Frontline of the Future? Not so fast…
In the midst of a disastrous 17-win season, it becomes increasingly difficult to have a positive outlook for the future. The Kings were in this dilemma last season and found very few bright lights at the end of their dark tunnel.
You could conceivably come up with two positives from last season’s nightmare. One was the Kings had a great chance at the top pick in the upcoming draft. As we all know, there was heartbreak across Sacramento when the Kings ended up with the number four pick, then great rejoice as we’ve seen Tyreke Evans lead this team out of the depths of the NBA and emerge as the Rookie of the Year thus far.
The other positive that appeared as the dreadful season plodded along was the emergence of Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes. Thompson looked like a nightly double-double waiting to happen, while Hawes was starting to show the skills that made him the 10th pick in the 2007 draft.
As we approach the halfway point of the current season, the Kings promising big men are leaving fans with more questions than answers.
Let’s start with Thompson, who has actually had a pretty strong sophomore season. He is currently averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds per game, which is up from 11 and 7 in his rookie season. Unfortunately, those numbers don’t tell the entire story.
Thompson has continued his most troubling trend from his rookie season, which is the foul trouble he constantly gets himself in to. He cannot keep himself on the floor with any type of consistency. Too often we see him pick up two early fouls, followed by his banishment to the bench for most of the first half.
In this recent five-game slump that he’s in, Thompson is only averaging 23 minutes per game. When you can’t keep yourself on the floor for any significant amount of time, it’s impossible to get in any type of rhythm on offense. In four of those last five games, he has scored 7 points or less.
Along with the foul trouble, Thompson’s shots have not been falling with any consistency either. His mid-range jumper continues to be a pleasant surprise, but a 6’11 power forward should be doing more damage around the rim. He is shooting a measly 41% on his shots 5-10 feet from the basket. Even his overall shooting percentage has dropped from 50% in his rookie season, to 47% this season.
While these are troubling issues with Thompson, they are correctable issues for a kid only in his second year in the league. He is still looking like the more promising of the two big men for the Kings. We won’t be confusing him for Tim Duncan anytime soon, but he has shown that when he is focused and on his game, he can be a legitimate starter in this league.
Hawes on the other hand has been perplexing to say the least. While it’s still believed Thompson is and will remain the Kings starting power forward, the same cannot be said for Hawes at the center position.
On the outside, Hawes seems to be what you’re looking for as a center in this league. He’s 7’1, weighs 250 pounds, can still add more muscle to his frame, is pretty athletic for someone his size, can pass the ball extremely well and has great range on his shot.
Unfortunately, Hawes hasn’t used that 7-foot frame to his advantage. He has become a defensive and rebounding liability at the position where you can afford neither.
When defending he gets beat off the dribble, gets overpowered and finds himself out of position, unable to provide any type of support on the inside. The rim is uncontested and the lane is wide open for anyone to take.
Hawes is also averaging under 6 rebounds per game. Did I mention he’s a 7’1 center? That number is far too low for someone his size. Rookie Jon Brockman, who is 6’7 by the way, has already had as many double-digit rebounding games as Hawes this season, including 14 in the game against the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday. This is the main reason we are seeing more of Brockman on the floor than Hawes lately.
He also relies on the 3-pointer too much. While he does have the tendency to hit some of them, that should not be his game. For a team in dire need of a powerful big man in the middle, he spends too much of his time roaming the outside looking for the deep shot.
Until Hawes can tighten up his defense, rebound the ball better and play around the basket, he will continue to find himself rotating in and out of the starting lineup. He may even find himself out of Sacramento for another center that can do those things if he doesn’t turn it around.
The Kings appear to be improving across the board this season. They are about to surpass their season win total from last year with stellar play from their group of young players. Unlike last season though, the future frontline of the Kings is not as certain. Thompson has struggled, mightily at times, but still looks like he will be the power forward the Kings think he is. Hawes’ situation is much cloudier and unless things change, he could be the one that isn’t part of the future in Sacramento.
(Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)