Kings

With gaping holes to fill, 2017 NBA Draft offers Kings several options

With gaping holes to fill, 2017 NBA Draft offers Kings several options

The Sacramento Kings walk into the 2017 offseason with gaping holes in their roster. Free agency will play a role, but before they get to spending their $60-plus million in cap space, Vlade Divac, Scott Perry, Ken Catanella and the rest of the front office will try to fill some of their needs via the draft.

While the first batch of draft prospects rolled through Sacramento late last week, Vlade Divac, along with European scout Predrag Drobnjak spent the weekend in Istanbul, Turkey at the European Championships. Sharpshooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic led Fenerbahçe to its first title, further building the hype around one of Europe’s best young stars.

Divac acquired the rights to Bogdanovic in a draft day trade last summer when the 6-foot-6 Serbian was tossed in along with picks 13 and 28 for the 9th overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. Divac would love to entice the 24-year-old wing to play in the NBA next season.

Even if Bogdanovic buys in, the Kings need more.

Both Darren Collison and Ty Lawson are unrestricted free agents, leaving Langston Galloway as the only point guard on the roster. Rudy Gay has already informed the team that he intends to opt out of his $14.3 million player option for next season, opening a massive need at the small forward position.

The needs are clear. Sacramento has to find a point guard and small forward of the future. They also need a point guard and a small forward of the right now. If a player fits both now and in the future, so be it.

Lady luck shined brightly on the Kings during the draft lottery. A move from No. 8 to No. 3 would have guaranteed a point guard, but a pick swap to No. 5 still has Sacramento in the running to fill one of their biggest voids.

While plenty of mock drafts have a variety of players in the top five of the 2017 NBA Draft, there is a clear group that Sacramento will likely focus on. Barring a major trade, point guard Markelle Fultz out of the University of Washington is projected to go with the first overall selection, but then it’s wide open how the next four picks will unfold.

UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is projected to go to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 2 in most mocks, but nothing is a sure bet. Small forwards Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum are top five selections as well, while Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox is an early draft climber.

Sacramento would love nothing more than to see Fox sitting on the board when they select at five. He’s slight of build, but the 6-foot-3 speedster is a high character player with tons of potential. He would step in and instantly compete for a starting job with the Kings’ young core.

There are concerns that Fox won’t make it to five and the Kings have a few options if they want to move up, but the real question is, should they?

If Fox is gone, Sacramento will still have a player on the board at a position of need. Be it Ball, Jackson or Tatum, the talent pool is rich. Finding a floor general is important, but finding a star should be the top priority. All five have potential to become more than just a starter in the league and all five fit one of the team’s two most glaring weaknesses on the current roster.

Drafting either Jackson or Tatum would instantly bump the talent level of the team. Both are considered top tier prospects and for Sacramento, likely starters on Day 1.

Jackson is a catalyst type player and personality that brings energy, as well as a tremendous skill set. He can pass, rebound, play defense at a high level and score above the rim. He’ll be an instant fan favorite wherever he lands.

Tatum has potential as a two-way player, but his offensive game should instantly translate to the NBA level. A polished scorer, Tatum would step in and give the Kings a scoring option to fill the shoes of Gay, who is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent.

The Top 10 has plenty of other high end prospects. Sacramento could chase a shooting big in Lauri Markkanen. The 7-footer out of Arizona would help to stretch the floor at the four, but their other needs are more obvious.

Fox’s backcourt mate at Kentucky, Malik Monk, is also an intriguing player, but with Buddy Hield, Garrett Temple, Malachi Richardson and the potential for Bogdanovic to join the team, the Kings are heavy at the shooting guard spot.

Point guard Dennis Smith has a high ceiling and would likely challenge for top five consideration if it wasn’t for a torn ACL in high school and some questions about his attitude.

If Sacramento selects a small forward with the fifth pick and Smith was still available when they choose again at No. 10, he becomes a lower risk proposition the Kings might have to consider.

Point guard Frank Ntilikina out of France would fit the bill as well in the right situation. If the Kings land Jackson or Tatum at five, they could come back with Ntilikina at 10. He’s young and inexperienced, but he also stands at 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan. His defensive potential at the point is tremendous, but he is a project on the offensive end, not a polished player like the four point guards expected to go ahead of him in the draft.

Combo forward Jonathan Isaac is an appealing prospect, but he’ll need plenty of time to develop and he’s a better target if he somehow slips to 10. Like Smith and Ntilikina, this would be a nice addition if the Kings fill their other need with the fifth overall selection.

Regardless of how they got to No.’s 5 and 10, the Kings are in a good spot. They have options and plenty of players at positions of need and there is potential to land a future star. Once the draft rolls around on June 22, the focus will quickly shift to shoring up the remainder of the squad. With two high picks, the potential addition of Bogdanovic and plenty of cap space, the Kings are primed for a big time roster overhaul this summer.

Zach Randolph: Kings training camp profile

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Zach Randolph: Kings training camp profile

No one was more consistent on the offensive end for Sacramento than Zach Randolph last season. He fought back father time as long as possible and then finished the season as a spectator when the Kings went young.

Nothing is guaranteed in season two as a King for Randolph. The 37-year-old forward cashed in with the Kings, signing a two-year, $24 million deal in 2017. He’s owed $11.7 million this season, making him difficult to move via trade.  

The Kings plan to go young this year from the opening tip. That doesn’t bode well for Z-Bo, who is nearly twice the age of Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III. 

Strengths

Randolph is a legendary tough guy that brings a grit and a personality to the floor. As he’s advanced as a player, he’s focused more on his perimeter game, extending all the way to the 3-point line where he shot an impressive 34.7 percent last season. 

