What a difference a year makes. The Sacramento Kings walked into the 2018-19 season without knowing what they had at any of the five positions on the floor.
It’s a new year and there is no question that general manager Vlade Divac has improved the team’s depth and overall talent level.
In order for everything to work as planned, Divac is banking on his young players to continue their growth. He added seasoned role players at almost every position to support their development, but the team will only go as far as the young core takes them.
After a flurry of moves, here is a look at the Kings' roster compared to the one they walked into last season with.
2018-19 depth chart: De’Aaron Fox, Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason
2019-20 depth chart: De’Aaron Fox, Cory Joseph, Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason, Kyle Guy
In his rookie campaign, Fox had the look of a starter late in the season, but after averaging 11.6 points and 4.4 assists per game, nothing was guaranteed. A year later, Fox is an up-and-coming star primed to take another substantial leap in production as he enters his third season.
The team has yet to announce their plans for Ferrell, but the addition of Joseph on a three-year contract makes his roster spot precarious at best. Sacramento has until July 4 to make a decision on Ferrell's $3.2 million team option.
Mason’s spot on the squad is in question as well, but he’s an affordable fifth guard at this point. There is a good chance the Kings keep him in the fold heading into training camp and allow him to battle with the Guy and fellow second-rounder Justin James for a roster spot. Sacramento has until Oct. 15 to make a decision on their $1.6 million team option for Mason.
Fox should be a much better player entering his third season than he was last year or the year before and Joseph presents a huge upgrade as a defensive-minded veteran point guard. There is no question the position is much improved over last year.
2018-19 depth chart: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield
2019-20 depth chart: Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin James
How quickly we forget that Bogdanovic was supposed to start last season as the starter, but a late offseason injury cost him 10 games and opened a door for Hield to steal the job.
After posting 20.7 points, five rebounds and knocking down 278 3-pointers, Hield is not only the starter, he’s one of the team’s better players. The 26-year-old sniper improved his scoring average by more than seven points per game and has made himself into one of the elite shooters in the league.
With his starting job gone, Bogdanovic became the team’s jack-of-all trades sixth man. It’s a role he’s very well suited for. He can play the one, two and three, handle the ball and create for his teammates.
Hield is a revelation for the Kings. They knew he could score, but he became so much more in his third NBA season. Bogdanovic is a five-tool player and there is hope he will enter the season healthy for the first time in his third year in the league. Both players are entering a contract year and have everything to play for.
James is organizational depth at this point and Fox can steal a few minutes at the position with the addition of Joseph.
2018-19 depth chart: Iman Shumpert, Justin Jackson, Troy Williams
2019-20 depth chart: Harrison Barnes, Trevor Ariza
Dave Joerger was forced to start Shumpert, a 6-foot-5 guard who had played just 14 games the season before, as his starting small forward. Jackson was inconsistent and Williams was on a two-way contract.
In short, while Shumpert had moments and did the best he could, the position was a disaster from the start.
At 6-foot-8, Barnes is a legitimate starting small forward with the ability to play the four as well. Like Barnes, Ariza is also 6-foot-8, giving Luke Walton the size necessary to compete at the three in the modern NBA game.
These are both quality veteran players who will stretch the floor and defend at a high level.
This is the deepest the Kings have been at the small forward spot since they walked into the season with Rudy Gay, Omri Casspi and Matt Barnes. It easily could be argued that the current duo bring a lot more to the table than those three.
Bogdanovic can steal time at the position as well, giving Walton all kinds of options.
2018-19 depth chart: Nemanja Bjelica, Marvin Bagley
2019-20 depth chart: Marvin Bagley, Nemanja Bjelica
Bjelica was a pleasant surprise last season for Sacramento, especially early in the season. He’s a high basketball IQ player who can stretch the floor and he gave the Kings a chance to bring Bagley along slowly.
When healthy, Bagley showed flashes of stardom, which is what the Kings are banking on in Year 2. Two separate knee injuries cost the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft 20 games, but he still managed to average 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and one block in 25.3 minutes per game.
Bagley is an elite prospect that performed at a high level when healthy. Bjelica is the savvy vet. Sacramento is expecting a huge jump from Bagley as he moves into a starting role and Bjelica should continue to provide depth at the position. Barnes, Ariza and Harry Giles can all help out at the position as well.
2018-19 depth chart: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos, Harry Giles
2019-20 depth chart: Dewayne Dedmon, Harry Giles, Rachaun Holmes
Cauley-Stein showed improvement in his fourth NBA season, but he continued to struggle with consistency and became a non-factor as a rim protector. Koufos was a solid veteran that sat on the bench for much of the season while the team went young, and Giles came into the year playing a total of 300 minutes over his previous three years of basketball.
Dedmon is consistent, he hits 3-pointers, sets screens and blocks shots. He doesn’t have the high-end potential of Cauley-Stein, but he checks more boxes. Giles looked much better in the second half of the season and is likely the long-term answer at the position.
Holmes is an energizer bunny that doesn’t back down from anyone.
The Kings needed a change at the position and they now have players that fit their style of play. The years of throwing to DeMarcus Cousins in the block are over. This is a group that will run and bring toughness to the squad.
The Kings won 39 games last season under Joerger and have a chance to take another leap forward under Walton.
Divac had a clear plan walking into free agency. He didn’t add a star, but he brought in strong role players to support the young core.
[RELATED: How Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon fit Kings]
Nothing is certain. While Divac made smart, short-term moves, it will all come down to the growth of Fox, Hield, Bogdanovic, Bagley and Giles.
There might be some small moves still left to fine tune the roster, but this likely is the bulk of the transactions this summer for Divac and the Kings.