The Kings selected Marvin Bagley III as the second overall pick in the 2018 draft. In his loan collegiate season at Duke, he’d averaged 21 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 blocks and 0.8 steals, was a consensus All-American First Team selection, the winner of the Pete Newell Big Man Award, was the ACC Rookie of the Year, the ACC Player of the Year and was selected on the All-ACC First Team. An impressive resume which, unsurprisingly, translated to lofty expectations of the 6-11 power forward.
Alongside Bagley, the Kings also had two other young studs on their roster: De’Aaron Fox, the speedy and freakishly athletic point guard selected fifth in the 2017 draft and Harry Giles, the slightly undersized center, taken at number 20 in the same year.
With a collection of young, quality talent on the roster, many looked at last season as an opportunity for the young Kings to take a step forward.
An oft-mocked franchise due to organisational dysfunction, it seemed that California’s capital team had finally turned a corner… until (then) head coach Dave Joerger and assistant GM Brandon Williams, clashed over Bagley’s minutes (Williams wanted more for the star rookie, Joerger wanted to win).
The team got a decent start, with a record of 26-25 in their first 51 games, the Kings faded and went 13-18 to finish the season. They picked up Harrison Barnes at the trade deadline (partway through a game in fact), but ultimately missed the Playoffs and finished ninth in the Western Conference – seven games behind the eighth-seeded Clippers.
Still, it was the franchises best record since 2006… Joerger was promptly fired as the season ended.
This season should be a fun one for the Kings. They have their energetic young core of Fox-Bagley-Giles, surrounded by other talented players including; Bogdan Bogdanović, Buddy Hield and rookie Kyle Guy.
In addition, the Kings have a number of seasoned veterans to mentor their future stars. The likes of Trevor Ariza and Harrison Barnes will be crucial in guiding the young guys through what will be a difficult season in terms of opposing talent, with the newly super-charged Lakers and Clippers in their division, along with Stephen Curry and company in Golden State.
However, this is not a season of particularly high expectations for the Kings, hence why it will be fun. It will be entertaining to see them run the floor, firing on all cylinders at lightning speed (they ranked fifth in pace last year).
The beauty of having lower expectations is that the Kings can focus on the positives that they go through this season, without the pressure of trying to win weighing on their backs. Provided that nobody sustains an injury, the Kings should make steady progress this year building on the baby steps they made last year.
Fox has to be one of the most exciting point guards in the league today. He was so impressive on the USA’s select team that he actually got moved into the full team back in August and was consistently mentioned as one of the most impressive guys at the team camp. Coming off of a much improved sophomore season – 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals per game – with a 49.7 percent effective field goal percentage, he looks set to take another leap this year leading the young Kings. Could this be the year that the lefty makes an All-Star team? It’s a long shot in a Western Conference loaded with superstar point gods, but Fox really is that good.
We know that effective three-point shooting is key to any NBA Championship in the last five years, and the Kings have this in spades. They have four guys on their roster who shoot above a 40 percent clip from deep (Hield, Ben McLemore, Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica) and Fox isn’t far behind at 37 percent.
With the Kings’ ability to spread the floor along with the luxury of having two of the most dominant young-bigs in the league (Bagley and Giles) the Kings are going to be a difficult test for any team that can’t match their speed, ability from beyond the arc and their athleticism inside the paint.
They ranked fourth in three point percentage last season. But of course, you can only make what you take, and the Kings will need to improve drastically on their 29.9 attempts per game which ranked a lowly 21st overall. Perhaps a change in head coach, with the arrival of Luke Walton, will help them improve with his past experience with the Golden State Warriors.
Hopefully it won’t be long before the NBA realises its mistake in only scheduling one nationally televised game for the Kings. They are going to be lightning quick up and down the court with Fox fully taking the reins and being the heartbeat of the team.
De’Aaron Fox | 17.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 7.3 apg
Cornerstone of the franchise, the Kings’ future hinges on Fox’s development.
Buddy Hield | 20.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.5 apg
“Shooters gonna shoot” epitomises Buddy Hield. Deadly from three-point range (career 42 percent from deep), his sole purpose on this team is to get buckets. After a big jump in his points per game from 2017-18 to 2018-19 (13.5 to 20.7), Kings fans will hope that Buddy just keeps cooking.
Marvin Bagley III | 14.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.0 apg
Bagley needs to continue to improve after a decent rookie outing. He’s a threat down low and has the potential to become the defensive pillar of this franchise.
Harrison Barnes | 16.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg
His biggest job this season will be to defend the other teams ‘best-guy’ in crucial moments. Barnes is not quite a lock-down defender but it is one of his strengths and at 6-8 the team will need both elements of his 3 and D qualities.
Bogdan Bogdanović | 14.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.8 bpg
Bogdanović can be the X-Factor for this team. Having fully recovered from his knee injury and shown out at the FIBA World Cup, he’s likely to challenge Hield for minutes at the two. The 27-year-old Serbian can provide the Kings with the leadership and quality they’re looking for to anchor their second unit on the floor.