Still a reliable scorer in the post, the Kings turned to the 17-year NBA veteran on countless occasions last season to help steady the ship. Randolph shot 63 percent at the rim and 50.9 percent inside of 10 feet last season. 

While he struggles to get off the floor, Randolph still managed to post 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes last season by positioning and using his strength on the blocks.

On the defensive side of the ball, Randolph’s physical limitations hurt the team in transition and against quicker players. He can still hold his position in the post, but as a defender, he’s not a great option.

Weaknesses

The Kings went out and drafted a Ferrari to play the point guard and then paired him with a mack truck. Randolph is too slow to play in the uptempo offense the team hopes to transition to this season and would be better suited playing for a team that place a more methodical half court game.

As his game has moved away from the basket, Randolph’s field goal percentage and free throw attempts have steadily declined. He posted 2.2 assists per game last season, which is well above his career average, but he’s not a natural passer. 

Father time is undefeated. Randolph is stationary on both ends of the court. He can still score in bunches and get a rebound when you need it, but he can’t defend more athletic fours.

Path to Improvement

There is no way to turn back the hands of time. By adding the 3-point shot, Randolph extended his NBA career for few extra seasons, but even that has its limitations. 

The only path for improvement this season for Randolph is taking on an even larger role as a leader and locker room influence behind the scenes. With a fleet of young bigs, the Kings need Randolph to become more of a coach than a player and help teach the ins and outs of being a professional and the finer nuances of NBA post play. 

Projection

This is a complex situation. If the primary focus was just on wins, Randolph could still play 18-20 minutes per game and put up numbers. The Kings are going to run and gun and it’s hard to imagine Z-Bo keeping up. 

Bagley, Giles and Willie Cauley-Stein are the future and the present. Nemanja Bjelica fits the role of stretch four and Skal Labissiere is going to need some minutes as well. It’s a crowded front line and we haven’t even mentioned veteran Kosta Koufos. 

Z-Bo started 57 games and played 25.6 minutes per night last season for Dave Joerger. It would be shocking to see that again this year. Things can change, but Randolph’s court time should be limited this offseason barring a series of injuries or a complete collapse of scheme.

Marvin Bagley III: Kings training camp profile

Marvin Bagley III: Kings training camp profile

Luka Doncic was the easy pick at No. 2, but Marvin Bagley III might have a higher ceiling. After demolishing the ACC as a freshman, the Kings selected Bagley with the hopes that he can be a superstar. Only time will tell if they made the right decision.

Bagley is long and has incredible quickness for a man his size. He’s also young and will take time to develop into a consistent NBA regular. He’ll be counted on for a major role with the Kings this season as they look to push the tempo and go young, but his production will likely be all over the board. 

Strengths

Players don’t typically stroll into the ACC and average 21 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as an 18-year-old freshman. Bagley is special on the offensive end and his game should translate well to the NBA game. 

At 6-foot-11, 235-pounds, Bagley will be asked to play both the power forward and center position throughout his career. He has an incredible ability to get off the floor multiple times in a short period of time, which will help him as both a rebounder and a defender. 

He has an advanced post game, range on his jumper and he can really move both in transition and in the halfcourt. As De’Aaron Fox and Yogi Ferrell look to push the tempo, they will find a running mate in Bagley, who gets from one end of the court to the other as well as any big in the league.

In his lone season in college, Bagley shot 39.7 percent from long range and he has potential to play some stretch four at the NBA level. His jumper is solid, although he rushed it a bit during summer league action. Shot selection will be an issue early, but he has a scorers mentality. 

His quick leaping ability draws comparisons to Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, but it’s a little early to put him in the upper echelon of rebounders. It should also help on the defensive end, where he showed some potential to block and redirect shots during summer league action.

Weaknesses

Bagley comes into the league with the same issues that most young players have. He needs to get stronger, add weight and learn how to play defense. He has good length and an incredible vertical leap, but he’s only figured out how to use these tools on one end of the court.

As a scorer, there is a lot to love about Bagley. There are also some concerns. He relies too heavily on his left hand in the post, almost completely avoiding his right. He’s not the only big to play to his dominant hand, but if he is going to become an elite scorer in the post, he’ll need to learn how to go right.

He’ll need time to develop as a passer and he’s probably going to struggle to hold his position in the blocks. Bagley has a big frame, but it will likely take two or three years to fill out. 

Bagley’s struggles on the defensive end were well chronicled at Duke. Mike Krzyzewski even went to a zone defense to hide him for long stretches. There is potential here, but he’ll have to study the game and improve his basketball IQ if he hopes to hold his own at the NBA level. 

Path to Improvement

If Bagley can bring the same type of offensive firepower he showed both as a prep athlete and at the collegiate level, the Kings might have a Blake Griffin-type offensive weapon. He needs to show that he can score with his right. He needs to hit the glass and pull down 10 boards a game. He needs to engage on the defensive end. 

Until we see the NBA product, it’s hard to guess who and what Bagley will be or how he can improve. What we do know is that he walked into one of the tougher leagues outside of the NBA and dominated at a very young age. 

Projection

Like Harry Giles, Bagley is going to see plenty of court time this season. As a No. 2 overall pick, the Kings have placed a good portion of their future in his development. The coaching staff will work hard to make him passable on the defensive end and they will push him to hit the glass and rebound outside of his zone. 

You don’t sit a player like this. You run him out there and hope he makes adjustments and finds his way. Expect Bagley to either start on opening night at the four or be the first big off the bench. 

An early prediction has Bagley posting 14 points, eight rebounds and 1.5 assists in 27 minutes per game as a rookie. Those numbers could even jump higher if the Kings’ offense finds a new gear. 

Bagley will be a work in progress, but the potential for greatness is there. Expect him to get every opportunity to shine in his rookie season.