How does Damian Jones match into the middle rotation?

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The Kings formally introduced the signing of Damian Jones to a 10-day contract immediately, bringing the roster to 17 as soon as once more, together with the staff’s two-way gamers.

Jones had an attention-grabbing stint with the Los Angeles Lakers not too long ago, offering some vertical spacing for the staff. His statistical manufacturing was pretty muted, nevertheless. Within the one sport the Lakers performed towards the Kings, Jones had one rebound, one block, and three fouls in 14 minutes.

Sacramento has numerous bigs on the roster already, and Jones is now the fourth participant who may be solely categorized as a middle, which begs the query of how the Kings plan to make use of him. Is there a present want for a backup middle on this roster?

This staff has principally gone as Richaun Holmes has this season. They’re 16-9 within the video games that includes his prime 25 sport scores of the season (per Basketball Reference), and so they’re 6-16 in Holmes’ 22 worst video games of the yr, plus an extra 0-4 when he doesn’t play. The Kings have their highest internet ranking when Holmes performs at minus-0.8, the best of any common rotation participant.

As a lot credit score as Holmes deserves for his personal success along with his increasing offensive skillset and his exercise on the defensive finish, a lot of his statistical prowess is because of the truth that the Kings have a dreadful backup middle state of affairs, though it didn’t seem that manner coming into the season.

Hassan Whiteside hasn’t been adequate to solidify his place because the backup middle.
Picture by Rocky Widner/NBAE through Getty Photos

Hassan Whiteside was the league chief in blocks final yr, and a starter for a lot of the season on Portland staff. However after a useful stint on opening night time defending Nikola Jokic, particularly with Richaun Holmes fouling out, that stage of play hasn’t translated for the remainder of the season. Whiteside has the very worst internet ranking amongst rotation gamers at minus-11.6.

It’s not fully his fault. Stylistically, he doesn’t make sense with what the Kings need to do. He’s a extra plodding middle who performs at a slower tempo, and the Kings wish to push the tempo, particularly with Tyrese Haliburton within the second unit. Haliburton doesn’t run the ground, and he’s probably not a lob menace regardless of his top. As such, he’s a poor match with each the reserves and the starters.

Sacramento Kings v Golden State Warriors

Picture by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Photos

Ideally, Marvin Bagley might get some run because the backup middle, however he hasn’t been excellent at that place. Sacramento ranks within the 1st percentile of NBA defenses when Bagley performs at middle, permitting an efficient area aim proportion of 60.6 when 54.0 is the league common. The plan this season was for Bagley to play as a small-ball 5 in matchup-specific conditions; alas, that hasn’t materialized.

If Whiteside and Bagley had been the one choices, particularly now that Nemanja Bjelica is in Miami, there can be logic to signing Jones as a extra athletic choice at middle whereas Bagley is out with an harm. However that Kings nonetheless have Chimezie Metu.

Metu’s first prolonged stretch at backup middle in January confirmed that the third-year massive had a methods to go by way of making a optimistic affect, because the Kings went 1-4 with Whiteside out. Nevertheless, there have been flashes of assist protection and the flexibility to modify, play in transition, and function a lob menace.

When Whiteside went down once more final month, Metu confirmed that he had realized from a few of his errors. Offensively, he wasn’t getting shut sufficient to the basket again in March, settling for jumpers from the free-throw line. Though he’s nonetheless a bit too enamored with the floater — blame Holmes for making it look really easy — Metu has been diving deeper into the paint, which is why he made almost 68 % of his area objectives on this newest rotation stint. Lots of his jumpers got here when he was taking part in at energy ahead alongside Holmes or Whiteside and thus offering spacing.

Metu’s began to determine opponent tendencies on protection. He has a greater understanding of include drives and when he can assist versus when he’ll get burned. His internet ranking was minus-14.5 in the course of March, and it has jumped all the way in which to minus-1.0. Cleansing the Glass, which filters out rubbish time, of which Metu performs numerous, has the middle at plus-3.1.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Sacramento Kings

Metu doesn’t need to lose his minutes to Damian Jones.
Picture by Rocky Widner/NBAE through Getty Photos

That brings us again to Jones, who had the luxurious of taking part in with LeBron James in Los Angeles, and nonetheless wasn’t environment friendly as Metu was not too long ago. If the Kings are attempting to make the play-in now, it’s arduous to see how Jones would assist in that aim aside from being an emergency middle ought to Holmes have to sit down for a sport or two like Norvel Pelle was earlier. It may need made extra sense to make use of that remaining roster spot on a defensive ahead, like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, to stability the rotation for the ultimate twenty video games.

Maybe the Sacramento entrance workplace has an eye fixed on the longer term and is scouting Jones for subsequent yr’s roster. It’s solely a 10-day, so there’s loads of time to pivot if he seems to not be what the staff is on the lookout for. However in the intervening time, the Jones match isn’t apparent on this present roster. The Kings have a wonderfully first rate backup middle, even when he’s not the one who presently holds the job.

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