The Sacramento Kings have been one of the worst franchises in sports over the last decade. Having not made the playoffs since 2006, the Kings have aggressively asserted themselves as the laughing stock of the NBA, forcing their fans to retreat into hiding. And although that playoff drought is unlikely to end this season, Sacramento may have finally found some young cornerstones to build their team around.
Last season Sacramento struggled to find an identity, and despite their load of young, fast talent, the Kings for some reason chose to instead cater to Zach Randolph (the slowest player imaginable). But now, Sacramento is the second fastest team in the NBA, sporting three different players currently averaging over 15 points per game.
Now in the midst of his second NBA season, Fox was taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft. Praised for his athleticism and speed, Fox was a Kentucky standout in college despite his lack of a jump shot. However, Fox had some rookie struggles last season and failed to adapt to Sacramento’s slow tempo. But with the Kings new found tempo, Fox has thrived through the first nine games of the season. Currently averaging 19.0 points and 7.8 assists per game on over 50% shooting from the field, Fox has not only been distributing the ball well but is playing with an aggression that the opponent simply can’t match (especially when attacking the basket).
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Now in his third NBA season, Buddy Hield is by far experiencing his best start to a season. Another young talent that’s thriving from the Kings new found tempo, Hield is finally able to progress into the player he was meant to be, a three-point sharpshooter. Averaging 19.8 points per game on 49% shooting from behind the arc, Hield has established himself as a pure jump-shooter. And that’s completely fine for Sacramento. Every great team needs an unselfish shooter who knows his role.
In the midst of a contract season, Sacramento’s sudden change in play couldn’t have come at a better time for Willie Cauley-Stein. Coming out of Kentucky, Cauley-Stein thrived showed his ability to thrive in a high-tempo offense. Another reason Sacramento’s play style for the past couple of years made absolutely zero sense. However, now with De’Aaron Fox running up and down the court throwing alley-oops, Cauley-Stein should continue to thrive in Joerger’s system and likely earn himself a nice contract in the offseason.
Up to this point, there’s not much to say about Marvin Bagley. The choice to take him over Doncic or Young now makes much more sense considering Sacramento wants the ball in Fox’s hand’s majority of the time. And his numbers are solid (13.0 ppg, 55.4% shooting), but the most encouraging sign his consistency improving through every game. I don’t think he should have any sort of long-term issues getting adjusted and should be able to contribute to many of Sacramento’s wins this year.
These are now three different franchise cornerstones within the same system that for multiple years (other than Bagley) was deferring to old, slow players… (*cough, cough* Zach Randolph). However, if Sacramento can keep this play style, and Vlade does his best to not trade any of these players away because of “lack of success” Sacramento will be a competing playoff team in due time.