Sacramento Kings Season Preview

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The stage has been set for the Kings to build a winning team.  Youthful holdovers Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere and  Willie Cauley-Stein should combine with a good draft class to provide the beginning of a growth arc that could pay dividends a few seasons from now. The influx of stars (George, Butler, Millsap, Anthony) from the Eastern Conference has strengthened an already powerful West, so the Kings are not likely to match last season’s 33 win total.  But that should be immaterial; the Kings don’t need to be chasing wins this season.  Player development should be the only goal.
What Worked Last Season:
The easy answer is that since the Kings failed to make the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season, very little worked.  However, one major midseason change was made that potentially marked the start of a long-term change to the history of futility.  Management determined that it was not going to be possible to build a winning team with DeMarcus Cousins as the centerpiece. (The Kings had very little in the way of upcoming draft picks, free agents generally did not wish to come to play alongside Cousins, and there was no one with significant trade value outside of Cousins). So DMC was traded with Omri Casspi to New Orleans at the All-Star break for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and first- and second- round 2017 draft picks. Obviously, the Kings did not receive equal talent in return, but GM Vlade Divac stated: ” It was time for a change and this was the best direction for the team. Winning begins with culture and character matters.”   Consistent with that view, the Kings soon also waived Matt Barnes.  After the trade, Hield (whose time with the Pelicans had been dismal), Labissiere and Cauley-Stein all demonstrated encouraging improvement.
What Needs Improvement
The Kings re-tool has set the stage for long-term improvement.  The team now has a collection of nice young role players and a potential future star in De’Aaron Fox.  If ownership commits to letting the front office stay with the plan of organic growth, the Kings’ future can be bright.  Avoiding chasing the fool’s gold of high-priced talent that is not a good talent- or timeline- fit will be essential to that growth.
Offseason Changes
The most important changes are rookies Fox, Frank Mason, Justin Jackson and Bogdan Bogdanovich, each of whom can be key contributors this season and in the future.  Harry Giles is another player with potential but is much more of an unknown due to his injury history.  While in high school, he was considered a likely high lottery pick but injuries have drastically impacted his abilities.  If he can recover his athleticism, he could turn out to be a second-round steal.
The Kings also brought in veterans Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill, ostensibly to “mentor” the young corps and to provide some stability. It was a somewhat risky move since those three may significantly cut into the youngsters’ floor time and therefore their development.  In addition, if they add three or four wins they could jeopardize the Kings’ ability to land a top tier player in the 2018 draft, which is of paramount importance since the Kings do not have a 1st round pick in 2019.
Additions:
* George Hill
* De’Aaron Fox
* Frank Mason
* Bogdan Bogdanovic
* Justin Jackson
 *Vince Carter
* Zach Randolph
* Harry Giles
* Jack Cooley
Subtractions: 
* Aaron Afflalo
* Darren Collison
* Tyreke Evans
* Langston Galloway
* Rudy Gay
* Ty Lawson
* Ben McLemore
* Anthony Tolliver
2017-18 Prediction
Vegas has set the Kings over/under at 28 1/2, which is about right for this young team.  If the vets get significant playing time, the Kings might get to thirty wins but that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.  The key to the franchise future is player development and patience.
2018 promises to have a strong-at-the-top draft.  With Marvin Bagley III’s reclassification, there could be as many as six top-tier talents, so the Kings chances of getting one are good.  This is likely to be a season that provides answers to questions about the players the Kings would like to build around.  Is Buddy Hield a one-trick pony?  Can Skal Labissiere get strong enough to be a consistent contributor?  Can Cauley-Stein add to his offensive repertoire to go along with his defensive versatility?  Will speedy De’Aaron Fox shoot well enough to justify his lofty draft selection?  The “process” has started.  Patience is now the key.
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