NBA / Jan 12, 2010 / 9:30 am

Omri Casspi: The Kings’ Other Rookie Is Turning Heads

Photo: www.kings.com

Every year, several international players that you’ve probably never heard of get selected in the NBA Draft. Unless you watch or follow European leagues religiously, then your knowledge of those players is probably just limited to the 60-second grainy highlight tape that they show at the draft packaged with the Fran Fraschilla analysis. That is why when guys like Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili make immediate splashes in the League, you stop and ask yourself: Where the hell did they come from?

The Sacramento Kings’ rookie Omri Casspi has been that guy for me (and most likely everyone else) this season. Casspi, who was the 23rd pick in last June’s draft, has been one of the best rookies so far this season. The 6-9 forward out of Israel is averaging 13 ppg, 4.8 rpg, while shooting 45.5 percent from the three-point line (fifth in the NBA). He is also one of the five rookies who are averaging double figures.

Although he’s been producing since the get-go, you can understand how he’s been flying under the radar a little bit. On top of being a virtual unknown to the general public, he is also playing in Sacramento – a franchise that doesn’t get a lot of national exposure. Casspi is also playing on a team that has another rookie with a slightly higher profile than him, Tyreke Evans. The fourth pick in the draft, Evans is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors with his 20.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 5 apg averages.

While Evans and Brandon Jennings are getting all of the headlines, Casspi is quickly becoming the next best rookie. He has improved his numbers every month and in the past couple of weeks, has taken his game to a higher level. From Dec. 30 to Jan. 5, the 21-year-old Casspi scored over 20 points in four straight contests including a 23 point effort against the Lakers. During that stretch, Casspi also pulled down 8.3 rebounds per game and shot 53 percent from the field. He has also been one of the go-to guys down the stretch. In the Kings’ Saturday night win against the Nuggets, Casspi played the final seven minutes of the game and hit a crucial three-pointer during crunch time.

Casspi has displayed several positive traits that have Kings’ fans very optimistic about the future. Like the team’s past international stars like Hedo Turkoglu and Peja Stojaković, Casspi can really shoot the ball, whether it’s a set three or whether it’s off the dribble. Even though he’s young, Omri is tough as nails. He is a hard working defender and has not backed down when asked to guard Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Casspi has really filled in nicely for the injured Kevin Martin.

The Kings are currently 15-21 and a good six games out of the last playoff spot. While a playoff berth is not realistic this year and perhaps even next year, the team has plenty of young, talented players to get excited about. On top of Martin, Evans and Casspi, the Kings also have Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and Donte Greene. They also have a third rookie, Jon Brockman, who has started to contribute as of late.

Casspi is definitely a player the league needs to take notice of. With his skill set and potential, it’s scary to think about what he could be two or three years down the line. Or even two or three months down the line.

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  • Raj S

    ” it’s scary to think about what he could be two or three years down the line. Or even two or three months down the line.”

    Really?

  • blkrob

    yes really, his stats are improving by the day. and once mr. efficent (k.mart II) comes back…kings will battle for that 8th seed.

  • http://dime eyes

    Can’t say a playoff berth is unrealistic just yet. With all the injuries & only half season under wraps. Anything can happen with this young team. Give them some time,confidence & Martin & Garcia back. Who knows? Maybe even a trade. I like how these team is playing & would put them with the Thunder. Future teams looking to make a splash.

  • d

    When I was home on vacation back in Nor Cal I was able to watch a lot of the Kings games. Omri plays extremely hard and does a lot of the little things you want to see. Plus he’s an excellent shooter (as you pointed out) and can finish at the rim decently. Also, he gets out on the break and runs the length of the court pretty well.

    You have to say that coming out of Macabi Tel Aviv (or however you spell it) has helped his game a ton, and is a lot of the reason he has transitioned so well, thus far, in the NBA.

    Go Kings!

  • dank

    when Kmart and Francisco Garcia come back, casspi will immediately get on the phone with his agent to negotiate a new deal with maccabbi tel aviv. lets be realistic here, this dude will not last in the NBA, there simply is no room for a guy like this, on ANY team.

