Preview: Sacramento Kings

2017-18 Sacramento Kings


Projected Record: 30-52 (13th in West)

Over/Under: 28.5

2016: 32-50 (11th in West)


Key Additions:

  • G George Hill
  • G De’Aaron Fox
  • F Justin Jackson
  • F/C Harry Giles
  • G/F Bogdan Bogdanovic
  • F Zach Randolph
  • G/F Vince Carter
  • G Frank Mason III

Key Subtractions:

  • F Rudy Gay
  • G/F Tyreke Evans
  • G Darren Collison
  • G Arron Afflalo
  • G Ty Lawson
  • G Langston Galloway
  • G Ben McLemore
  • F Anthony Tolliver

Summary

Strengths:

  • Surprisingly deep roster
  • Frontcourt upside
  • Interesting guard options

Weaknesses:

  • No #1 option
  • Could be weak defensively
  • Lacking in wings
  • Might not have enough minutes to go around

I actually really liked the Kings’ weird offseason for the most part, especially the haul of interesting players they picked up at the draft – De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Frank Mason III. The Kings jettisoned most of their veterans after trading DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans and replaced them with a mix of fresh legs and veteran leadership. Not everything they did makes complete sense – Zach Randolph seems likely to leech minutes from youngsters who could use the time – but the organization seems to have some actual plans for a change.

The Kings aren’t going to win a whole lot – they can thank the Western Conference for that – but they’re better than I think many are expecting them to be. Buddy Hield looked rejuvenated in his first 25 games with the team, shooting a blistering 43% from behind the arc, and Cousins’ departure gave some room for Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, and Georgios Papagiannas to breathe. I love the frontcourt prospects, especially with the pickup of Harry Giles, but I wonder why Zach Randolph is here; having a vet to mentor the kids isn’t a bad idea, but there’s really no reason for him to be on the court over any of them.

George Hill was as curious signing. He’s definitely underrated at this stage among NBA point guards, but he doesn’t seem to fit the timeline of this team – personally, I thought Denver or a return to Utah was a mortal lock. They had the money to spend, though, and they have a lot of very young guards who could use guidance, so I’m not going to hate on it too much. Vince Carter, meanwhile, has aged like a fine wine and helps fill the void where their small forwards used to be. I’m all for Mentor Vince; here’s hoping he gets into coaching when he’s retired.

The makeup of the roster is strange: this team is all centers and guards, with few actual forwards to speak of. Rookie Justin Jackson is the only non-big that stands taller than 6’6″, but they have three seven-footers in the frontcourt. They’re going to play huge and small simultaneously, two towers down low with three guards around them. It opens up some fun offensive combinations, but they lack the long-armed 3-and-D guys that have become essential components of successful modern defenses.

One interesting player to keep an eye on: Bogdan Bogdanovic (no relation to the Pacers’ Bojan), who is making his NBA debut after an accomplished Euroleague career. Bogdanovic is a marksman – 43% from three in his last Euroleague season – and he has some ball-handling ability, as well. Assuming he beats out Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson in the pecking order, I really like the idea of Bogdanovic and Hield on the wings, raining jumpers on opposing defenses.


Most Valuable Player: George Hill

Hill caught some largely unearned flack in his last few years with the Pacers, as some people put the blame on him for those Pacer teams falling short in the playoffs. The reality is that Hill is a very solidly good point guard who doesn’t do anything poorly. He was legitimately awesome for Utah last season, canning over 40% of his triples for the second consecutive year, keeping the ball moving, and playing acceptable defense. That’s exactly what he’ll bring to the Kings, and his consistency will be valuable next to all these young guards who are liable to be a little erratic.

X Factor: De’Aaron Fox, Young Frontcourt Rotation (Cauley-Stein, Labissiere, Papagiannis, Giles)

De’Aaron Fox was the crown jewel of this offseason for Sacramento, and I love the kid; he’s athletic and exciting, with good point guard instincts and tough defense. He can’t shoot at all right now and that’ll have to change, but if he can develop even a close-to-average jumper, I could see him being a new Eric Bledsoe. Obviously, the Kings are hoping he might be more like another fellow Kentucky alumnus, John Wall.

Meanwhile, the bigs are my favorite aspect of this roster, and I’m a fan of their diverse skillsets. I’d like to see one of them stretch their range out to the three-point arc – most likely Labissiere – to help relieve clutter in the paint. Giles is especially interesting; he could have been a top-five pick before a brutal knee injury (his second) sabotaged his draft stock. It’s hard to bet on a guy with two significant knee injuries getting his athleticism back, but Giles has skill – if he can get back to even 80% of what he used to be, he could be a really useful player.


Conclusion

It’s gonna be another rough season for the Kings, record-wise, but I’m honestly intrigued by a lot of what this roster has to offer. There are a lot of unique young players here that could be future contributors, headlined by top pick De’Aaron Fox, and I don’t hate the thought of bringing in veterans like George Hill and Vince Carter to guide them along. They won’t run the risk of accidentally picking up too many wins in this ridiculous Western Conference landscape anyways.

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