Optimism is high for the Kings this season. Not because they’re expected to make the playoffs or threaten the dominance of the Golden State Warriors, but because the team is so different from past years.
The Kings are young – very young. Expected to be on the opening-night roster are 10 players who have no more than three years of NBA experience, including five rookies. It’s the first time since 2010 that DeMarcus Cousins will not be in camp, so there is a lot of intrigue about what personality these Kings will adopt.
Here are five questions to think about with training camp opening Tuesday.
Q: Should it be a given De’Aaron Fox will start?
A: No. George Hill is the team’s best point guard and the player who gives the Kings the best chance to win. That’s not to say Fox will not have a significant role, but it would be wrong to pencil him in for 30-plus minutes a night right away.
If the plan is to give Fox the best chance at success, that might mean letting him playing him against second-unit guards to start his career. After all, the Kings open the season against Houston, which will mean a lot of Chris Paul and James Harden. Welcome to the league, rookie.
Q: Which position will be the toughest to sort out for coach Dave Joerger?
A: Shooting guard. The Kings return Buddy Hield, who showed he could be a scorer in 25 games with Sacramento and was an All-Rookie First-Team selection. Still, that doesn’t mean the Kings have found their long-term answer at off guard.
Bogdan Bogdanovic joins the roster after a successful run playing overseas and after signing a three-year deal will be expected to play a key role. Malachi Richardson should be ready to contribute after a hamstring injury ended his rookie season. Veteran Garrett Temple can play shooting guard, and, in a pinch, Vince Carter can slide into the backcourt. No amount of creativity with the rotation will provide enough minutes to keep everyone happy.
Q: Which rookie makes sense as a starter?
A: Justin Jackson. But that’s not to say it’s a certainty.
Going with Carter or Temple to open games on the wing makes a lot of sense. But if Joerger opts to go with length and a player who doesn’t need the ball to be effective, Jackson is most prepared to step in and do that as a rookie. Jackson impressed coaches with his ability to pick up the offense and defense during summer league and looked like a player who would blend in with a group of veterans.
Q: What do the Kings need from Willie Cauley-Stein?
A: They need him to be the player he was most nights after the All-Star break.
The 7-foot center was always athletic, but he showed he could be counted on to provide scoring and rebounding as both totals increased steadily over the final 25 games. He averaged 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds after the break. Cauley-Stein must enter his third season ready to be a starter and continue to progress.
Q: Which Kings are long-term projects right now?
A: The Kings held Harry Giles out of summer league so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the rookie spend a lot of time with the Reno Bighorns of the G-League as he works back from a knee injury that hampered his freshman season at Duke. The Kings aren’t lacking depth at forward with Skal Labissiere and Zach Randolph on the team, so there’s no reason to rush Giles onto the court.
Georgios Papagiannis is entering his second season, but he’s also a candidate to spend time in Reno, because playing is paramount to development. With Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos on the roster, there aren’t a lot of minutes left at center for Papagiannis.
- What: Kings training camp
- When: Media day is Monday; practice begins Tuesday
- Where: Golden 1 Center practice facility
- Preseason opener: Oct. 2 vs. San Antonio, 7 p.m.
- Season opener: Oct. 18 vs. Houston, 7 p.m.
Kings training camp roster
Frank Mason III