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Land the Picks, Bryan: Kings have to fully embrace youth

Without DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento still hasn’t ideally invested in its young players.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

When evaluating the Sacramento Kings’ situation, Willie Cauley-Stein’s 29-point performance felt like eons ago. They’re currently in a predicament that lottery teams regularly endure, but the massive scoring void left by DeMarcus Cousins has been profound as of late. A product of Vivek Ranadive’s desire to capitalize on this year’s presumed loaded draft class, Dave Joerger has committed to a committee approach for scoring. While the dispersing of points might be out of necessity, it hasn’t panned out yet.

Sacramento doesn’t have natural scorers to make this method viable. No Kings player has scored more than 18 points in the team’s three losses, and Joerger’s team is at a talent deficit every night. With losses piling, including Brooklyn’s stunning victory on Wednesday, management can have faith in a plan that teams regularly pursue.

Joerger’s already implemented part of the design, thrusting rookie Skal Labissiere into the starting lineup for incompetent Anthony Tolliver, but management has to be willing to plunge into it fully. Kosta Koufos went 0-for-7 from the floor against the Nets and finished with zero points. There’s no validity in arguing that his role isn’t accumulating heavy minutes at the five, especially when Cauley-Stein is one of your higher-upside options.

When management went vocal on their affinity to build with a long-term view after the Cousins trade, it appeared they were 100 percent invested in that plan. They might have sought to ease Buddy Hield into the rotation, but Cauley-Stein’s now in his second year of the Kings’ system. Offering more on both sides of the floor than Koufos, Cauley-Stein should garner 30-plus minutes every night. He’s received an uptick in playing time since Cousins’ departure, but it’s a prime opportunity to expedite his acclimation process.

Likewise with Buddy Hield, Sacramento’s prioritizing their prospects is essential moving forward.

Team: Sacramento Kings (25-36) Ranking: ninth

Protections: In 2017, Philadelphia has the right to swap first-round picks with Sacramento if the Kings’ pick lands in the top 10 post-lottery.

Analysis/Pick Status: While Buddy Hield hasn’t burgeoned into an offensive catalyst yet for Sacramento, there’s an opportunity to make him one immediately. It might be reckless for Hield to go from microwave scorer off of the bench to franchise talent and pick up 36-plus minutes per night, but, once again, what’s the downside?

With management, reportedly, attempting to deal Ben McLemore before the deadline, the team might be content with not matching offers for him when he becomes a free agent in the offseason. There’s obvious potential in placing Hield into McLemore’s current starting role and amplifying his minutes.

Hield’s upside isn’t comparable to Jayson Tatum’s or Malik Monk’s, two players who’d likely start alongside him, but you can help him prepare for a substantial role in a throwaway season. Sacramento has options; maximizing inevitable losses this season with optimal player development.

Chance for Pick Conveyance: Just 2.5 games from the No. 4 slot in the lottery, and a tough three-game schedule this week, Sacramento is serving as an effective late tanking reinforcement.

Team: Los Angeles Lakers (19-43) Ranking: second

Protections: 1-3 in 2017, unprotected in 2018

Analysis/Pick Status: If the Lakers can’t capitalize on a four-game slate featuring New Orleans, Dallas, Phoenix and Philadelphia, Los Angeles likely will enter May 16 with a 55.8 percent chance to keep its pick. Amid ownership issues, Luke Walton’s group hasn’t fixed problems on the defensive end and poor shot selection.

D’Angelo Russell’s early success in March offensively has been one of the lone positives coming from a team currently dealing with compounding stress. While the team appears to be heading for a top-2 spot heading into the lottery, they’ve received limited production from Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle.

Ingram’s relative absence is almost unprecedented for an esteemed top-2 prospect whose comparisons reached All-Star status. Unlike Hield, Ingram’s been handed a starting opportunity and asked to make a two-way impact. Unable to successfully perform that task, Los Angeles continues to put added pressure on other scorers.

Lou Williams might be jovial in Houston, a factor in the Rockets’ playoff excursion, but his former team is reeling. Pair the team’s current struggles with Lonzo Ball’s dad’s adamant stance on his son playing for L.A. and it’s a gloomy situation for the pick finally conveying this season.

Chance for Pick Conveyance: Phoenix getting lukewarm over the past week isn’t benefitting this pick swap from finally commencing.

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