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What Louis King’s first year in the G-League taught us

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King has a well-rounded game but some obvious flaws he will need to improve on in year 2

Grand Rapids Drive v Mississauga Raptors 905 Photo by Christian Bonin/NBAE via Getty Images

Louis King started his first professional season in very unspectacular manner. After a forgettable Summer League performance, he vindicated those with concerns about his maturity dating back to the 2019 NBA Draft. But he ended the season on strong footing with the big club. The transformation was made during his play with the Grand Rapids Drive.

From the first game in G-League, Louis was determined to make sure his performance wouldn’t go unnoticed. His effort was conspicuous on both ends of the floor. The same kid who couldn’t buy a bucket and earn more minutes in the Summer League quickly became a team leader and a frequent go-to guy on a competitive Grand Rapids Drive team.

His defense was astonishing. There’s not a single thing you’d like your wing to be able to do that King couldn’t do. On-ball defense? No problem. As you can see in these clips, he has it all: great stance, awesome lateral movement, active hands, ability to run through screens.

Maybe he has some problems keeping in front of small, speedy guards, but so do best wing defenders in current NBA.

King vs. speedy guards

Jamal Murray cooking

You want off ball defense? Help yourself. With his great anticipation, ability to navigate between screens, willingness to chase his man down, active play in the passing lanes, readiness to help, Louis doesn’t allow the play to pass him easy. He’s also brilliant on rotations, making them with instinctual precision. And he can provide some rebounding, and rim protection. But it’s not only that he can do this thing in one play or that thing in another. He can do these things in one possesion, which points to his high basketball IQ.

Off-ball defense

Rotations

Rebounding

Rim protection

On offense, the first thing to notice about King is that he moves very fluidly and lightly (too lightly in one instance) on his feet. It’s like watching Grant Hill or Penny Hardaway before ankle injuries added some ballast to their feet. Pair with this nimbleness, his very good handle allows him to create openings even in tight space with handsome crossovers, hesitation dribbles and spin moves and drive to the basket.

Sloppy footwork

Driving to the basket

Drives are something in which Lou excels. He can go either hand and has nice touch. He can absorb some contact and make adjustments. OK, he is missing some shots on drives. His 61.5 FG% in the restricted area could be a little higher. The average for G-League was 65%, for NBA 63.5%, and among other tall guard-forward prospects developed in G-League, Amir Coffey had 79.2%, Ignas Brazdeikis 69.4%, new teammate Josh Jackson 64.2%. On the other hand, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had 59.2%.

Absorbing contact

When we move further from the basket within the paint, he keeps oscillating around averages for both leagues with his 42.4 FG% in the paint (non-restricted area). Part of the reason the young King didn’t convert his drives at a better clip is his skinny frame. Yep, young skinny Grant Hill also missed some driving shots. To convert more effectively, Lou tried to play a little stronger. Initially, it get him some further misses, but so it did to young Hill…yyyy sorry, wrong clip… here you go, and after some time it clicked.

Grant Hill struggles on drives

King misses some throw-downs

King fast breaks

I think that he could up his percentages in the paint by avoiding forcing the issue. To do this, he could use some mid-range game. And this is a problem, at least at the moment. King struggles from that distance. He’s 26.4 FG% there is way too far from league average and needs to go up about a dozen of percentage points to equal it. As we can see here sometimes he isn’t so fluid in his pullups. But when he is, it looks pretty. The type of player Louis is can utilize the mid-range game successfully, as can be seen in Brazdeikis with his 53.5 FG% on mid-rangers. And although it isn’t a must – as in turn can be seen in Coffey being only 2-of-18 on them – for the sake of less predictable offense, we’d need Lou to be able to use them more and with better efficiency.

wth you doing, King?

Smooth pull-ups

King has some nice playmaking abilities which could allow him to avoid getting into the trouble on drives as well. The P&Rs, which he run smoothly as ballhandler, show nice alternative to forced drives in such assists (or would be assists).

Playmaking

Pick-and-roll success

There were times when he did have some problems with making lobs on target, but he overcame them. So, overall, Louis AST/TO ratio of 1.3 place him in the middle of the pack of G-League players. It’s less than Coffey’s 2.11 or Jackson’s 1.65 but it’s more than Brazdeikis’ 1.24 or Luwawu-Cabarrot’s 1.

Juuuuust a bit outside

On target

Another thing that popped out about King’s offense, was his off-ball movement. Here again his agility makes itself felt. He can free himself and find an opening around the basket to take pass and to convert it into a bucket. Thus a hefty number of 38.2% of assisted FG he made in the paint. This is another indicator of his high basketball IQ. Regrettably however, as the season progressed, the Drive use him less in that role.

Off-ball movement

As we can observe in these clips, King can also contribute in transition offense. But statistically, his 2 fast break points situates him only above Brazdeikis from the players we compare him to. We can’t ascribe this to him helping more on defensive glass, as his 13.5 DREB% is higher only than Coffey’s. But Sekou’s FBPS were even lower. Part of the reason is that the Drive played at a slower pace (they were 21st out of 28 teams in this category) and didn’t score many FBPS as a team (with only 11.6 FBPS per game they were 23rd in this department). The other part is, however, that like in the case of Sekou, we want him to score more transition buckets.

In transition

The last thing we need to discuss is Louis’ three ball. He made 1.5 triple per game, so it’s encouraging number for such a player. His 34.3 3P% is a little less, but it still was around Brazdeikis’s 34.4%, and much better than Luwawu-Cabarrot’s 29%, who turned out to be a pretty good sniper in the bubble. Jackson and Coffey were better with 38% and 40% respectively. We can also complain a little about versatility of Louis’ threes. He shot significant number from above the break (68,8 of his made treys were from that area, though, again, his 31.7% on those shots was a little below G-League average). The bigger problem is that he didn’t made too much off the dribble triples. Only 10% of his threes were unassisted. It’s the same number as in Sekou’s case. But it’s value is different here. Sekou is more of 3/4 type and younger, Lou is 2/3 type and almost 21.5 years old. He needs to be better in this department.

Off the dribble

Louis King rookie season was a nice story. An allegedly immature player from Oregon, became one of the leaders of up and coming G-League team. His numbers weren’t so hot as Jackson’s, but Josh is already a Piston, so he won’t hurt us now. Louis seems to have much better defense and playmaking ability than Brazdeikis’ and Luwawu-Cabarrot. Coffey looks good when he’s making threes, but he’s almost two years older, and if I recall correctly from his Minnesota days, he isn’t so versatile defender, though he made some progress as a pro. Thus I say give Louis more chance.