At times, the Sacramento Kings were one of the most interesting teams to watch in the NBA. They were on track to make make the playoffs as the eighth seed for the better part of the season, but they faded out towards the end. They have an exciting young core with De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. However, some people are questioning some of their free-agent signings.
There were rumors that they would sign a veteran forward such as Al Horford or Nikola Vucevic to help out the young guys. Instead, they re-signed Harrison Barnes and replaced Willie Cauley-Stein with Dewayne Dedmon. If the Kings are going to make some noise in the West, they are going to need their young guys to take a big step forward. In addition, they are going to need the few veterans on the team to help lead the young guys to some wins. Here is what their starting five should look like if they are going to make that happen.
Point Guard: De’Aaron Fox
De’Aaron Fox is one of the best young talents in the league. His speed with the ball makes him a threat in transition and opens up scoring opportunities for his teammates. He averaged 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game last season. His 3-point shooting improved to .371 from .307 in his rookie season. If the Kings are going to be a threat in the west, he is going to need to continue improving his outside shooting. At the same time, the Kings will need to spread the floor and create driving lanes for him to get to the basket and find open shooters. For the starting point guard position, Fox is clearly a lock.
There are not many concerns about Fox, but if there is one area he needs to improve that would be his defense. He is not undersized by any means, but he hasn’t necessarily put on more muscle since he entered the league. More strength and physicality certainly wouldn’t hurt his game. In addition, he needs to learn how to win games in the NBA. I would argue that inexperience had a lot to do with this team’s failure to make the playoffs last season.
Shooting Guard: Buddy Hield
Buddy Hield took a major leap last year. He averaged 20.7 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. He also shot 42 percent from behind the 3 point line, which puts him in the top 10 in the NBA for two consecutive seasons. Hield has now established himself as a perimeter threat on the offensive end. To help his team take the next step he will need to keep improving his offensive game. This is another lock for the Kings starting five.
Similar to Fox, there are not a lot of weaknesses in his game. However, he will also need to improve his defense this season as well. The Kings ranked 21st in the league with a defensive rating of 110.8. Tightening up their perimeter defense will inevitably lead to fast break opportunities, and anytime you can get these two young guards in the open court you should take it.
Small Forward: Harrison Barnes
Some people are questioning the Kings for re-signing Harrison Barnes. I agree that this probably wasn’t plan A for the Kings, but it is a solid plan B and he should certainly be in the starting lineup. He averaged 14.3 points per game with the Kings after being traded from the Mavericks last season, but actually posted the highest three-point percentage of his career during that span of time (.408). Barnes is a versatile offensive player and can provide scoring depth from anywhere on the court. He will be someone the team can rely on for a bucket in tough situations.
The Kings lacked veteran leadership last season, and Barnes is someone who may be able to provide that. He knows what it is like to be on a team that wins basketball games. In fact, he was on one of the best teams ever constructed in 2016 with the Golden State Warriors. He will need to use that experience to help out the young guys on this team. The only thing is, he hasn’t shown that he has the ability to do that. Yet the Kings kept him around for a reason, and hopefully, that reason is they believe he can develop some chemistry with the young core.
Power Forward: Marvin Bagley III
For some reason, Marvin Bagley wasn’t really talked about as one of the top rookies, but he had a solid rookie season. He averaged 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1 assist per game. The only issue is that he missed 20 games due to injury. I see Bagley as someone who is going to provide a spark for this team when they need it. He averaged 2.6 offensive rebounds per game in his rookie season, which is top 20 in the league. He also had a decent season defensively, averaging 1 block and .5 steals per game. Furthermore, Bagley is going to need to play a grit and grind kind of role for this team going forward.
Although Bagley had a promising rookie season, his game is limited on the offensive end. It would be interesting to see if he can develop an outside shot. He didn’t shoot many threes in his rookie year, but he did shoot it at a .313 percentage. That’s not bad for a big man if he can do that consistently. Spacing the floor is so important in today’s NBA, especially on a young and athletic team like this.
Center: Dewayne Dedmon
The Kings signed Dewayne Dedmon to a three year, 40 million dollar contract during free agency. At the Center position, he should provide the Kings with some physicality in the paint. He averaged 10.8 points per game last season, but the Kings will need him to set good screens in the pick and roll, rebound, and play physical interior defense. After missing out on Al Horford and re-signing Barnes, essentially all the Kings had to do at Center was replace Willie Cauley-Stein. They certainly did that by signing Dedmon.
The main concern regarding Dedmon is his durability. He has yet to play an 82 game season. If he can’t stay healthy this may be a problem for the Kings since they don’t really have a true center to back him up.
Key Bench Roles
This is where it gets a little tricky for the Kings. They are going to have to sort out some roles during the course of the season. However, the Kings did add two veterans during free agency that should provide them with some leadership. Trevor Ariza is a proven 3 and D player, which we know are extremely valuable in today’s NBA. Cory Joeseph is a smart point guard who will be able to provide some stability to this young team when they need it.
The Kings also have some young talent coming off the bench. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a proven 3 point shooter in this league. He averaged 14.1 points per game last season. He should be able to continue providing scoring off the bench this season. Lastly, we have Harry Giles. This is probably the player with the biggest question mark this season for the Kings. He had a fine rookie season, but he will need to take the next step to have a valuable bench role going forward.