Kings Offseason Report: Three Kings

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2016/17 Record: 32 – 50 (12th in the Western Conference)

2017/18 Salaries: $94,838,784 (Under The Cap Team) – full SAC salary cap situation – here.

Incoming Draft Picks: POR/DEN ’18 2nd (more favourable), ORL/CLE/HOU ’19 2nd (second least favourable), DET ’20 2nd

Outgoing Draft Picks: PHI/BOS ’19 1st, PHI/MIL ’19 2nd

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Just after the end of the 2016/17 season, four Sacramento Kings personnel decide to steal a cache of the Maloof Brothers’ hidden gold. Led by GM Vlade Divac, three of the men are rescued by rebels, but Divac is captured and tortured by Ranadive intelligence. The Ranadive Rebels beg for the Kings trio to help fight against the impending arrival of Maloof’s Elite Guard. The men agree to fight in return for help rescuing Vlade.

Vlade Divac had himself an excellent summer. The bounty from the Boogie trade yielded excellent returns, with the GM flipping the acquired pick (number 10 overall) to Portland for the 15th and 20th selections. Divac also lucked out that the pick swap due to Philly (one more time, STAUSKAS!) only netted them a two spot fall, even if that pick eventually turned into the number one selection in the draft.

Suddenly, competency could be seen where previously there appeared to be none. No longer were agents telling their players to stay away, and one of the top prospects in the draft appeared excited at the prospect of joining the Kings organisation. Considering the team was widely panned for giving Cousins away for cents on the dollar, the 180° in perception is quite remarkable.

With Vlade being captured, Sacramento need to send in Three Kings to rescue him, and thanks to their offseason, they have two trios to choose from.

Carter, Hill and Randolph – The Old Guard

This is where the Kings appear to have turned a corner as an organisation. The ability for the team to acquire veterans to guide the team’s youngsters through the ups and downs of the season can’t be overstated. You only need to look at Hinkie’s Sixers to see what a whole bunch of kids with only one babysitter looks like. The fact that these three all play the same positions as the Kings’ future franchise players shouldn’t be overlooked either.

Burly Power Forward Zach Randolph joins the Kings after being one of the major cornerstones for a team-wide movement in Memphis. Grit’n’Grind might have been created by Tony Allen, but Randolph was the player the team was built around at the time. Zach comes to Sacramento with plenty of playoff experience and a unique perspective on rehabilitating a tarnished reputation; one that Skal Labissiere could take a lesson on.

From a practical level, Randolph will provide needed bench scoring and rebounding, as well as being a late game option for coach Joerger should he need it. Joerger knows what he is getting from Randolph, having coached him in Memphis himself. Randolph was the number five scorer off the bench last season, for players who played more than 50 games starting on the pine. The hardwood likely can’t come soon enough for Randolph. The arrest for carrying 2lb of weed was alarming, even if the felony charge for intent to sell seemed insane at the time and has been dismissed.

Also arriving as a mentor to his younger self is Half 40yr-old-Man/Half Amazing Vince Carter. VC has turned himself into the sage veteran who has embraced aging and found ways to still contribute – his VORP was the highest it’s been since he was a spry 37yr old. Carter showed defensively he can be counted on in tough spots, which will be important on the wings where the team is thin defensively. Carter had a 59.1% eFG from catch-and-shoot plays, and his ability to hit the long ball, as well as teach players like Hield, Fox, Jackson and Richardson about being go-to scorers, will be invaluable for a Kings squad that needs to find consistency from its young corp.

The real pièce de résistance however, is George Hill. Hill becomes one of the better Free Agent signings Sacto have had since at least 2000, and serves multiple purposes for the squad now and into the future. With 83 playoff games under his belt, Hill comes with the expectation to compete and win. Hill also automatically becomes Sacramento’s best defender, his size will allow him to play some with Fox and protect him on the defensive end and his 40% shooting from downtown allows him to play both on or off the ball.

Fox, Labissiere, Hield – The Future

Sending in the kids might seem like a good way to get Vlade killed in this metaphor, but the Kings need to know what they have and gain a good understanding on where they will go.

De’Aaron Fox is a no brainer. The number five pick in the Draft, Fox wants to be the Kings’ leader. He was as quick as a jet in college and that speed looked to have carried over into Summer League play. In his lone season at Kentucky, Fox showed the ability to finish at the rim, helping him to a near 48% field goal percentage despite shooting 24.6% from downtown. With his speed, Fox projects to be an excellent pick-and-roll offensive fulcrum, and could evolve into a suped-up Kemba Walker if his jumper develops the same way Kemba’s has. Everyone remembers the 39 points against Lonzo and that sort of play could become routine.

With Hill as his guide, Fox should be able to grow into his role as a leader, instead of being thrown into the deep end. Fox sported a 2.46:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in College on 27.6 % usage – good numbers for a Freshman. Going against opposing teams’ second units more in the early going will provide Fox with a ‘safe’ environment to learn and adjust to the speed of the NBA game, always a challenge for first year players, but especially Point Guards. It also allows Fox to stretch his wings as a primary scorer that little bit more, instead of having to defer touches to his more established teammates.