  • Name (required)

    no room for a guy who plays hard, is constantly improving and is averaging 13 and 5 while shooting 45% from down town??

  • http://dimemag.com edub

    @dank
    What is your motivation for saying “there simply is no room for a guy like this, on ANY team”? (you capped ANY)
    His play, passion and stats speak volumes and is a top 5 rook this year. I don’t get that comment at all. You didn’t even back it up with an argument.

  • chitown hoops

    I dont get it either. Lots of GM’s are looking bad right now for skipping him over. Casspi will be in the NBA for a long time.

  • http://dime eyes

    dank yourself dank yourself. This guy is better than both Gallinari & Ilaysova put together. He’s one of the better cross seas players out there. He almost reminds me of a young Nocioni/Detlef. He is going to have a coming out party in the Rooks/Soph game. He actually shoots better than Cisco & plays a lot tougher. If anything they could trade either & get something good in return. He’s a pro pro & could start for anytime in the league. What’s not to like about him. Haddai on the other hand is a waste of time. LOL. See hating with solid reasoning & stats to back it up. LMAO. He’s turrrrreble

    Haters really need not comment. At least have a valid reason or purpse. Senseless hating is absurd. DANK I mean DAMN.

  • http://dimemag.com Dime Magazine

    This is Gerald.

    Have to disagree with Dank as far as his comment that there isn’t any room for a guy like Casspi, How can you say that about a top 5 rookie that finishes games?

    But at the same time, he does bring up an interesting point. When K-Mart comes back, how does that impact Casspi’s PT?

    Also, who does Omri’s game remind you guys of??

  • BiG ShoT BoB

    Omri reminds me of young Hedo Turkoglu.

  • GBoone

    Casspi reminds me of a harder working Stephen Jackson. There is not a ton of finesse to either game, but the production is obvious in their stats. Both are great defenders (although the Jackson doesn’t put the effort out that Casspi does) and can play multiple positions. Although Casspi seems to have an accurate understanding of the game for someone his age, his run will be cut-down when K-Mart II is back in the lineup. If the Kings are smart, they will move Casspi to PF and work a smaller lineup when Nocioni takes a breather on the bench. That should free up a quick wing-based offense with Greene as a reserve, who is already a monster for a 2-guard.

  • dank

    its not senseless hating. everybody is on this dudes dick right now, and its just funny how this is going to be another Walter Herrmann or Linas Kleiza story.

    these dudes never last in the NBA because there is no room for them on teams w/ superstars. look at Carlos Delfino, he played here, went to Russia, came back, is playing very little for the bucks so hes DEFINETELY going back to Europe next year. for many European players, its not about the money, its about the playing time.

    so, I will reiterate, when the Kings are at full power, considering the core they already have w/ Hawes, Thompson, Udrih, Evans, Martin, Garcia, Nocioni, Rodriguez, Green, and Brockman, this kid Casspi will be 9th at best coming off the bench.

    there is no room for him on this team, he’ll get butthurt and go back to Europe. guarantee it. the sour-face, looks-like-he-just-swallowed-cum expression that he has will be amplified when his PT is minimized to 10 MPG

  • sh!tfaced

    This rook is so good and plays damn hard every game that from now on, every player that comes out of Israel will be dubbed “the next Omri Casspi”…

  • dagwaller

    @ Dime – Don’t know how long you guys have been posting, but every few months or so, Dank comes in to remind everyone that he doesn’t know anything about basketball. I’ve had debates with him on more than one occasion about how “Dirk and Steve Nash are no good” (good call on that, there, buddy) and “Chris Bosh is too soft” (I’ll take 20 and 10 from anyone, soft or not) etc.

  • shiptar

    i think k-mart II doesn’t fit well with this team. Kings are tyreke’s team and I think he won’t take that very well. So i say trade him.

  • johnsacrimoni

    Everyone needs to ignore this cum-swallower dank. He’s just here to agitate.

