NBA scouts said during much of last season that 2017 NBA draft would have several point guards who could change the fortunes of a franchise.
So how do the Kings feel about the point guard they selected fifth overall, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox?
“We got the best one, without a doubt,” said Kings summer league coach Jason March.
Philadelphia (Markelle Fultz), the Los Angeles Lakers (Lonzo Ball) and Dallas (Dennis Smith Jr.) would probably all say the same thing about their young point guards, all of whom had their moments of stellar play during the summer.
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But Fox is wise enough to know summer league statistics mean nothing when teams begin training camp in September. The Kings are done with summer league following their 93-87 win over Phoenix in a consolation game Friday at Cox Pavilion.
The Kings went 2-4 in summer league.
Fox sat out to rest a sore ankle that’s not a serious injury. Now his attention shifts to the regular season, where he and an impressive class of young playmakers look to make good on the promise they’ve shown.
“Coming in we knew it was going to be a great point guard class and in summer league we proved it,” Fox said. “None of this matters at the end of the day, what matters is what we do when we actually get in the league in the regular season.”
Why do the Kings believe they have the best of the bunch? Fox’s speed is elite and he shows flashes of being an elite defender.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac said last month the Kings would have selected Fox first, had they had the top pick in the draft.
“First of all, we got the guy we wanted and I think he wanted us, I think he’s made that clear and we got the best one and we’re very excited,” March said. “With that said, there’s some talented young men, it was incredible watching these guys.”
And each of the young guards has things to work on before the regular season.
Fox said 3-point shooting will be a focus. Perimeter shooting was also the major knock against him coming into the draft.
“I feel like I came out and showed I could make the midrange shot on the move,” Fox said. “Defensively I felt like I was fine. The physicality part is something I know is going to be different.”
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The player who benefited most from injuries to Fox and Frank Mason III was guard Naz Mitrou-Long, an undrafted rookie from Iowa State. He played more with the two draft picks in-and-out the lineup and started against the Suns. He notched 21 points, six rebounds and five assists serving as the Kings’ primary ballhandler on Friday.
He was also active on defense. Mitrou-Long was credited with only one steal, but he was able to deflect passes and be a nuisance.
The Kings are stacked at point guard, but that doesn’t mean Mitrou-Long could not earn himself an invitation to training camp with Sacramento, or even another squad. The Kings are Mitrou-Long second’s summer-league team. He played for Indiana in the Orlando summer league.
Forwards Jack Cooley and JaKarr Sampson and guard Luis Montero are other players who would be unsurprising to see in training camp.
The new two-way contracts under the latest collective bargaining agreement allow teams to have two players who can split time between the NBA and G League and not count against the 15-man roster.
Justin Jackson’s 29 points were the most for a King in summer league. Throughout summer league play, Jackson showed why he’ll earn the trust of the coaching staff quickly.
He finds ways to score, even if a play isn’t run for him. He has picked up on the defensive concepts quickly and is the kind of player who seems to try to make the right play.