Sacramento Kings: How will Joerger handle the veterans?

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images /

With a roster full of young players, the Sacramento Kings may have a hard time finding minutes for the veterans.

As the 2018-19 NBA season creeps closer, Sacramento Kings fans are eager to see how head coach Dave Joerger handles his rotation. In particular, it will be interesting to see Joerger’s approach when it comes to the veterans on the team.

Will he stick to his usual ways and favor the veterans? Are Kings fans destined to another season of watching Zach Randolph for 25-30 minutes every game? Or does Joerger finally give in to the popular demand and give the young guys an extended run?

Last season, Joerger hinted at how he wants to handle the young players for the upcoming campaign.

“The training wheels are going to come off right away,” Joerger told the Sacramento Bee.

Still, that’s not a guarantee they’ll get heavy minutes. After all, Joerger has always protected the older players. It’s hard to believe that he will refuse to listen to the veterans if they grumble about minutes.

Zach Randolph may be one of the hardest veterans to manage in the upcoming season. Randolph, a player who has been a star for most of his career, is in the midst of that awkward stage where he has to transition to a lesser role.

Last season, the transition didn’t go so well. It was clear that Randolph wanted to carry the load for the Kings, but his 36-year-old body wouldn’t cooperate. As Randolph struggled to get up and down the court, Kings fans constantly went to social media to express their frustration.

With Joerger and Randolph having a deep relationship that goes back to their days together with the Memphis Grizzlies, it’s hard to imagine how the head coach will now put personal feelings aside and relegate one of his beloved veterans to the bench. It’s even even harder to imagine how Randolph will quietly accept playing behind rookies on a bad team.

If Randolph chooses to be vocal, the Kings may have a George Hill situation all over again. The team chemistry could be in danger and Randolph could be on the trade block by midseason.

To his credit, Randolph has been a great mentor for young players so far. Hopefully, that continues no matter what his new role may be.

The Kings will have another dilemma with veteran Kosta Koufos. The 29-year-old only averaged 19.6 minutes per game last year, but his minutes might be lowered even further in a crowded frontcourt. Koufos will be battling for minutes with Skal Labissiere, Randolph, Nemanja Bjelica, Harry Giles III and Willie Cauley-Stein.

In his three years with the Kings, Koufos has established himself as one of the most professional veterans on the team. He is the rare Kings player who never takes a game off. Although he is never the most talented player on the court, Koufos always understands what is expected of him when he is on the court.

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However, with the Kings having so many young players in the frontcourt, the best-case scenario for both parties would be to separate. Koufos would be a great fit for any playoff contender in the NBA, and the Kings can at least get something in return if they trade him before the deadline.

At the trade deadline last year, the Kings acquired Iman Shumpert, who didn’t play a single game because of multiple injuries. Now that he’s ready to return to the court, the Kings have to figure out what they’re going to do with the 28-year-old veteran.

As he comes back from an injury-plagued season, Shumpert is looking to prove he can still play in the league. He may not succeed in earning more minutes than the younger players, but Shumpert certainly won’t give up without a fight.

At the same time, don’t expect him to throw a fit if he’s sitting at the end of the bench. From his first day in Sacramento, Shumpert has made it clear that he’s excited to mentor the young guys. As evidenced by his social media, purple has become Shumpert’s favorite color.

The veteran may not get 20 minutes per night, but he can come in at key moments and make a huge difference.

The Kings’ other mystery is Ben McLemore. The popular assumption was that McLemore would be waived after being acquired in a trade earlier in the offseason. Yet, here we are in September and McLemore is still on the team.

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Kings fans can only wait and see what happens with Randolph, McLemore and the other veterans. It could be another season of Kings fans trying to overthrow Joerger, or it could be a new day in Sacramento.