When last seen, the Kings were … missing out on the playoffs once again and still seeking an identity. The Kings always seem to be under construction and in that sense, nothing changed last season, their first under coach Luke Walton. While De’Aaron Fox showed more growth and maturity at point guard, that was the biggest plus for Sacramento. Buddy Hield did average 19.2 points and has made more 3-pointers in his first four years than anyone in league history. He also pouted when asked to come off the bench in favor of the departed Bogdan Bogdanovic. Also, Marvin Bagley III once again dealt with injuries, playing only 13 games and leaving the Kings at a disadvantage near the rim. The Kings traveled down a well-worn path to the Draft lottery and then braced for changes within and beyond the roster.
What’s new? Monte McNair was hired to replace Vlade Divac as general manager, a swap that was overdue. Divac lorded over a post-DeMarcus Cousins era that never gained any traction and couldn’t hire a coach with staying power. His biggest crime, however, was bypassing Luka Doncic in the draft for Bagley. McNair’s first big decision was allowing Bogdanovic to bolt to the Hawks in free agency without matching the offer sheet. If nothing else, it at least made Hield happy even if an asset walked out the door with nothing in return. McNair also drafted combo guard Tyrese Haliburton from Iowa State and signed Hassan Whiteside and Frank Kaminski on the cheap for front-line depth and experience.
What’s missing: The Kings are an unbalanced team, with most of their energy generated from the backcourt, although this could change if Bagley stays healthy and develops. Harrison Barnes, a solid player at small forward but never a star, could begin to decline, and that could force the Kings to examine trade possibilities provided there’s a taker for his contract. A defensive presence at the rim would be beneficial for Sacramento, and Whiteside has been one of the league’s premier rebounders and shot blockers the last few years. But there’s a reason why nobody wanted him, even for the minimum — he’s severely lacking intangibles. Hopefully for the sake of the Kings and his career, this is his wakeup call.
POTENTIAL STARTING FIVE
De’Aaron Fox | 21.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 6.8 apg
Freshly signed to a max deal, Fox looks to make a push toward All-Stardom.
Buddy Hield | 19.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.0 apg
A solid volume 3-point shooter searches for happiness and a long-time home in Sactown.
Marvin Bagley III | 14.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.9 bpg
Injuries have restricted his development and because of that, he’s somewhat a mystery.
Harrison Barnes | 14.5 pgg, 4.9 rpg, 2.2 apg
Steady and dependable veteran has already reached his ceiling.
Richaun Holmes | 12.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Worker bee has been a pleasant surprise but faces a threat from bigger Hassan Whiteside.
Tyrese Haliburton | 15.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.5 apg (Iowa State)
Multi-skilled combo guard brings an all-around game and an odd shooting motion.
Nemanja Bjelica | 11.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.8 apg
Very productive per-minute player who flourished in Bagley’s absence last season.
Hassan Whiteside | 15.5 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 2.9 bpg
Perhaps no one with comparable stats has taken a bigger pay cut in NBA history.
Sacramento Kings, last 5 seasons
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2006 and haven’t won a playoff series since 2004. That’s a lengthy drought for a team constantly choosing high in the Draft, yet failing to stockpile enough talent to bring a halt to the misery. Once again, with the West loaded with quality teams, the Kings will be fortunate to make any noise in that regard. The hope is that Haliburton gives them yet another young and talented guard to pair with Fox in the backcourt, and that Bagley stays healthy enough to give the Kings a better idea about how he fits.
Predicted finish: 30-42.
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