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BBNBA: Fox and Cauley-Stein Are Taking the Leap

(Photo via AP/Wilfredo Lee)

(Photo via AP/Wilfredo Lee)

RECAP

Kings – 123 @ Heat – 113

  • De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein have come out of the gates this season on fire. Fox has clearly taken some sort of leap. His outside shooting has still been a concern this season (4-17 from three) and the turnovers (3.1 per game) are a result of playing an incredibly fast pace, but his numbers have skyrocketed across the board from his rookie year. He’s become fearless attacking the basket, but more importantly, he’s become consistent with hitting shots following contact, something he shied away from last season (Fox averaged 2.7 free throw attempts per game last season, he’s up to 7.0 per game through seven games this season). His 20 points, four rebounds, and eight assists from Monday night may have been his best game of the young season. He led the Kings to their third straight win and only the team’s second winning record after seven games in the past 12 seasons. It’s still early, but Fox looks redefined as a player.

*The pass Fox makes at the 1:25-ish mark just gets more ridiculous every time I watch it. Seriously, that’s an insanely difficult play to execute*

  • Fox’s counterpart, Cauley-Stein, has followed in his point guard’s footsteps, seemingly taking the infamous leap, as well. For WCS, it’s been a long time coming, but he appears to have found his game. He’s topped at least 10 points in every game this season and Monday night’s 26 points and 13 rebounds was his third straight double-double. Since the beginning of last season, I’ve preached that inconsistency has always been his downfall, now he’s coming into his own as a playmaking big man who’s dominating every night out.
  • So before we jump to the next game, why have the Kings been so successful early in the season? The simplest answer is upping the pace. Flooded with young athletes, the Kings can literally run up and down the court for an entire 48 minutes and it’s killing the opponents. Here’s what Cauley-Stein said after Monday night’s win: ”We ain’t had this energy in a while here, so this energy is just refreshing,” Cauley-Stein said. ”It’s fun to play like this, playing fast, everyone getting the touches, everybody sharing the energy. It’s just fun to play.”
  • The league is transitioning to constant, fast-paced action and getting as many shots up as possible. The Kings might actually be the biggest beneficiary of this change thus far and even good teams are having troubles keeping up with them.
  • Wenyen Gabriel and Skal Labissiere were DNPs for Sacramento while Bam Adebayo registered eight points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes for the Miami Heat.

Lakers – 120 @ Timberwolves – 124

  • Rajon Rondo recorded 13 points, six rebounds, and eight assists in his second game back from a suspension that caused him to miss three games. The Lakers decided to run with Lonzo Ball as the starting point guard following Rondo’s suspension – which is the correct move, especially considering how good Ball has looked so far  – but he still played more minutes than the former UCLA product for the second straight game (31 minutes to Ball’s 23). Rondo coming off the bench is a smart move, anyways. This way, there is a floor general veteran on the court with the second unit that can create looks when LeBron James isn’t in the game.
  • The qualms in Minnesota have been momentarily hushed, but that doesn’t mean things still aren’t as ridiculous as they are. Karl-Anthony Towns finally had himself another respectable game, finishing with 25 points and 16 rebounds in a big team win over the Lakers. Funny enough, Jimmy Butler was the one who hit the big shots and secured the victory, receiving the most awkward of cheers from a home crowd that a majority of would like to see him play elsewhere.
  • While KAT has appeared mostly disinterested this season, there are some upsides that I’ve noticed while watching him play. First, his shot-blocking has clearly evolved. His four blocks Monday night was the second time he’s hit that mark this season and he’s patrolling the paint with purpose, timing weak-side blocks to perfection. And second, his three-point shooting is way up. He’s shooting 45.2 percent on 4.4 attempts per game, although I believe this has more to do with him settling for threes instead of attacking the paint (His overall field goal percentage this season – 42.1 percent – has tanked from last season, when he hit 54.5 percent of his overall shots).

