Kings

De'Aaron Fox is the future, but don't count out Frank Mason

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AP

De'Aaron Fox is the future, but don't count out Frank Mason

For years the NBA has overvalued potential and undervalued production come draft season. The 2017 NBA Draft was a microcosm of the trend, as the top 11 players had one year of college experience or less. Some of these players were productive in a small sample size, but all of them were drafted on potential.

De’Aaron Fox showed flashes of brilliance in his lone season at the University of Kentucky. He put on a show in the tournament, which helped skyrocket him up most draft boards and the Kings were more than excited to see him fall into their lap at the fifth overall selection.

In comparison, Frank Mason III spent four years building a resumé at Kansas. He finished his senior season averaging 20.9 points and 5.2 assists per game while shooting 47.1 percent from 3-point range.

Mason’s numbers were good enough to earn him AP Player of the Year, the Oscar Robertson Award, the Naismith College Player of the Year Award and plenty of other accolades. His trophy case is stuffed full, but that didn’t stop him from falling to the fourth pick of the second round, no. 34 overall.

Maybe it isn’t fair, but it is the reality of the situation. At 19-years-old, teams are predicting that Fox can be a star. At 23, Mason is considered a finished product with little room to grow.

Fox is lean and athletic. He can run the floor as well as anyone in any league, but he has plenty to learn about the game of basketball. He is already being billed as a franchise cornerstone before he’s even played a single game in the NBA. His potential on both ends of the court is elite.

Mason is described as tough, NBA ready and mature. He lacks Fox’s size and length, but he makes up for his shortcomings by playing with heart and moxie. His leaping ability and leadership qualities will win fans over quickly.

While Sacramento is pinning its hopes for the future on Fox, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Mason is out of the picture. Both players will fight for minutes behind starter George Hill. Don’t be shocked if Mason plays a bigger role than Fox in certain games.

Potential is a word for front office staff. Once the ball is tipped, Dave Joerger will go to the players that give him the best opportunity to win. He will side with production and in year one, Mason is the most game ready. He may not have Fox’s ceiling as a player, but he is likely better prepared to fill a role.

With three point guards on the roster, Joerger also has the option of playing either Hill or Fox at the shooting guard position. This could potentially open up more than just 48 minutes for the trio.

Having options is a good. Mason’s presence on the roster, in addition to Hill’s, allows the coaching staff to bring Fox along at cautious pace. They can take their time teaching him the game, knowing that they have another able body on the roster.

There will be a time when Fox is turned loose on the NBA. It might be 20 games into the season or it could be 100 games into his career. In the meantime, don’t count out Mason as an important figure on the 2017-18 Kings rotation.

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

SACRAMENTO -- Light in the rear. It’s a term the Sacramento Kings coaching staff has used since the beginning of training camp to describe the bigs on the roster. On Monday night at Golden 1 Center, the team’s lack of strength inside was on full display as the Denver Nuggets crushed them on the glass.

“I think we’re 29th in the league for rebounding, so that’s a little bit of our makeup of how our team is made,” Dave Joerger said following the Kings’ 114-98 loss.

Joerger is close in his assessment, but off by a few spots. His roster ranks 26th in the league in rebounding overall and 28th on the defensive side of the ball. It’s become an achilles heel for a team that has a few glaring weaknesses.

“When Willie (Cauley-Stein) and Kosta (Koufos) aren’t in there to snag every rebound, we have to get in there and help Zach (Randolph) and help Skal (Labissiere),” veteran Garrett Temple said. “Skal’s a little undersized in terms of weight and Z-Bo will put his body on people, but some people might be able to out jump him.”

On a normal night, Temple is right. Randolph and Labissiere struggle to put up big numbers on the glass. But against the Nuggets, it was Koufos and Cauley-Stein that combined to grab nine rebounds in 51 total minutes of action.

Randolph and Labissiere didn’t fair much better, finishing with 10 boards between the two of them in 38 minutes with the starters. Between the Kings’ four bigs, they were out rebounded by the Nuggets bigs by a final of 34-19.

The Nuggets came into the night a top 10 rebounding team overall and the second best offensive rebounding team in the NBA at 11.8 per game.

It’s not just the bigs that struggled to grab boards for Sacramento. Without Buddy Hield, the club’s best rebounding wing, the Kings’ were dominated 49-34 overall in rebounding, including 14-5 on the offensive glass.

“The first shot, it’s a good contest, we did everything right, except get the rebound,” rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “And then they get an open shot off a second chance shot. If we can complete a lot of plays with the rebound, we’ll be okay.”

To Fox’s point, the defensive possession doesn’t end until the rebound is secured. Sacramento was outscored 19-6 on second chance points. In a 16-point game, those numbers loom large.

“Us guards, we know we have to help our bigs,” Fox said. “We know our bigs are athletic. We know they do what they do, at the end of the day, other team’s guards are helping their bigs rebound and their bigs aren’t alone.”

Outside of the four bigs, none of the other seven players to see action had more than three rebounds. It’s an issue that has to be addressed as the Kings move forward.

“There are some instances that really bothered me,” Joerger said. “We had some guys leaking out, standing at half court and that I won’t have.”

The Kings have a day of practice on Tuesday to try and sure up some of their issues. Some of the problems stem from inexperience, but some of the issue comes down to energy and effort.

It doesn’t even get easier on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Lakers rank second in the league in rebounding at 47.5 boards per game. On the plus side, they also give up the 28th most rebounds in the league.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings

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USATSI

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings

Michael Malone won't be on the sideline when his Nuggets take on his former team on Monday night.

The NBA announced Monday afternoon that Malone has been suspended without pay for the game against the Kings.

The suspension stems from Malone "entering the court, halting play and making contact with a game official" during Denver's game against the Lakers on Sunday. The incident occurred midway through the second quarter.

Malone was hired as head coach of the Kings prior to the 2013-14 season. He was fired just 24 games into the 2014-15 season.

Coverage of the Nuggets and Kings gets underway at 6:30pm on NBC Sports California and streaming on the NBC Sports App.