The Kings were the darlings of the NBA offseason in many ways, deemed among the winners of the draft and free agency and praised for finding a vision for the franchise.
Plenty of intrigue followed their eight first- and second-year players into the Las Vegas summer league. Six games provided plenty of reminders of their youth, but there were also encouraging signs. Here are the three lessons we learned about where this group stands before the Kings’ next step: training camp in September.
Three of the rookies should help soon
De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Frank Mason III showed why the Kings are high on their potential. Fox’s speed could already put him among the fastest players in the NBA. Jackson is an old soul on the court. The small forward already shows he can be trusted to know what to do in most situations. The same could be said of Mason, a steadying influence in the summer league setting, which is telling considering the lack of time the group had together.
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Fox and Jackson figure to be in the rotation to start the season. Mason will be the third point guard to go with Fox and veteran George Hill, but it’s not inconceivable there will be nights Mason plays ahead of Fox.
Second-year players still need a lot of time
Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis had up-and-down moments, a reminder of their inexperience. They spent a lot of time with the Reno Bighorns last season, and there were times in summer league they looked like they were still trying to find their comfort zone in the NBA.
Of the second-year players, only Buddy Hield has the advantage of an entire season’s experience in the NBA, so even when he struggled with his shooting in Las Vegas, there was a confidence and belief he’d find his way. He’s shown he can do that against NBA talent with some regularity.
For Labissiere and Papagiannis, that will only come with time. Labissiere is closer, but he’ll still have moments of struggle as he figures out what works best for him in the NBA.
Papagiannis struggled holding on to the ball in crowds, and his summer ended with a hard fall and bruised glute muscle. He could spend time in the development league next season, especially with the Kings’ depth at center.
The Kings will play it extra safe with the youngsters
Rookie Harry Giles practiced but never played and second-year guard Malachi Richardson played in only one game before being shut down with a hamstring injury.
The Kings also kept Fox and Mason out at the end of summer league with injuries they said weren’t considered serious. They weren’t going to risk anything.
The Kings will take their time with Giles, who was slowed in college while recovering from knee surgeries.
Richardson missed the final 25 games of the season with partially torn right hamstring, the same one he tweaked in the summer league opener.