Pelicans – 111 @ Nuggets – 116

  • This game had the potential for some intense BBNBA action, but Anthony Davis (elbow) and Darius Miller (quad) both sat out for the second straight game. In their absence, however, Julius Randle helped forge a comeback. The Nuggets completely dominated the first half but got complacent in the second half with a substantial lead (one of their most glaring issues from last season). Randle dropped in 24 points on 8-13 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and six assists. His signature style of bully-ball was in full effect and there wasn’t much any of Nikola Jokic or Mason Plumlee could do about it for Denver. Unfortunately, his efforts were not enough.

  • Jamal Murray poured in 23 on 9-19 shooting in addition to five rebounds AND five steals. This was the second game in a row I’ve seen the opposition put major pressure on Murray as he brings the ball up the court. Lonzo Ball constantly pestered Murray in their matchup the other night – often blowing up entire plays – and the Pelicans took a page out of that playbook, harassing Murray every time he came up the court. It’s not that Murray is a poor ball-handler (because he’s not), but the pressure is clearly affecting him and it’s costing his team valuable time out of their possessions. Murray has to break down the defenses and burn them if they continue to stick on him like they have the previous two games.
  • Trey Lyles shooting woes to start the season continued, as he shot 1-6 from deep (he’s now 2-18 on the season). However, he was still surprisingly aggressive in his 21 minutes, scoring 17 points on 6-14 shooting. When his shot didn’t fall, he had no problem backing into the post and knocking down a hook shot or slashing to the rim for a dunk. His one rebound on the night is inexcusable for him, but Lyles had a solid game despite a poor shooting night.

Other notes

  • In a game that was missing both Giannis Anteotkounmpo (concussion protocol) and Kawhi Leonard (rest), the Bucks and Raptors both came in with a 6-0 record. While the game could have been much more exciting had those two played, Eric Bledsoe still held down the fort for Anteokounmpo as they knocked off Toronto 124-109. Bledsoe brought in 17 points and eight assists on 7-15 shooting.
  • Enes Kanter came off the bench for the second straight game for the New York Knicks, adding 15 points and 15 rebounds for his fifth double-double in seven games.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Willie Cauley-Stein (SAC)123-113 W @ MIA2611-17 (0-0)131010+2333
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)124-120 W vs. LAL257-18 (3-6)166145+532
Julius Randle (NOP)111-116 L @ DEN248-13 (0-0)86115-226
Jamal Murray (DEN)116-111 W vs. NOP239-19 (2-5)52513+438
De'Aaron Fox (SAC)123-113 W @ MIA208-15 (1-2)48216+2534
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)124-109 W vs. TOR177-12 (2-5)28013-125
Trey Lyles (DEN)116-111 W vs. NOP176-14 (1-6)11200+421
Enes Kanter (NYK)115-96 W vs. BKN157-13 (0-0)152106+626
Rajon Rondo (LAL)120-124 L @ MIN136-9 (1-2)68004031
Bam Adebayo (MIA)113-123 L vs. SAC82-5 (0-0)90102-618
DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)149-124 W @ CHIDNP-Achilles----------------
Kevin Knox (NYK)115-96 W vs. BKNDNP-Ankle----------------
Skal Labissiere (SAC)123-113 W @ MIADNP-CD----------------
Tyler Ulis (CHI)124-149 L vs. GSWDNP-CD----------------
Wenyen Gabriel (SAC)123-113 W @ MIADNP-CD----------------
Anthony Davis (NOP)111-116 L @ DENDNP-Elbow----------------
Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)116-111 W vs. NOPDNP-Foot----------------
Alex Poythress (ATL)92-113 L @ PHIDNP-Knee----------------
Darius Miller (NOP)111-116 L @ DENDNP-Quad----------------
Jodie Meeks (MIL)124-109 W vs. TORDNP-Suspended----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

7:00: Heat (Adebayo) @ Hornets (Kidd-Gilchrist, Monk)

7:00: Hawks (Poythress-out) @ Cavaliers

7:00: Kings (Cauley-Stein, Fox, Gabriel, Labissiere) @ Magic (Briscoe)

7:30: Pistons @ Celtics

7:30 (NBATV): 76ers @ Raptors

8:00: Trail Blazers @ Rockets (Knight-out)

8:00: Wizards (Wall) @ Grizzlies (An. Harrison)

8:00: Clippers (Gilgeous-Alexander) @ Thunder (Diallo, Noel, Patterson)


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR