This article is part of The Benchmob’s 2017-18 NBA Season Preview, which can be found here.
In a Word: It hasn’t been easy being a Kings fan these last 10 years. No playoff appearances since the Adelman era. Zero coaching continuity. Trading Boogie. Dissension in the front office. You know it’s gotten bad when one of your owners has suggested playing with 4 men on defense and leaving a cherry-picker down at the other end of the floor because he “saw it work in an AAU girls game.” Even the New York Knicks haven’t dealt with the level of ineptitude that has plagued Sacramento in recent years.
The Kings took a major step forward this summer by going all-in on the draft and then signed several veteran free agents to lead their young core. These moves may not translate to much in the win column this season, but Sacramento is finally moving in the right direction and that in itself should be enough to excite the fans of this franchise.
New Faces: Where do we even begin? It looks like an entirely new locker room in Sacramento after this summer. The Kings had a great draft, beginning with their selection of De’Aaron Fox with the 5th overall pick. On top of his remarkable athleticism and defensive capabilities, Fox possesses leadership qualities that we rarely see in most one-and-done guys.
The Kings also traded their way to two additional top-20 picks, which they used to take Justin Jackson out of UNC at 15 and Duke’s Harry Giles at 20. Giles has a lot to prove after a largely disappointing college season (albeit one riddled with injuries), but you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy from this class with a higher ceiling than the 6’10” PF who at one time was considered a lock to be the first overall selection. Sacramento also brings in two proven college talents in Jackson and Kansas’ Frank Mason, both of whom will look to carve out meaningful rotation minutes next year.
Afterward, Sacramento made a splash in free agency by signing veterans George Hill, Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph who will be looked upon to lead a Kings’ locker room that was entirely devoid of seasoned voices in recent years. Serbian SG Bogdan Bogdanovic also officially signed with the Kings in July after Sacramento had acquired his rights from the Suns last summer.
Key Losses: The Kings said goodbye to quite a few names both during and after the 2016-17 season, including Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Langston Galloway, Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver, Darren Collison, and Ty Lawson. Judging by this list of names, it’s pretty clear what direction the Kings are looking to move in.
Asset Management: Sacramento’s draft assets are mostly a wash for the next three seasons. They’ll receive 3 second-rounders (some with contingencies) over that span, but will lose both 2019 picks (their first-round pick to either Philadelphia or Boston, and their second round pick to Philadelphia).
The Kings will enter 2017-18 with salaries totaling roughly $10M below the salary cap, but thanks to $6M in dead money (Matt Barnes, Anthony Tolliver, Aaron Afflalo, and Caron Butler) and a $4.4M cap hold, they will actually end up right around the mark.
The Kings will have several rookie contract club options to pick up over the next two years, and Cauley-Stein will be up for an extension in 2019. Other than Vince Carter who will become a free agent after this season, there is little Sacramento will be able to do with its roster makeup (outside of next year’s draft) until 2019 because they’ll be right around the CAP again.
2017-18 Outlook: The Kings have done a solid job of reassembling their core in the post-DeMarcus Cousins days. Thanks to virtually everyone getting better in the west, however, it’s hard to see them improving much on last season’s 32 wins.
Solid core pieces like Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere are joined by Kentucky standout De’Aaron Fox plus UNC upperclassman Justin Jackson – and on top of that, the Kings went out and got veterans in George Hill and Zach Randolph. Side note: I’m really excited to see how Dave Joerger deploys Fox – specifically, when Hill is on the floor. Fox is unquestionably the future of this franchise so expect to see a ton of two-PG lineups this year.
Combine all these with some decent role players like Garrett Temple, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kosta Koufos, and at the very least it seems like the Kings won’t be in direct contention for the cellar in their division or the conference. How many games they win will depend in part on the health of guys like Hill and Randolph, and on whether they’re in a position to tank later on in the season, but they seem like a near-lock for third in the Pacific Division for the third straight year.
2017-18 Projected W/L: 31-51