There are some key dates, details and storylines for Kings fans to keep in mind as the team prepares to open training camp this weekend in Sacramento.
Coach Luke Walton will go on the record with reporters for the first time since his introductory news conference more than five months ago. Coaches and front-office executives will watch closely to assess the progress of returning players and the fit of their free-agent acquisitions. Fans want to know if Marvin Bagley III is ready for the starting lineup, how many 3-pointers the Kings will shoot and whether Buddy Hield’s pockets are about to get fatter.
Those questions and more will be addressed beginning Friday when the Kings hold their annual media day before starting training camp Saturday at their Golden 1 Center practice facility. They are one of four teams that will be permitted to open camp three days earlier than most NBA teams because of their preseason games outside of North America.
The Kings will hold a shortened three-day camp in Sacramento before boarding a 19-hour flight to India, where they will play two preseason games against the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 4-5. They will play host to the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 10, visit the Utah Jazz on Oct. 14 and conclude their preseason schedule at home against Melbourne United on Oct. 16.
Hield’s future in Sacramento will be one of the big focal points for the Kings and their fans. The 26-year-old sharpshooter is eligible for a rookie-scale contract extension that could pay him up to $158.1 million over five years. The team will likely try to reach an agreement in the range of $20 to $25 million annually. If the Kings don’t sign Hield to an extension by Oct. 21 – the day before the 2019-20 season begins – they will have to wait until next summer to deal with him as a restricted free agent.
Most envision a starting lineup featuring De’Aaron Fox and Hield as one of the league’s most dynamic backcourts, with Harrison Barnes at small forward, Bagley at power forward and Dewayne Dedmon at center. Bagley could be poised for a breakout season after starting only four games as a rookie.
Former coach Dave Joerger opted to start Nemanja Bjelica instead of Bagley, saying the team needed a shooter alongside former center Willie Cauley-Stein to create space for Fox. The acquisition of Dedmon as a stretch-five alleviated that concern, clearing the way for Bagley to become a starter while he works to improve his own perimeter game after shooting 31.3 percent from 3-point range last season.
Bagley, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, will have to become more willing to pass and more sound defensively, but he is regarded as a potential All-Star. Offensively, Walton sees Bagley sliding into Cauley-Stein’s role as a rim runner in transition, with Dedmon trailing the break, spotting up for open 3-pointers as Bjelica did last season.
Many in the Kings organization are excited about a second unit that will likely feature Bogdan Bogdanovic, Cory Joseph and Yogi Ferrell in the backcourt with Trevor Ariza, Bjelica, Harry Giles III and Richaun Holmes at the forward and center spots. Barnes and Ariza will get minutes at power forward in small-ball lineups, adding to a potential logjam in the frontcourt.
When Walton was introduced as the Kings head coach in April, he said he wanted the team to improve defensively and shoot more 3-pointers. Walton hasn’t spoken publicly since a former Southern California television sports reporter filed a civil lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault on April 22.
Walton has not told players how many 3s he wants them to shoot each game, but he has a number in mind. The Kings were fourth in the NBA in 3-point shooting (.378) last season, but they were tied for 20th in 3-point attempts per game (29.9).
Fans can expect the Kings to shoot well over 30 3-pointers per game this season. They won’t shoot nearly as many as the Houston Rockets, who led the league at 45.4 3-point attempts per game last season, but Sacramento should rank in the top 10 if Walton gets his wish.
Sacramento Kings preseason schedule
Oct. 4 vs. Indiana Pacers, 6:30 a.m. (India)
Oct. 5 vs. Indiana Pacers, 6:30 a.m. (India)
Oct. 10 at Phoenix Suns, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Utah Jazz, 6 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Melbourne United, 7 p.m.