2018-19 Season Preview: Sacramento Kings

NBA.com Global on Oct 16, 2018 12:43 PM
2018-19 Season Preview: Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III, right, drives the ball past Los Angeles Lakers forward Johnathan Williams during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com

When the Minnesota Timberwolves qualified for the playoffs on the final day of the 2017-18 season, it left the Kings as owners of the league’s longest postseason drought. Sacramento hasn’t tasted big-boy basketball since the 2005-06 season and the Kings were certainly in no shape to break that streak last season, winning only 27 times. The franchise tried to weave vets into a young core and the results were mostly dismal; George Hill became disgruntled and was traded at the deadline and Vince Carter was, well, old. Only Zach Randolph put in work. Meanwhile, youth was served as De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic had moments. Still, it was back to the Draft lottery for the Kings, who are still searching for the right formula.

ICYMI

The Kings settled on Marvin Bagley III with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, arguably the best non-NBA teenager in the country over the last two years ... Rather than make wholesale changes, the Kings are locked into a build-from-within mindset. They’ve decided to keep their cap space flexible in case of a trade opportunity at the deadline ... Yogi Ferrell came aboard after a Cinderella-type story with Dallas. Can he duplicate those days with the Kings, who have a logjam at point guard? … Deyonta Davis came cheap from Memphis. If he can develop, that’ll be a plus for the front line.

THREE POINTS

1. The Kings were dead last in scoring average last season (98.8), one of only two teams (Memphis) that didn’t break 100. This was a byproduct of youth and they had to lean on old man Randolph, who shouldn’t have been this team’s leading scorer. The Kings tried to poach restricted free agent Zach LaVine from the Bulls and failed, which means scoring could be an issue again.

2. There are big hopes for versatile 6-foot-10 forward Harry Giles, who missed all of his rookie season while mending from knee injuries sustained in college. Are they unrealistic? Perhaps not, given how well Giles looked in NBA Summer League. Giles has a very mature game and, assuming good health, should contribute. In a best-case scenario, he’d be in the running for one of the All-Rookie teams and that would be great news for the Kings, who haven’t always gotten it right in the Draft.

3. While Bagley III was a reasonably safe pick at No. 2 overall, was he a better choice than Luka Doncic? Time will tell. In the meantime, Kings fans are clamoring for the franchise to develop a highly regarded young player to his potential. That’s been a sore point with this franchise over the last several years. Too many lottery picks have come and gone without leaving a positive mark, which is deadly for a rebuilding franchise.

MAN ON THE SPOT

Is Willie Cauley-Stein headed to the same graveyard that has claimed so many former Kings first-round picks? That’s what this season will determine. Now in his fourth year, Cauley-Stein hasn’t made a big leap yet. He’s still an athlete more than a basketball player, meaning his skill development hasn’t caught up to his jumping ability. That imbalance is holding him back and may cause him to fall on the depth charts this season if others, such as Bagley III and Davis, force their way into the picture. Cauley-Stein had moments last season, yet the consistency is lagging. With the Kings facing a decision on his financial future next summer, he’s due for a breakout, or else.

STARTING FIVE

Marvin Bagley III| 21.0 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 1.5 apg (Duke)
First-round pick brings style and gifts that are suited for immediate impact in the NBA.

De’Aaron Fox | 11.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.4 apg
Second-year man brought excitement to the Kings but also a hot-and-cold jumper with limited shooting range.

Willie Cauley-Stein | 12.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.4 apg
Athletic seven-footer showed some growth but also skill limitations that prevented him from taking the next step.

Bogdan Bogdanovic | 11.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.3 apg
Fought through inconsistency to emerge as a crucial young piece. One of the Kings’ best threats from deep (39.2 percent).

Justin Jackson | 6.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg
Was impressive in NBA Summer League play and could be primed for a leap.

KEY RESERVES

Zach Randolph | 14.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.2 apg
Reliable vet brought wisdom, taught youngsters about work ethic and, on some nights, showed his old Z-Bo form.

Harry Giles | DNP (injury)
Sat out the entire season to mend from knee issues, a wise decision in hindsight. Had a strong summer. Should help on both ends.

Buddy Hield | 13.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.9 apg
Sacramento's best 3-point shooter (43.1 percent) had moments, yet never established himself as a certified go-to guy.

BOTTOM LINE

Can it get any worse for the Kings? They seem to be in a perpetual state of rebuilding, unable to make a climb from the basement. Once again they’re putting their faith in young players with hopes of seeing them grow, and maybe Bagley III is the foundational piece for the future. There are no proven stars or even borderline stars on the roster. As constructed, they’re on path for another year without the postseason. In a best-case scenario, they’ll be tough to beat at home and see star potential in Fox and a bonus in Giles. Let’s put the Kings down for 25-57. What’s one more year in the lottery, anyway, especially in a 2019 draft that’s supposed to be top-heavy?

Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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