Where Casspi and Landry go, the Kings bench goes

Sacramento_Kings_Carl_Landry

Much like European sailors’ dependence on northern trade winds, the Sacramento Kings bench has been dead in the water without its two best reserves. The recent absence of Omri Casspi and Carl Landry has exemplified their unheralded impact.

Coming into the season, Casspi and Landry were question marks. Casspi was a first round bust and in danger of leaving the NBA before the Kings took a low risk flyer. Landry, who signed a four-year, $27 million deal in 2013, was coming off major hip and knee surgeries in a year he played 18 games.

In 2014 the Kings struck gold with both, or at least silver.

Casspi has reinvented himself from a 3-and-D-less wing to an efficiency extraordinaire. The 26-year-old has ditched the jumper in exchange for drives to the rim, where he takes the majority of his shots. 84.4 percent of Casspi’s field goal attempts are within 10 feet of the hoop, and he’s shooting a career-high 51.9 percent from the floor this season. His tall dribble is resulting in surprisingly few turnovers (1.9 per 36 minutes, tied with Landry for eighth-most on the team) and his defense has improved to league-average.

Landry, on the other hand, has become visibly slower after last seasons surgeries, but like the contents of a wine barrel, he is aging gracefully. The 31-year-old has emerged as the Kings’ second-best interior scorer behind DeMarcus Cousins, and he has served as the primary offensive option for the second unit.

He has played to his strengths, which is making buckets, nailing 53.5 percent of his field goal tries. The power forward has been especially lethal from midrange this season, drilling 52 percent of jumpers between 10 and 16 feet and 43.5 percent of shots between 16 feet and the 3-point arc. This is all in addition to his superb defense, which is containing opponents to 10 percent shooting less than their current average when within 10 feet of the net.

Together, the tandem have propped up a bench unit that is woefully thin. Casspi and Landry are averaging 8.2 and 7.3 points per game respectively, but they account for over 52 percent of the Kings’ bench points. Casspi’s Player Efficiency Rating of 16.4 is fifth on the team, slightly better than Landry’s 16.0 rating.

Casspi’s true shooting percentage of .602 is far and away a career high and ranks third on the club.  Landry sits right behind him in this category as well, dropping in an efficient .593 true shooting percentage. Not to mention they’re each shooting career-highs at the free throw line, in spite of the fact they both log less than 20 minutes a game.

Coincidentally or not, without Casspi and Landry in the lineup, the Kings lose a lot. Critics point to Sacramento’s  2-10 record minus Cousins this season, but the Kings are 5-8 missing Casspi to a left knee bone contusion, and 0-3 sans Landry and his sprained right wrist. Derrick Williams and Reggie Evans have performed their best impressions, with mixed results.

By no means are Casspi and Landry perfect role players. Casspi has lost the 3-ball, shooting 17.6 percent, while Landry has struggled to clean the glass, pulling down 4.4 rebounds per match as a 6-foot-9 bruiser.

But it’s safe to say a second unit that stands 24th in the NBA in scoring and defensive efficiency, would be rudderless without the two brave journeymen.

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About: Rui Thomas

Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.