Pace and Space

Smart NBA talk for smart NBA fans.

Is This 2018 NBA Team Any Good?: Sacramento Kings

By Fox Doucette
Sep. 21, 2017

by Fox Doucette

Sacramento traded away its best player, admitting that the Boogie Cousins Era was just seven years of having a great-stats-bad-team guy on a squad going nowhere. They were 24-33 at the time of the trade; they went 8-17 after the trade.

That's the squad they're going to run out this year, a team on a 26-win pace, to try and clear the low bar of their 28.5 over/under.

Which leaves only one question...is De'Aaron Fox going to be Sacramento's savior?

I sure hope so, because five is my lucky number and if you think I'm not buying Fox's replica jersey, you don't know me very well.

Stats by Basketball Reference and over/under by Sports Insights, so let's set the canoe of truth down the American River to California's capital.

2016-17 record: 32-50

2018 over/under: 28.5.

De'Aaron Fox, The Clowner of Lonzo

Man, footage of that Sweet 16 game between Kentucky and UCLA never gets old, does it? For all of us drinking the haterade (fun fact: I named my home network “LaVar Ball's Jump Shot”), it's going to be fun watching the Kings clown the Lakers when those two rooks square off, isn't it?

Fox's jumper may not be ready for prime time (he shot a wretched 24.6 percent from three in his one year in college), but despite that weakness, he still made 47.8 percent of his shots overall, which just screams “potential if he's coached right.”

If he's coached right. In Sacramento. Ummm...whoops.

On the other hand, he'll be George Hill's understudy, and Hill just topped 40 percent from long range for the second straight year.

Veteran Leadership

In addition to Hill, the Kings also landed Zach Randolph, who's still a great rebounder (his 12.1 boards per 36 minutes matched his career high) and defender (a 106 DefRtg in a year the league average was 109). Z-Bo may be well on the downside of his career, but he's going to teach guys like Willie Cauley-Stein how to be pro-quality rim protectors.

Plus, they have The Ageless Vince Carter™, who is six months older than your columnist and turns 41 during the season. The 1999 Rookie of the Year (!) will be around to keep putting highlights on SportsCenter and showing young players the ropes.

On the other hand, Carter shot 37.2 percent from the floor in his three years in Memphis, so...

You Can't Shoot And You Can't Fly, If You Came With Us, You'd Prob'ly Die

It's probably a bad time to mention this team was 21st in Offensive and 25th in Defensive Rating despite having Boogie for two-thirds of the season...when Kosta Koufos is your center, that means your center is Kosta Koufos.

Dave Joerger, a fantastic defensive coach in Memphis, has been horrid in Sacramento so far, suffering the same problem Tom Thibodeau's run into in Minnesota. Specifically, if you have young dudes still making rookie mistakes (and the Kings will run a few lineups out there with nobody older than 25), no amount of defensive X-and-O mastery will overcome the kind of skills that are not born but experienced.

Nowhere is veteran savvy more in evidence than on defense. Sacramento will struggle to keep the enemy from putting points on the board, and they better hope like hell that Fox learns to shoot and Buddy Hield can play without the ball in his hands and still be effective.

I'm Not Your Buddy, Guy

Not that there's any cause for complaint in the guy that Vlade Divac thinks is the next Steph Curry. Hield put up a .480/.428/.814 slash line after the trade. I predicted he'd be Rookie of the Year before last season started. If New Orleans hadn't been such a horror show and done nothing to develop the new kid, that might've come to pass (a year where Malcolm Brogdon wins ROY is not a year flush with young talent.)

As it stands, Hield was first team All-Rookie. Close enough, I say, especially for the sixth pick.

Slick Willie

Will Sacramento figure out that Cauley-Stein does his best work when he's being less Myles Turner and more Shaquille O'Neal? Because he made 72.2 percent of his shots inside three feet but only took 44.9 percent of his overall attempts from there. He made less than 40 percent from beyond three feet. Get the guy the ball in the low post, for cryin' out loud!

You Guys, Skal Labissiere Is, Like, Really Good

33 games in one season, yes, but he put up a .537/.375/.703, and he's 6'11”. His 15.3 total rebounding percentage and nearly .100 WS/48 say he's off to a flying start, and the .577 true shooting was fantastic for a rookie.

Oh, and he's 21 years old. Watch this guy. The Haitian Sensation is going to make some noise this year.

THE VERDICT!

Unless Sacramento tries to tank because they're not playoff-ready yet, this team could actually win some basketball games. They're projected at 28.5, but so are the Suns, and this team is emphatically not the Suns. This is a young core of true NBA-caliber talents just itching to break out and show the league what they can do.

If Joerger can put in a good defensive scheme, and guys like Hill and Randolph can be as much teachers as players, this could be a team clinging to playoff hopes as late as March if not into April if the bottom half of the West stinks out the joint while the likes of the Warriors, Spurs, and Rockets hog all the wins at the top.

Are they a sleeper to surprise a lot of people after losing Cousins?

…yes. Yes they are. I'm calling this team my sneaky-good sleeper in the West. The question of whether they're any good? It's totally Plausible.