After two frustrating games, Kings fans must continue to be patient
Trials and tribulations – something Kings fans are all too aware of and something they have come to expect going into the 2017-18 season. They hit the reset button last year by trading All-Star Center, DeMarcus Cousins and drafting their 19-year-old point guard De’Aaron Fox for the future.
Many wondered and speculated how this team would mesh with newly acquired veterans George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter during the offseason.
These veterans bring much needed stability and over 40 years of combined NBA experience to a youthful Kings team trying to find their way in this league.
The sample size is small thus far, but through seven regular season games (1-6), this young Sacramento Kings roster has given us a glimpse into what’s to come three years from now.
Kings fans can all agree Fox is the real deal. He is averaging 12.7 points and five assists per game, which is a team high through seven games. Fox is the fastest man on the court hands down and everyone that is lucky enough to see him in action can agree. Don’t blink otherwise you’ll miss him.
His knowledge of the game is evident, calling out plays, putting guys in the right spots before possessions, and having an air of confidence about him that teammates gravitate towards.
Then there’s new arrival Bogdan Bogdanovic, the 25-year-old Serbian rookie who, after missing the first three games of the season due to a sprained right ankle, finally made his NBA debut.
And in the words of Grant Napear, “Boy is he fun to watch!”
Bogdanovic hit the ground running as he finished his first NBA game with 12 points and three rebounds. Through four games, he is averaging 12.3 points and 2.3 assists per game. Not only was the confidence there to shoot the ball when the team called upon him, but his ability to move without the ball is something Kings fans should look forward to.
His basketball IQ is through the roof and this creates many matchup problems as “Bogi” knows where to be at the most opportune times in a game. He’s always a threat on the court with his beautiful 3-point stroke, no-look passes, and awareness of where his defenders are at all times.
I know it’s just four games into his young NBA career, but, in due time, I believe Divac will be commended for finding that needle in the haystack.
Justin Jackson, the No. 15 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft from North Carolina, is still trying to find his footing in a talent filled league. Whether by default, or lack of an effective veteran small forward on the Kings roster, Jackson found his way into the starting rotation under Dave Joerger.
Although Jackson was placed into the starting lineup, it hasn’t necessarily translated to starting-caliber minutes as Joerger has elected to have more of a veteran core in the rotation coming down to crunch time late in the fourth quarter of these games.
Jackson is learning and progressing with each NBA game. Some positives you can take away from his progression that other rookies seem to struggle with is he is not afraid to shoot the ball and shows a veteran confidence when he is out there.
Frank Mason III is an absolute stud. The No. 34 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, standing at 5-foot-11, is relentless from north to south and will find a spot in the rotation as the season progresses.
Mason’s whole life has been counted out by the “experts” in one way or another, but he has found himself competing for time in the 2nd rotation instead of getting sent down to the G-league affiliate Reno Bighorns.
Harry Giles is the man they call the second coming of Chris Webber. He is a special talent the Kings were able to land late in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft. But the coaching staff and front office are taking their time with Giles’ progression because that’s what a smart organization would do. The Kings are moving in that direction.
Giles will not see any playing time until at least January to monitor the lingering leg injuries he has experienced in the past.
In regards to the team’s second and third year veterans including Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield, and Malachi Richardson, there are a few items to note as we progress further on into the season.
Cauley-Stein has now entered his third season as a pro and what many would consider a year that makes or breaks what a player has to fully offer going forward.
His first game against the Houston Rockets on opening night in Sacramento was spectacular. He posted a double-double, 21 points and 10 rebounds, leaving Kings fans with a sense of optimism.
However, in recent games he has struggled to come down with rebounds consistently in the paint, allowing defenders to gobble up offensive boards for easy second chance opportunities and allow way too many points as the big pick and roll defender. Something needs to change.
So far, Skal Labissiere has lived up to what he showed the last 25 games of last year, which was a confident, dominating force on both sides of the ball.
Shooting at an efficient 51.8 percent from the field through seven games has been very impressive. Especially considering the shots he likes to take are high arching 10-15 foot jumpers, not always the easiest with a hand in your face.
While he has been impressive offensively in only 23 minutes per game, his defense is what really stands out, filling open driving lanes consistently, forcing shooters to alter shots, and laying down volleyball type blocks for his team.
Labissiere has earned a consistent role going into year two and it’s only a matter of time before Labissiere leapfrogs Randolph into the starting rotation at the power forward position.
The key trade piece of last year’s blockbuster Cousins’ trade, Buddy Hield has struggled to find his shot consistently, but has had moments in games where his hot hand was the only thing working for the King’s offense.
Hield is a pure shooter and once he starts to feel his shot, he suddenly can’t miss.
One eye-popping thing to note about Buddy Hield’s development from last year to now is his improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Hield has gotten after it, causing turnovers and tough, low-percentage shots for the opposing shooting guards.
Hield will continue to see time in the first and second rotations, but he must get better with his shot consistency (37% FG) before Joerger can trust him in crunch time.
Poor Malachi Richardson who so far in his young NBA career has gotten the raw end of the deal.
Providing a promising rookie start to last year under Joerger, Richardson had finally broken into the second unit rotation with solid contributions off the bench. However, he went down with a hamstring injury against the Golden State Warriors in February.
As Richardson turned his sights to the 2017-2018 season, the Kings pushed the reset button on their roster, acquiring a total of six shooting guards through free-agency, the draft, and re-signed veterans.
This left Richardson on the outside looking in just trying to find some time to showcase his talents. So far this season, Richardson has seen a collective 59 minutes of play.
For now he must focus on his confidence and ability to produce whenever his number is called upon because, as it stands on the current roster, there is not enough minutes to go around at the position he plays.
Garrett Temple is one of the team’s leaders and arguably most important player on the Kings’ roster. He is posting a career-high of 9.2 points and 1.7 assists per game.
Temple has had moments of his offensive struggles, but has found a way to make up for it consistently on the defensive end of the floor.
Although we aren’t sure what the Kings’ front office plans to do with Temple in the long term plans of this Kings’ youth movement, we are sure of one thing, Garrett Temple will lay it all out there each and every night.
Veteran leadership is extremely important inside a locker room filled with 19, 20, and 21 year old players who do not know how to close out ball games against the NBA’s elite.
This is crucial in the development of the younger players on the roster as they learn and continue to mold their game around high-character veterans such as Temple.
Overall, the top five scorers on the Kings’ roster right now have a combined four years of NBA experience. This tells us that if this team can stay together and learn from one another, the wins will start to follow as the vets continue to push them in the right direction.
The sky is the limit for this youth-movement taking place here in Sacramento as players begin to understand what Dave Joerger is trying to instill in them. Right now after two blowouts, it may not make sense, but this organization has a plan and that’s something to be optimistic about.
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