With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.
Today, we're looking at the Sacramento Kings.
2018-19 season record
39-43 (9th in the Western Conference)
Projected 2019-20 season record
39-43 (11th in the Western Conference)
Cory Joseph (free agency)
Trevor Ariza (free agency)
Tyler Lydon (free agency)
Richaun Holmes (free agency)
Dewayne Dedmon (free agency)
Kyle Guy (No. 55 pick, via trade from Knicks)
Justin James (draft)
Vanja Marinkovic (draft)
Alec Burks (signed with Warriors)
Frank Mason (waived)
B.J. Johnson (waived)
Willie Cauley-Stein (signed with Warriors)
Kosta Koufos (signed with CSKA Moscow)
Corey Brewer (unrestricted)
Troy Williams (unrestricted)
|PG||De'Aaron Fox||Cory Joseph||Yogi Ferrell||Kyle Guy|
|SG||Buddy Hield||Bogdan Bogdanovic||Justin James|
|SF||Harrison Barnes||Trevor Ariza||Troy Williams|
|PF||Marvin Bagley III||Nemanja Bjelica||Richaun Holmes|
|C||Dewayne Dedmon||Harry Giles III||Caleb Swanigan|
3 key storylines
Can Bogdan Bogdanovic make a leap?
Both De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield made huge leaps in production last season. It's Bogdan Bogdanovic's turn. Bogdanovic is primed and ready for a breakout season with a defined role as a sixth man and coming off a strong summer in which he finished as the leading scorer at the FIBA World Cup.
Bogdanovic should thrive in a reserver role that he's probably overqualified for, but stuck in thanks to the presence of De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes. It could be a blessing in disguise.
With the second unit, Bogdanovic has more shots and more opportunities to use his playmaking ability. The most optimistic might envision a scorign and playmaking load akin to James Harden with the Thunder or more recently Lou Williams on the Clippers. He may start on the bench, but he's perfectly capable of closing games for Sacramento alongside Fox and Hield especially if new coach Luke Walton opts to go small and slide Barnes up to power forward alongside Bagley.
The temptation to play Bogdanovic alongside Fox and Hield is tantalizing on the offensive end. But while the three-guard lineup is a nightmare on offence for opposing teams, they must find a way to defend better. In the 614 minutes they played together last season, the Kings surrendered 108.9 points per 100 possessions which over the course of the season would have ranked in the bottom half of the league. For a fun League Pass team, that's fine. For a team looking to make the playoffs in a crowded Western Conference, that's not going to cut it.
Can Bogdanovic channel that play from the Serbia national team at the FIBA World Cup and translate it to the Kings? Can he defend at a high enough level to help elevate the Kings to a place they haven't been in over a decade?
How will the vets fit in?
The Kings acquired Harrison Barnes at last year's trade deadline. He was supposed to be the veteran leader the lockerroom needed for their playoff push. Things didn't quite go as planned as the Kings went 11-17 after Barnes joined the team and slid out of the playoff picture.
But while last season may not have gone according to plan, Barnes figures to play a large role moving forward after signing a four-year, $88 million dollar contract in the offseason to remain in Sacramento. He's a former starter on an NBA champion and now he has some help in guiding along the youngsters.
Kings GM Vlade Divac went out and added Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon. In Joseph and Ariza he found two players who alongside Barnes know what it takes to win a championship. In Dedmon, he gets a flat out professional who'll be a key part of the Kings rotation.
Let's face it the team will only go as far as the young core will take them.
But winning in the NBA is a learnt skill which Barnes, Joseph, Ariza and Dedmon can certainly teach and should prove critical to a Kings team looking for a long-awaited return to the postseason.
Is Luke Walton the right coach?
Luke Walton came to the Los Angeles Lakers with a lot of promise. After leading the Warriors to a 39-4 start as an interim head coach during their record-setting campaign in 2015-16 while Steve Kerr was out recovering from back surgery, Walton became the hot new hire that was going to lead the Lakers next dynasty.
In his three seasons in L.A., he finished below .500 every year and failed to get the Lakers back to the postseason. He and the team parted ways in April, but it took all of three days for the Kings to scoop him up and anoint him their leader moving forward.
David Joerger led the Kings to 39 wins last year, their best record since they went 44-38 under Rick Adelman in 2005-06. Things seemed to be going in the right direction, but Divac made the move to remove Joerger and bring in Walton. The one thing that Joerger and Divac never had was a truly unified front. Sacramento now believes it has that with Divac and Walton.
Both of them seem to be on the same page heading into the 2019-20 season. And if you believe the reports that Joerger and former assistant general manager Brandon Williams fought all year, then that's a huge positive for a team trying to regain relevance in the tough Western Conference.
Walton was brought in to elevate the Kings. They're right on the cusp of returning to the playoffs. They have a solid young core and a group of vets who are ready to help get the young group to the next level. Walton's first year as the head man will be telling. Is he the guy that led the Warriors to a 39-4 record or is he the guy that often looked overwhelmed with the Lakers?
He may get a pass in his first year, but getting back to the playoffs has to happen for Sacramento and fast.
5 games to watch
Oct. 25 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
The home opener and a good chance to set the tone early in the season against a team that will likely be a playoff team in the Western Conference. It will also be a good early chance for the Kings to see how deep they can go with their lineup. Walton has said in the preseason he expects to at times go ten deep with his rotation if he's comfortable doing that consistently and against quality teams like the Blazers, the Kings will be a pleasant surprise in the West.
Nov. 15 at Los Angeles Lakers
Luke Walton's first game back in L.A. with his new team. Walton will no doubt be up for his first game against his former team and he'll definitely want to leave there with a win. He doesn't suit up however and it will be up to the players on his team to get the job done. How motivated will his new bunch be to beat his old squad? This game will go a long way in telling how much the Kings are willing to lay it on the line for their coach.
Nov. 27 at Philadelphia 76ers
The Kings will make their lone trip to the city of Brotherly Love in late November and by then it will be the perfect time to figure out what they have with their year's version of the team. The 76ers are expected to be one of the best teams out East and they also have one of the toughest home courts to grab a win from. Can the young Kings who will be playing the final game of a four-game East Coast road trip grind one out in Philly?
Dec. 31 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
The final game of the 2019 calendar portion of the season is against the team who many are expecting to win the NBA championship. If the Kings want to find out the level they'll have to go to, to become a contender in the West look no further than the Kawhi-PG13 led Clippers.
Jan. 10 vs Milwaukee Bucks
The reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo makes his only trip to Sactown. It will certainly big a hot ticket especially since last year's game went to overtime with the Bucks winning 141-140.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.