In the more established category somewhat surprisingly goes Labissiere, whom the Kings hope is the modern version of Randolph – capable from the midrange, promising from the three-point line, agile as a defender. Skal showed the whole package after the All-Star break, basically quadrupling every recordable stat there is. Skal showed some flashes of rim protection and perimeter defense – a must for any power forward these days – but this is an area that Coach Joerger and his staff  must continue to focus on, particularly if Skal is to spend any real time at the five-spot. Randolph will be able to teach him about body positioning and leverage, particularly important for his rebounding which was only 14.9% of all available rebounds.

As for Hield, Buddy showed he can be the Oklahoma version of himself after the trade to Sac. Hield improved greatly once he arrived in Sacramento, and looked far more comfortable than he ever did in New Orleans. While it’s probably safe to say the Pelicans still would have made the deal if Hield played like that before the trade, they would have had to think longer about it.

Hield can play out of the pick and roll, which will ease the burden placed on Fox to create, and provide much-needed spacing for the starting unit. Hield shot 42.8% from three after the break on 5.5 attempts per game, and had an effective field goal percentage of 59.8 as a spot up shooter, per Carter should help aid his development in the ball screen game, as well as developing on the defensive end. Most rookies struggle on D, and Hield was no exception, ranking just 84/95 Shooting Guards in DRPM. His defensive Win Shares were just 1.3 (somehow higher than his offensive). But Hield is a scorer, and with an offensive trio of Fox, Hield and Labissiere the Kings could do a lot worse.

So who saves Vlade? At the moment, you send in the vets to get the job done while the rooks carry their bags. But come the end of the season, the hope is the kids have unpacked enough and are ready to take over full-time. For the first time in a while, the Kings have a plan and players who want to be in town. The Kings are coming.

Projected Staring Five:

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Overall Offseason Grade: A-

2017/18 Prediction: 29-53

Just because better players have arrived, doesn’t mean this won’t be a lean year in the W column. That might not be a bad thing, given the team controls it’s first round pick in 2018, but not 2019. With one eye on Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III and Co, expect Sacto to rack up some losses. The veteran supplement should be enough to provoke some unexpected wins, however, and Fox and Buddy should provide plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future.

bogdanovic kings

Player To Watch: Bogdan Bogdanovic

One of four rookies coming into the squad, Bogdan Bogdanovic comes to Sacramento highly decorated and rather expensive. The Serbian wing has been tantalising for years now, and is finally poised to make the leap after winning the EuroLeague title whilst being named MVP of the Finals. Bogdanovic comes as a shooter (43% from three last season), and if the 6’8″ 24-year-old can defend NBA caliber athletes, he might be able to supplant Carter at the Small Forward spot. Given his three year deal and experience internationally, the Kings will expect production right away, and Bogdanovic should be ready to deliver.

Four Key Questions:

1. Will Fox be in position to take over starting duties by season’s end?
It would stand to reason that Hill signed his contract with the knowledge that Fox would be taking the starting gig full time by the time next season rolls around. But don’t discount the possibility of Fox being ready earlier, and if that happens the Kings might need to do some juggling. Hill played very well when not injured last season, and is only 30. He will not want to spend the majority of his time on the bench.

2. Will Harry Giles be able to provide anything?
Multiple knee injuries have dimmed the hype around the former #1 High School recruit, but the talent is still there. With his 7’3″ wingspan, and 6’10” frame, Giles has the measurables to still be in impact player in the NBA, even if he never regains his athleticism. With both Randolph and Labissiere ahead of him, Sacramento can afford to bring Giles along slowly, but don’t be surprised by a second half breakout ala Skal if the opportunity presents.

3. Is WCS the long term answer at the 5?
Willie Cauley-Stein has many of the tools you want in a modern day defensive Center. He can move his feet on the perimeter and guard in space, defend at the rim and hedge on ball screens. He has regressed in his ability to finish in close however, dropping to 44.9% shooting from 0-3 feet per basketball-reference. WCS played similar minutes in his Sophomore campaign compared to his Rookie, but didn’t really improve his numbers. With a top heavy draft coming with high end big prospects and a team friendly Free Agent market, WCS may just have this season to solidify his role as the Center of the future.

4. Can the team lose enough to cash in on the top heavy 2018 Draft?
The Kings have perceivable gaps at the SF and C positions, and this coming draft has prospects that could prove to be franchise altering at both positions. With teams like Atlanta, Indiana, Phoenix and Chicago all poised to be bad this coming season, Sacto could prove to have had too good an offseason if they somehow fall out of the top five in the draft. The additions of Randolph, Hill and Carter, coupled with Fox, Jackson and Bogdanovic could make the Kings just too competitive.

Info courtesy of:
Basketball Reference
Basketball Insiders
Real GM
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