried under all the mediocrity which this team produced. While a lot of things didn't make sense, he came to play every night.
Darren Collison would have received an incomplete grade from me early in the season due to the injury that forced him to miss games 6-10 and then return as a bit of a shadow of himself. In fact, Collison's play in the early season really put to rest any argument at that time about whether this team was better with him or Rajon Rondo at the helm. But Collison began to hit his stride in December, and one could argue that he was the best overall King after the All Star break. And by the end of the season, this team appeared to play better overall baseline to baseline numbers with Collison running the show than Rondo. I give Collison a "B+" overall, the third highest grade that I am handing out at this round table. I would add that if I were going to try to change the culture of the team, Collison would be one of four players that I would make an effort to retain, along with Quincy Acy, Willie Cauley-Stein and Omri Casspi. It was a pleasure to watch Collison compete, and that is something that we do not get to say enough around here.
Despite getting demoted from the starting lineup as the Kings embraced the Rajon Rondo experience, Darren Collison might have had the best year of his career, and was especially strong in the second half of the season. Collison ran the offense less than the did the prior year (in large part due to a large amount of minutes playing next to Rondo) but he still managed to average 5.2 assists per 36 minutes and also shot the ball better than at any other point in his career. Collison isn't an upper echelon Point Guard, but he's solid on both ends of the floor and is more flexible than a guy like Rajon Rondo since he can play off the ball if he needs to.
Out of 1,066 responses, 47.6% voted for B, 43.3% voted for A, 7.2% voted for C, 1% voted for D, and 0.8% voted for F. On a 4 point grading scale, this averaged out to a 3.31, which is a solid B+.
Rondo surprised Kings fans and the NBA alike at his bounce-back season. He dazzled with alley-oops from half court, cross-court and behind-the-back passes and even some big-time dunks. He set franchise records for assists and finished the season averaging 11.7 assists per game. But by the end of the season you could see his assist numbers were a tad shallow and not translating to wins. His reputation of being a "selfish passer" came with him to Sacramento as he would often do everything in his power to focus on racking up assists rather than making the smart play and running the offense. Like Cousins, Rondo didn't make the team incrementally better this season and that prevents him from getting an A or even a solid B.
Rondo was entertaining, and at times a joy to watch with his passing instincts, but his total lack of interest in defense destroyed any desire I had for Vlade to make him a long-term piece of the puzzle. He'd be more forgivable if the team had more than 1.5 above-average defenders on the roster. While this totally doesn't jive with my pro-Cousins stance, I'd like to see Rondo in another uniform next year, even if it pisses off DeMarcus.
Man, I was so in on the Rondo signing. Early on it looked great. The stats, the creativity, everything we had hoped for. But as the season went on and the playoffs looked less likely, Rondo resorted to all the negative stereotypes that have followed him throughout his career. Passing up good looks to hunt for stats. Lazy defense. Just a complete lack of effort for stretches at a time.
Rajon Rondo was someone who ended up going above my expectations, but that might be as much a product of the skepticism I had towards his impending tenure in Sacramento last summer as much as it had to do with how well he played on the court this season. Rondo was a highlight reel this season, and did everything he was told to do on the offensive side of the floor. He led the league in assists, pushed the Kings to the fastest pace in the NBA and brought a flair to the point guard position that hasn't been seen in Sacramento since Jason Williams. He's also been praised by multiple teammates for being a role model and veteran presence, especially to DeMarcus Cousins. That being said, he did have his embarrassing spat with Bill Kennedy, and then his odd delay-of-game streak party as some sort of protest, and then the goating the referees into technical fouls by needlessly clapping after a foul call in the waning seconds of a win for the Kings; so that praise about being a role model comes with a couple grains of salt as well. On top of the antics, Rondo was an absolute disappointment on the defensive end of the floor. There were those who doubted what he had left in the tank on that end of the floor, and leading the league in pace will tire any good point guard out, but even then there were many times where he was completely disengaged.
I actually liked a lot of what Rondo did offensively, and think that the annoyances (defense specifically) could be covered up if we had a scheme that made any sense. Still, with the defensive lapses, and a knack for forcing things I can't give him great marks for the year. This is not to say that I think he has to leave the team though.
I'm giving Rajon Rondo a "C-." I can't give him a "D," because you simply can't associate "D" with Rajon Rondo anymore.
I'll be the first to admit that when Rondo has it flowing, it is a pleasure to watch him run an offense. He has an understanding of the geometry of basketball that I have never seen from anyone ever wearing a Sacramento Kings uniform. Nash, Stockton, Rondo. That's the list off the top of my head of the best passing point guard savants that I have had the pleasure of seeing in person.
Unfortunately, there are two ends to the basketball court, and as the season wore on the argument could be made that Rondo was not even the best baseline to baseline point guard on the team (easy, Seth Curry fans - I'm talking about Darren Collison). Further, as the season progressed, it seemed to me that Rondo spread it around less and looked for DeMarcus Cousins more and more. To be fair, this may have been due to the dearth of alternatives. But one wonders why guys like Belinelli and McLemore took steps backward this year, and much of that occurred while Rondo was running the show. Meh, forget that. Had Rondo shown any desire to play defense I would have likely have been thrilled with his overall play. But given his complete lack of interest to compete on the defensive end, the sad truth (for me) is that the team would have been better off with Collison being the primary point...who knows, maybe that would have benefited Belinelli and McLemore, too.
I'm actually a little bit surprised to be giving Rondo a B-, but he did exceed my expectations, even if by only a little bit. I wasn't expecting much from Rondo, especially after his disastrous tenure in Dallas. Before the season got out of hand and the Kings were still in the thick of things, Rondo seemed particularly focused on being the leader this team needed. His passing and feel for the game are off the charts and he was a joy to watch at times when he would dissect a defense using angles that the 9 other players on the floor didn't see. He also managed to be a better shooter than you'd expect, hitting 36.5% from three over an entire season, easily the best rate of his career. For someone that's only shot 28.9% from three over his career, that was a welcome surprise.
Defensively, I knew Rondo was a mess, so the fact that he continued to be a mess in a Kings uniform wasn't a surprise. I would have been shocked if Rondo ever became a good defender again. At this point, he needs to be in a system where he has other defenders that can make up for his failings and the Kings certainly did not. It's partly for that reason and partly for financial reasons (I was fine with a one year deal but a multi-year deal worth greater than $10 million a year scares me) that I don't think the Kings should bring him back. Fortunately, it doesn't seem the Kings are going to break the book trying to retain him.
Out of 1,060 responses, 43% voted for B, 31.4% voted for C, 14.2% voted for A, 8.8% voted for D and 2.5% voted for F. On a 4 point grading scale, this averaged out to a 2.57, a C+ but not enough for a B-.