The Sacramento Kings ended the 2016-2017 season pitted in disappointment. After seemingly losing a blockbuster trade including All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, it was clear the organization was giving up on an immediate attempt at a playoff run in order to rebuild for the future. Going forward, the Kings had very few reliable players left on the roster and would have to look to the Draft and Free Agency to start anew.

From the Draft…

De’Aaron Fox:

Fifth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft; the point guard of the future for the Sacramento Kings. Throughout his college career, he proved to be a very well-rounded leader – averaging nearly 17 points, five assists, four rebounds and a couple of steals per game. Despite these impressive numbers, his leadership and dedication to his team set him apart from other young prospects. Competitiveness may be the most translatable asset a rookie can bring from college and Fox leads the pack.

The key to unlocking Fox’s seemingly limitless ceiling is minutes. In order for Fox to become the leader he is destined to be, he must be thrust into the driver’s seat without hesitation. Once he is comfortable with the competition at the NBA level, his comparisons to John Wall will be silenced as he transcends the fellow Wildcat alumni.

Justin Jackson:

Coming off a fresh NCAA Championship with North Carolina, Jackson was part of a draft-day trade with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Sacramento Kings traded their tenth pick in the draft to the Blazers for their fifteenth and twentieth pick. With these two picks, the Kings selected Jackson and Harry Giles respectively.

The relationship between Fox and Jackson will be a strong determining factor of success. Jackson possesses a very boom-or-bust skill set coming out of college. Although he showed clear progress throughout his three years at UNC — improving defensive IQ, three-point percentage and overall offensive efficiency — he will need to show consistency, grow stronger and continue to improve his mid-post game. If the chemistry between Fox and Jackson is well-approached and developed, they could be a reliable pair on both ends of the floor.

Harry Giles:

Here is the other result from the Trail Blazers trade on draft day.

Giles was a top three prospect in high school. Then, in 2013, he tore his ACL, MCL and Meniscus in his left knee. After recovering and returning to the top of his class, he tore his ACL in his right knee his senior year of high school. Once again, he suffered through rehabilitation and started at Duke University.

In college, he had reoccurring minor injuries to his knees resulting in only 26 games played. However, in this sample, he proved to be a very strong defender with elite rebounding prowess. He showed his quickness allowing him to guard every position off pick-and-roll switches or fast break situations. He has high-twitch reaction speed getting between passes and picking pockets left and right. Craftiness, a 7’3” wingspan and unrelenting effort in the post creates havoc offensively and defensively.

Drafted after one year at Duke to the Kings, the main concern behind this otherwise sure-fire superstardom is his health. Scouted as an athletic big man, risk of re-injury should be the main concern going forward. The Kings will likely red-shirt Giles for his rookie year, understandably, giving him minimal playing time. If the organization can provide Giles enough time to fully rebuild his knees, fully committing to his future, he could be an All-Star later in his career.

Frank Mason III:

Drafted in the second round, Mason has a real case to be the underdog of this draft class. Despite averaging over 20 points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal per game in college, Mason is still considered a sleeper among draft analysts. His largest criticism is his size. However, the last time the Sacramento Kings drafted an undersized guard in the second round, his name was Isaiah Thomas.

In reality, the actual concern behind Frank Mason III is an over-saturation at the point guard position in Sacramento. As stated in regards to Fox, the seperation between a prospect and a proven player is minutes. Whilst it is unlikely he will start for the Kings, it is crucial that he sees playing time off the bench – expect sixth-man upside. 

From Free Agency…

Vince Carter:

Nearing the end of his individually phenomenal career, Vince Carter will likely play a key role in mentoring a very young team in Sacramento. Last season, Carter won the “Most Influential Veteran” Player’s Choice award, which will surely translate in his influence on the promising Kings’ rookies. Although his days of high-flying athleticism are over, he can still contribute with his experience, basketball IQ and three-point shooting – nearly 38-percent last year.

George Hill:

The signing of George Hill to a three year, $57 million deal is the most questionable move of Sacramento’s offseason. Although the last year of this deal is only $1 million guaranteed, it still begs the question what happens with De’Aaron Fox? Seemingly, the two best players on this rebuilding team are point guard, and the 31-year-old will initially earn the start over rookie Fox.