  • the cynic

    this guy looks good to me, I’d rather watch him play then the overrated dudes who are always injured

  • http://www.hot1047fm.com Steve Gomez 10a-3p on Hot 104.7fm Modesto, ca

    Omri reminds me more of an AK47 light. Long, athletic, and great on the break. He’s not the shot blocker AK is but he’s a very good 1 on 1 defender. Not so much on team defense but what rookie is? He’ll put in the work to improve there. I would say he’s tougher the Andrei. He plays with a fire and intensity that EVERY coach, GM, and fan loves while putting up solid numbers. He’s not just an “energy” guy. He puts up stats. Plus dude has an awesome mean face!

  • dank

    A) Dirk and Steve Nash are still no good. I dont see any rings on any of their fingers…I see 3 MVPs rigged to keep middle aged white males tuned into the NBA. I still dont see no 1st or 2nd all defensive team for either one. I still see Nash among the league leaders in Turnovers per game. I’m sorry that defense is what I love seeing over anything else

    B) chris bosh is one of my favorite NBA players. top 10 hands down…so youre an idiot or theres been an impostor while ive been gone.

  • http://dimemag.com Dime Magazine

    This is Gerald

    @ Steve Gomez 10a-3p on Hot 104.7fm Modesto, ca

    That’s an interesting comparison. His body type definitely reminds me of AK. Like you said Omri doesn’t block shots like AK can, but Andrei isn’t nearly the shooter. But I see the comparison as far as the D and length and intensity.

    Also Stephen Jackson is a good comparison. Captain Jack can obviously shoot and is quite the competitor.

  • z

    dank Dirk and Nash are no good? NO good? their defense could use some work but NO good? their both top 5 at their respective positions in the league right now. Does that mean the rest of the league is WORSE than NO good?

  • Sacto_J

    Dank must be Iranian or Pakistani (It’s an Anti-Israeli thing.)
    Glad the rest of the league slept on him, and glad the Kings have a GM like Petrie who isn’t afraid to make the un-popular choice. If much of Sacramento had its way (myself included,)we’d be on the wrong end of the Rubio fiasco, and I’m definitely glad we took Tyreke instead. Another great draft from one of the league’s top GM’s. Can I get a BROCKMAN?!!

  • really?

    @dank you love defense but you hating on casspi? If anything noc doesn’t have a place on this team once k mart and cisco come back

  • GS

    dank, you’re funny. I wish I wasn’t in the office right now, or I would literally laugh out loud. I love dudes who simply go out there and spew bullshit without trying to make any sense – they make it so much more interesting for all the rest of us. I mean, what would this thread be if all we did was say nice thing about Omri?

    More power to the haters, I say!

    Oh, BTW: Dirk is a good defensive player, and Nash has lots of turnovers primarily because he plays in a super-fast offense and handles the ball most of the time (though he’s getting worse recently, I admit).

  • ben

    kings should trade kevin martin for a centre or point guard. i like spencer, but he’s a role player not a starter, same with udrih. would make them more competitive right away also…

  • JD

    With the core like this, I don’t see why the Kings should keep Kevin Martin…

  • Cord

    Francisco Garcia has never shown the production that Casspi has thus far. K-Mart will come back and start and play lots right away…. But Cisco will have to battle for time now that Casspi is the teams SF….

    Donte, JT, K-Mart, Tyreke, Casspi, Hawes and Brockman the Future will be bright in Sactown

  • Micky

    Either DanK is motivated by national considerations or he’s a fan of a rival team in Israel – my bet.

  • Bill Morrison

    Think Toni Kukoc with heart. The Kings have a great roster and will soon be one of the top teams.

  • Nick

    @Dank

    It’s nice to come back here and beat you down a month later.

    1) This kid is good, lets start there. He talked his coach into keeping his minutes after KMart has returned (he’s taking some of his stats, even)

    2) How dare you say Beno Udrih and Andres Nocioni are better than Casspi. He’s probably better than Hawes and Greene already..I’d say in a year’s time, he’ll be a top three option in SAC (evans, martin, casspi)

    3) Still sure Delfino’s heading back to Russia? If so, you’re wrong. Ignorant fool.