2019–2020 NBA Season Previews: Sacramento Kings
Head Coach: Luke Walton
Last Season: 39–43, 9th in Western Conference
- PG: De’Aaron Fox
- SG: Buddy Hield
- SF: Harrison Barnes
- PF: Marvin Bagley III
- C: Dewayne Dedmon
Additions: Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon, Kyle Guy (R), Richaun Holmes, Justin James (R), Cory Joseph, Tyler Lydon.
Losses: Corey Brewer, Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein, B.J. Johnson, Kosta Koufos, Frank Mason III, Troy Williams.
The Sacramento Kings surprised a lot of people, including myself, with a 39-win, ninth-place finish this past season. Their improvement was due largely in part to the play of their backcourt duo of De’Aaron Fox, (who I believe should have won Most Improved Player), and Buddy Hield, who was just inked to a four-year, $86 million extension.
Fox improved in just about every major statistical category and has all-star potential, while Hield continued to showcase his markmanship from beyond-the-arc. Hield shot a blazing 42.7 percent from deep and averaged more than 20 points per game for the first time in his career. On top of their statisitcal progressions, the two guards’ play styles compliment each other very well as well.
Outside of Fox and Hield, there are many new faces in the organization. The Kings decided to make a change at head coach and bring in Luke Walton, who was fired by the Lakers at the end of last season. While that isn’t a welcoming sign, Walton is a good coach who has the potential to thrive in a different environment.
In terms of new players, it was evident this past off-season that Sacramento wanted to surround their young core with veterans. Sacramento brought in Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph, and re-signed Harrison Barnes to a four-year, $85 million contract.
While they may bring playoff experience and championship pedigree to the table, I believe Ariza and Barnes were two of the worst off-season signings in the entire league. According to the CARMELO market value provided by fivethirtyeight.com, Barnes and Ariza will earn a combined $28.7 million more than their combined market value ($2.5 million) next season.
While Barnes has posted solid face value numbers throughout his career (16.4 points per game last season), the ball tends to stick to him when he is on the floor as he struggles with his vision and shot selection. His efficiency has been spotty throughout his tenure in the NBA from a scoring standpoint. His strength is supposedly his isolation offense, yet Barnes ranks in the 44th percentile in iso offense and in the 32nd percentile in postups. While he is a solid spot-up shooter, he is not worth the investment the Kings made for his services.
With Ariza, the simple answer is that he is past his prime. His shooting numbers took a dip last season and he has lost a step on the defensive end as well. He will provide a soild presence in the locker room as a veteran leader, but $12.2 million for the upcoming season seems like a reach for a player at Ariza’s level.
With Dedmon and Joseph, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. Dedmon is a solid presence down low defensively who also converted on 38 percent of his triples last season. Joseph is also disruptive on the defensive end and more than capable of running an offense. The eight year veteran has a pass-first mentality and should provide quality backup minutes to Fox.
Another young player to keep an eye on is Bogdan Bogdanovic. The two-year veteran helped stabilize the second unit for Sacramento last year and averaged 14 points per game on 36% from long range. While his efficiency on offense, which may have been a result of being thrown into an up-tempo offense fresh out of knee surgery, his defense improved from his rookie year. Per James Ham of nbcsports.com, Bogdanovic held his opponents to -1.4 percent in his sophomore season after allowing a +2.8 percent as a rookie. He posted a similar improvement from 15 feet out, improving from a +3.3 percent to a -2.3. Bogdanovic is an interesting prospect to watch out for for the Kings, and should continue to improve on both ends moving forward.
X-Factor: Marvin Bagley III
How the Kings perform this season will significantly depend on how their young players progress, especially Bagley. The second year forward and former ACC Player of the Year will look to make strides on both ends of the floor after a rookie season where he averaged a shade under 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Bagley’s biggest strengths are his athleticism, post scoring and rebounding, but the key going forward will be how much he develops as a shooter and defender. The former Duke Blue Devil is more than capable of knocking down an open 3-pointer, but struggled with consistency as he capitalized on just 31% of his attempts last season. He’s also limited defensively due to a lack of arm length and doesn’t provide much in the way of rim protection.
Can the Kings make the playoffs?
Although I have them near the cellar of the Western Conference, the wild west will be ultra competitive from top to bottom and several teams will be separated by just a few games. Although the Kings finished nine games out of the eighth spot last season, they battled for most of the season for that final playoff spot and exceeded expectations. If the role players produce more than expected and Fox, Hield and Bagley all take another big step, the Kings could once again surprise a lot of people.
How much will De’Aaron Fox continue to improve?
It’s no secret that Fox made strides in his second season in the NBA. He did a much better job running the offense in his sophomore season and drastically improved his scoring efficiency. Fox got his teammates involved much more this past season and operated better without the ball, which helped increase his scoring abilities. The former Kentucky point guard is quickly becoming a matchup nightmare for his opponents, as his quickness and court vision put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.
While his half court offense and overall scoring efficiency still need polished, Fox is on the cusp of becoming one of the NBA’s premier floor generals. His continued development should only lead to the same from the team.
The Kings have been notorious for making questionable moves and being downright dysfunctional in recent years, but last year appeared to be a major step in the right direction. Fans finally had something to be excited about last season after years of turmoil within the franchise.
That being said, I wouldn’t get too excited about this team just yet. Vlade Divac added experience in the off-season, but they aren’t quite ready to make the leap into the playoffs just yet. I have the Kings as one of the worst teams in the conference, and while they could find themselves a few spots higher in the end, the playoffs would be a reach. Teams will be more prepared for Sacramento this year after the Kings surprised and snuck up on a lot of their opponents last season.