Additions: Marvin Bagley III, Yogi Ferrell, Nemanja Bjelica, Ben McLemore
Subtractions: Garrett Temple, Vince Carter, Malachi Richardson
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Buddy Hield
SF: Bogdan Bogdanovic
PF: Marvin Bagley III
C: Willie Cauley-Stein
Key Bench Players: Zach Randolph, Nemanja Bjelica, Frank Mason, Harry Giles, Justin Jackson, Yogi Ferrell
Barring breakout seasons from ultimately the whole team, the Sacramento Kings will once again have a top-three selection in the 2019 Draft. The only problem is that the Kings do not actually own that pick after trading it to the 76ers in 2015 along with Nik Stauskas and others in exchange for cap space. Then the Sixers packaged that pick in their deal with the Boston Celtics to acquire the number one pick in 2017: Markelle Fultz. The Kings have young cornerstones in Marvin Bagley and De’Aaron Fox, but the rest of the roster leaves a lot to be desired.
Marvin Bagley III out of Duke was taken by the Kings with the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft behind Deandre Ayton. At 6’11, Bagley has the size to play both power forward and center and combined with his extraordinary athleticism, improving skills, and high motor, has the potential to be a nightly mismatch for any opposing team. In his lone year at Duke after graduating high school a year early, the ACC Player of the Year averaged 21 points on 61.4/39.7/62.7 shooting, 11.1 rebounds, and one steal and block per game. He will most likely get most of his points in transition, put-backs, and cuts in his rookie year, but if his three-point shot is legitimate, Bagley has all the tools to be a perennial All Star in the NBA. While not known for his defense in college, he certainly has the length and athleticism to become a solid defensive player in the pros. He is the face of this franchise that the Kings will build around for at least the next six years.
Joining Bagley is former fifth overall pick De’Aaron Fox, who had a decent rookie season in his first run against professionals. Initially stuck behind George Hill before he was traded to the Cavs, Fox showed glimpses of being a franchise point guard. His key strengths are obviously playmaking and hard-nosed defense. His scoring primarily comes in transition and at the rim right now where he can use his elite speed and athleticism, but if he can maintain a reliable perimeter shot, he has the chance to emerge as an elite NBA point guard. Even without it, he is very comparable to John Wall, an extremely fast and athletic guard capable of setting up teammates and scoring in the paint while being an above-average defender. A John Wall clone and the mismatch potential of Bagley isn’t a bad way to start a franchise, right?
Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic are ideal role players to surround the two young stars, at least offensively. While neither are superb defenders, the pair knocked down 43.1% and 39.2% from three last year, respectively, on a combined 9.3 attempts per game. For a non-shooting point guard like Fox, they are very much needed for spacing and spot-up purposes on this roster. Hield will not be the Steph Curry-like player some believed he could become out of college as the 6th overall selection in 2016, but could be a very strong role player like Bradley Beal next to Fox.
The Kings bench is a mixed group of unproven youngsters and veterans that do not fit the timeline. Harry Giles was the top ranked prospect in the high school class of 2016, but after a torn ACL his senior year, he has not returned to his former self. He still has a ton of potential if his impressive athleticism begins to reappear. Skal Labissiere was another top high school product, but his problem in college was his lack of strength from the big man position and inconsistency. Last season, he did flash a decent outside shooting stroke and the ability to swat shots away from the rim. With these two presumably improving over the offseason, the Kings should feel fine letting Willie Cauley-Stein walk after his contract expires after the 2019-20 season. Frank Mason and Yogi Ferrell are two quality backup point guards with shooting, playmaking, and average defensive capabilities. Ben McLemore returned to Sacramento in the Garrett Temple trade over the summer, but never lived up to the Ray Allen comparison given to him coming out of Kansas. Still, he is a capable shooter and fantastic athlete. Justin Jackson showed flashes of potential as a quality role player last season but his perimeter jumper was incredibly inconsistent. However, he did start 41 of 68 games as a rookie and could possibly return to that role if head coach Dave Joerger wants to put one of Hield or Bogdanovic in a super sixth man role.
The Kings front office must move away from both Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos. The Kings have too many young big men to develop or at least see if they are worth developing in Giles, Labissiere, and Wenyen Gaabriel. They cannot be giving up valuable minutes to these veterans during this never-ending state of rebuilding. Trade them for picks or any young player that has not fanned out for their current franchise. Veterans are important for young squads such as the Kings, but not if it will take minutes away from them. Granted, Randolph may be one of the best veteran big men to learn from, but he cannot take any valuable time from Giles or Labissiere.
There is no way to beat around the bush here: the Kings are stuck at the bottom of the NBA. Without a true number one option, depth, or another chance at a top three draft selection, Sacramento still has a long way to go before returning to their glory of the early 2000s with Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Peja Stojakovic. The Kings need some serious changes and why not start now? Make this franchise all about Marvin Bagley and De’Aaron Fox and build your team around them,
Picture Courtesy of Clutch Points
*For yesterday’s article on the Portland Trail Blazers, click here
Up next tomorrow: San Antonio Spurs
University of South Carolina ’21