Summer Questions: Who takes on scoring load for Kings in 2018-19?
Who will step up for the Kings?
Last season, a 36-year-old Zach Randolph led the Sacramento Kings in scoring. The grizzled vet put the ball in the hoop from all over the court, including 34.7 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Randolph’s 14.5 points per game average was the lowest for any team leader in the league. To compound matters for Sacramento, it’s unlikely that Z-Bo will get the same opportunities that he received last season.
Someone has to step forward. In fact, multiple players need to jump in and fill the void left by Randolph. Unfortunately for the Kings, none of their current options have ever led a team in scoring for an entire season at the NBA level. Here is a look at the options that head coach Dave Joerger has heading into the 2018-19 campaign.
2017-18 Stats: 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 30.7% 3-pts, 27.8 min
Fox will have the ball in his hands a lot in his sophomore season. Two of his goals for the summer are to get stronger and work on refining his jumper. If he comes back with these two boxes checked, the 20-year-old speedster has an opportunity to take a substantial leap from the 11.6 points per game he averaged last season.
The additions of Marvin Bagley III and Nemanja Bjelica will help Fox as well. Bagley projects as an above average rebounder and requires plenty of attention in the block. Bjelica is a smooth shooting combo-forward that will help space the floor and give Fox some much needed running room.
In addition, the Kings are hoping to push the pace this season and with Fox’s speed, he’ll have plenty of chances to score in transition and potentially get to the line.
2017-18 Stats: 13.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 43.1% 3-pts, 25.3 min
Perhaps the Kings’ best option for a lead scorer, it’s still unknown at this time whether Hield will start or come off the bench. If he’s in the starting rotation, he’ll have to share touches with plenty of other players, which might hurt his overall volume of shots early in games.
If Hield is coming off the bench in a super-sub role, like he did last season, he might actually have a stronger chance of taking over as the Kings No. 1 scoring option. Either way, he’s in the mix.
There is a clear path for Hield to improve. He’s an elite shooter from the perimeter and needs to take even more shots than he did last year from behind the arc. He’s also improved his ball handling skills and has the ability to create an open look for himself. Where he really hurts his chances of becoming an elite scorer at the NBA level is at the line, where he averages just one attempt per game.
Marvin Bagley III
2017-18 NCAA Stats: 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, .8 steals, .9 blocks, 33.8 min
The Kings believe Bagley has superstar potential and they’ll likely try to draw that out of the 19-year-old big in his rookie season. The transition to the league might take a while, but Bagley can shoot from the outside, take players off the dribble and he outworks other players on the offensive glass.
Bagley should also pair well with both Fox and Bogdanovic. Fox is looking to push the tempo this season and Bagley is one of the fastest bigs in the league from one end of the court to the next. He also finishes well in transition, which should help earn him an extra bucket or two per game.
Bogdanovic has incredible vision and timing in the pick-and-roll, which open up a few more opportunities for Bagley. He can pick and pop or head to the rim, where Bogdanovic serves up a nice lob.
2017-18 Stats: 11.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, .9 steals, 39.2 3-pts, 27.9 min
We saw glimpses of Bogdanovic’ potential as a scorer last season and it appears there is a lot more hiding inside the Serbian wing. He creates well for others and he showed incredible rang late in the season.
Being new to the league, Bogdanovic was too unselfish last season, which the coaching staff worked on all year. If he comes out of his shell and aggressively looks to score, he has the potential to skip over plenty of players on this list.
Bogdanovic can put the ball in the basket at all three levels and he’s added bulk in the offseason. Like Hield, he struggles to get to the line on a consistent basis, but he’s crafty enough to figure this issue out in year two.
2017-18 Stats: 12.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals, .9 blocks, 28.0 min
Don’t sleep on Willie Cauley-Stein. The 7-footer out of the University of Kentucky showed a variety of moves last season and he’s worked tirelessly on his jumper as he expands his range. He’s improved as an offensive weapon and he’s coming into a contract year.
Cauley-Stein will also benefit from the Kings uptempo style of play. He’s already established a strong chemistry with Bogdanovic in the pick-and-roll and his ability to catch and finish above the rim is next level.
As he’s improved his body, Cauley-Stein has also gotten better at playing through contact. He averaged a team-high 3.4 free throw attempts last season and with more scoring opportunities, that number might rise. Where Cauley-Stein can really help himself is on the offensive glass. A below-average rebounder for a man with his size and athleticism, Cauley-Stein is losing plenty of easy buckets by not aggressively attacking the boards.
2017-18 Stats: 14.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, .7 steals, .2 blocks, 25.6 min
Father time waits for no man. Randolph was the Kings best offensive weapon on plenty of nights last season and a security blanket for both Joerger and his young team. When the Kings needed a bucket to stem the tide, Z-Bo usually showed up.
The plan is to push the tempo and go with the youth of the team, but if things go sideways early, Randolph might find himself back in the mix.
This is a tough one. De’Aaron Fox is the speedster looking to run. Buddy Hield is a mad bomber. Bogdan Bogdanovic is an experienced player waiting to break out. Marvin Bagley III lit up the ACC last season. Willie Cauley-Stein has a lot to play for and Zach Randolph is likely out of the mix due to a lack of court time.
There is a possibility that this group shares the wealth all season long and produces comparable numbers, similar to what we saw a season ago from the Los Angeles Lakers. There’s also a possibility that one or more of these young guys takes a huge leap forward and steals the show.
If Hield can learn how to get to the line, he has the most scoring potential this season. Fox might decide to take over the game from the lead guard position, and if Bagley adjusts quickly to the NBA, he could also be the No. 1 option the Kings are searching for.
The Kings have options. The hope is that someone steps forward, but it’s way too early to make an accurate guess on who that might be. Early in the season, it will be scoring by committee until one or more of these players takes a huge step forward.