Youth Movement: Ranking where the youngsters fit in Kings' plans
The Final Rankings
It’s a youth movement in Sacramento. Dave Joerger turned his team over to his young core over the second half of the season. Some players responded to the challenge and have cemented their position moving into next season. Some have struggled and left a question mark to their future with the team.
After ranking them based on short-term improvements throughout the 2017-18 campaign, here is a final look at how the players finished and where they project in the grand scheme of the Kings plans moving forward.
9. Bruno Caboclo (Trending down)
Previous Rank: 9
Season Stats: 2.2 points, .4 assists, 1.8 rebounds, .3 steals, 8.9 min
Post All-Star Stats: 2.6 points, .4 assists, 2.1 rebounds, .2 steals, 10 min
Caboclo came to the Kings via trade at the deadline. He played spot duty for Sacramento and he has the look of an NBA. Unfortunately, he never had a real opportunity to find a rhythm and earn his place with the Kings. It’s highly unlikely that the Kings give the 22-year-old a qualifying offer this summer. He’ll enter the summer as an unrestricted free agent and there’s a very good chance he’s played his last game in a Sacramento Kings uniform.
8. Nigel Hayes (Trending Up)
Previous Rank: 8
Season Stats: 3.0 points, .7 assists, 2.4 rebounds, .3 blocks, 33.3% FG, 13.6 min
With Kings: 3.6 points, .8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, .6 blocks, 28.6% FG, 21.0 min
Hayes couldn’t buy a hoop in his short stint in Sacramento, but he impressed with his size, athleticism and physicality. The Kings inked the undrafted free agent to a two-year deal, keeping him in Sacramento throughout the summer for the team’s conditioning program. He’ll get a chance to compete in training camp, but he’s likely going to need to work his way through the G-League ranks one more season.
7. Justin Jackson (trending even)
Previous rank: 7
Season Stats: 6.7 points, 1.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds, .4 steals, 30.8% 3-pt FG, 22.2 min
Post All-Star Stats: 7.7 points, 1.4 assists, 3.3 rebounds, .5 steals, 31.3% 3-pt GF, 26.8 min
Dave Joerger had so much faith in Jackson coming out of training camp that he opened the season as the Kings’ starting small forward. He also finished the season with the first unit, starting the final 35 games. While Jackson had a few nice performances, he also struggled. He needs to get stronger and work on his 3-pointer for next season. He missed way too many open looks and he needs to figure out ways to help the team when shots aren’t falling. On the season, Jackson had 45 games with one assist or less and 34 games with two rebounds or fewer. He played too many minutes to post those types of numbers. The Kings will look to shore up this position through the draft and free agency.
6. Frank Mason (trending even)
Previous rank: 6
Season Stats: 7.8 points, 2.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds, .7 steals, 36% 3-pt FG, 19.1 min
Post All-Star Stats: 8.5 points, 2.8 assists, 3.0 rebounds, .9 steals, 29.3% 3-pt FG, 18.9 min
Injuries wiped out 30 games for Mason this season, but he did enough to earn a spot as the team’s backup point guard next year. At 24, he is a mature player that understands his role. He needs to work on adjusting to the speed and length of NBA players. He’s as tough as they come, but it doesn’t always take a sledge hammer to pound in a nail. Film study will be huge for Mason and he needs to figure out his heel issues.
5. Skal Labissiere (trending down)
Previous rank: 4
Season Stats: 8.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, .8 blocks, 44.8% FG, 20.7 min
Post All-Star Stats: 10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.2 blocks, 42.2% FG, 27 min
Labissiere has so much potential, but as the coaching staff learned this season, he needs a lot more time to develop. The team was hoping he would have a breakout year, but injuries and adjustment issues slowed his progress. Sacramento has some serious decisions to make during the offseason and the fate of Labissiere is one of them. They have Harry Giles ready to play the same position next season, as well as another year of Zach Randolph. The team needs a stretch four and there are serious questions as to whether Labissiere can fit that role. He needs to get stronger, work on his perimeter game and play as much basketball as possible.
4. Willie Cauley-Stein (trending even)
Previous rank: 3
Season Stats: 12.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steal, 50.2 FG, 28 min
Post All-Star Stats: 13.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 51.1 FG, 29.6 min
There was a point in the season when Cauley-Stein had played himself into a long-term extension in Sacramento. Then he let off the gas. The 7-footer out of the University of Kentucky has incredible tools, but his inconsistency continues to frustrate everyone. He posted two double-doubles to finish the season, but just 12 on the year. He has the ability to be an impact player on both ends of the floor. The Kings are still waiting for the moment when he puts it all together. The clock is ticking.
3. Buddy Hield (trending up)
Previous rank: 1
Season Stats: 13.5 points, 1.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 43.1% 3-pt FG, 25.3 min
Post All-Star Stats: 15.7 points, 2.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 44.3% 3-pt FG, 28.9 min
Hield was the Kings’ best player in the second half of the season and he’s found a home as the team’s sixth-man. He’s an elite shooter and he’s developing into a high-end scorer at the NBA level. More importantly, he bought into what the coaching staff was selling in the second half, bumping up his numbers across the board while showing improved effort on the defensive end. If Hield can build off his strong finish, the Kings have a very nice three guard rotation moving forward.
2. Bogdan Bogdanovic (trending up)
Previous rank: 2
Season Stats: 11.8 points, 3.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds, .9 steals, 39.2% 3-pt FG, 27.9 min
Post All-Star Stats: 12.4 points, 3.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds, .8 steals, 37.7% 3-pt FG, 29 min
This might be the defining move of Vlade Divac’s tenure in Sacramento. The Kings’ GM plucked the 25-year-old Serb in a three-for-one swap on draft day 2016 and then brought the shooting guard over from Europe last summer. He can play three positions, handle and shoot the ball and his basketball IQ is off the charts. After playing for 19 months straight, Bogdanovic finished the year on fumes, but he was likely the team’s MVP this season and he’s primed to start alongside Fox for the foreseeable future.
1. De’Aaron Fox (trending up)
Previous rank: 4
Season Stats: 11.6 points, 4.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 30.7% 3-pt FG, 27.8 min
Post All-Star Stats: 12.2 points, 4.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 27.6% 3-pt FG, 29 min
Fox is the future. If you needed more proof, the 20-year-old point guard will represent the Kings at the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery on May 15. In the final weeks of the season, the coaching staff started giving the speedster more and more of the reigns. There was a stretch where Fox was clearly fatigued, both mentally and physically. He needs to get stronger and spend the summer preparing for the rigors of an 82 game schedule. Big men take longer to develop, but the point guard position is the tough spot on the floor to learn. He’ll take another year or two to get it all down, but the Kings believe they’ve found a cornerstone in Fox.