It is possible that Hill could move to the shooting guard spot, providing over 40-percent shooting from deep last season. Shooting has become increasingly essential in modern NBA small-ball, and Fox is not a notable sharpshooter – the duo could be efficient on both sides of the ball. In addition to his on-court talent, Hill also has nine seasons in the NBA under his belt. His assistance should extend off-court in helping rookie guards Fox, Jackson and Mason develop.

Bogdan Bogdanovic:

The Serbian basketball player is an overwhelmingly underrated player coming into the league. His career highlights playing overseas are countless: four-time Serbian League Champion, EuroLeague Champion, All-EuroLeague First-Team, Turkish Cup MVP, the list goes on and on. The 43-percent three-point specialist will be a dark horse making his name in the NBA.

Zach Randolph:

Over the offseason, Randolph was tried for possession of marijuana with intent to sell. Professional repercussions have yet to be announced, but his first impressions with team management in Sacramento are not glowing. Nevertheless, he has tremendous value for the Kings on all things basketball. Randolph is a seasoned vet with experience on winning teams. He will continue to contribute on offense, but his main role will be to aid in developing the young big men.

Pre-existing Assets…

Buddy Hield:

Hield is an early favorite to make a case for Most Improved Player in the 2017-2018 season. Whether there was something holding him back in New Orleans or something pushing him forward in Sacramento, since he was acquired by the Kings last season, every major statistic (other than free throw percentage which dropped to 81-percent) increased dramatically. Hield was given more minutes, and thus, was able to show his talent. Expect further improvements in the upcoming season.

Skal Labissiere:

The young forward shined after the All-Star break when DeMarcus Cousins left Sacramento. Seeing an increase in minutes, Labissiere was able to showcase his tenacity on defense and efficiency on offense. He should blossom into a perfect counterpart to Fox in years to come.

Malachi Richardson:

Every star-studded point guard needs a guard he can kick out to when help defense collapses – this is Malachi Richardson. He is a highly talented role player with major untapped potential. Toward the end of last season, he was able to show off his skill set, knocking down threes, hitting mid-range shots and driving hard in traffic. His developmental ceiling is still yet to be discovered, but he will surely be a reliable scoring option in the Kings’ second team.

Willie Cauley-Stein:

Here is another player who showed his potential after DeMarcus Cousins was shipped out after the All-Star weekend. Nearly all of Cauley-Stein’s major statistics — points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks — tripled after the break. In addition to Buddy Hield, the Kings have two players worth watching for the MIP award at the start of the upcoming season. Willie Cauley-Stein could be a special player, well-rounded on offense and defense, looking to be a focal point on an up-and-coming team.

Garrett Temple:

At a ripe 31-years-old, Temple can flex between reliable shooter, nearly 38-percent from three-point land last season, and experienced veteran. He will likely provide the Kings with scoring and bouts of leadership off the bench.

Final Evaluation…

The Sacramento Kings can look to the future with wide eyes. Despite being in a developmental hole for nearly ten years — with the last playoff appearance for the Kings coming in 2006 — management in Sacramento has taken a step in the right direction. They have several players that have potential to blossom into stars in Fox, Hield, Labissiere and possibly even Giles all compiling the second cheapest roster in the league.

With the NBA currently dominated by a few powerhouse teams, the Kings’ success will come just as those teams regress. A perfect 2017-2018 season for Sacramento would land them a top three pick in next year’s draft in order to acquire a star such as Michael Porter or Marvin Bagley.

Offseason Grade: A

The only misstep keeping the Kings away from a coveted “A+” is the mid-draft trade with the Trail Blazers. Although Sacramento did land two studs with potential in Giles and Jackson, this trade prevented them from drafting De’Aaron Fox’s right-hand man at Kentucky and apparent close friend Malik Monk who was available at the traded pick. Monk not only possesses extreme athleticism and incredible raw talent on offense, his largest attribute had he been drafted to the Kings would have been chemistry with Fox.

Nonetheless, watch for the Sacramento Kings to silence critics in years to come. Greatness is ahead.

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