While the NBA world is watching the Bay Area to see if Stephen Curry will make his return (it seems likely, however Steve Kerr will not return yet), a couple of other returns to the NBA could happen on Saturday worth noting.
In Sacramento, it appears rookie Willie Cauley-Stein is ready to return from the severe finger dislocation he suffered earlier this season (as CSN Kings insider James Ham told us in the PBT Podcast, it wasn’t a break but a dislocation so severe it broke the skin).
The Kings’ defense improves when Cauley-Stein is on the floor, 2.3 points per 100 possessions (he still misses a lot of reads, but his athleticism covers some mistakes), but that does not make up for the 8.1 points per 100 the offense drops when he is on the floor. Cauley-Stein can only score at the rim, every team helps off him on the other Kings’ shooters, and he isn’t comfortable in the offense and often just seems more in the way than anything. Getting him back is good for his needed development, but it’s not a huge “here come the wins now” kind of boost for the Kings.
The bigger boost may be in Denver, where Jusuf Nurkic is back. That word comes straight from the man himself.
Last season Nurkic contributed more than expected as a rookie, particularly with physical play around the rim. The Nuggets were 3.4 points per 100 better last season when he was on the court than sitting (and he got a lot of run after the Timofey Mozgov trade). He is a beast of a player inside, but he has to learn to pick his spots defensively (his aggression led to seemingly constant foul trouble). He can defend the pick-and-roll fairly well for big man, which the Nuggets can use.
Denver needs to get Nurkic and rookie Emmanuel Mudiay working together. These two can be two parts of the Nuggets future, and they need to start letting them develop pick-and-roll chemistry and see how they fit together.