Preseason should always be taken with a grain of salt. Teams don’t play as hard (especially veteran teams), stars rest (as Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Rudy Gay did) and the games don’t matter. But it’s always fun to get a first look at the new guys, and especially, the youth.
Sacramento’s youth was on full display tonight, although we had to wait for it a little bit. Dave Joerger started every single veteran he had, but most of those guys only played in the first quarter (and none played in the second half). The vets basically played as expected. George Hill was solid, racking up 5 points and 5 assists in his limited time. Zach Randolph looked like Zach Randolph, even hitting a corner three. What was perhaps most impressive however was the ball movement. The Kings were moving the ball constantly, and there was very little isolation play.
But the vets are going to handle their business well, as they should. It was the young guys everyone wanted to see, particularly De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Fox was fantastic in his debut, looking every bit the part of an aggressive attacking guard. He got to the rim consistently, and even flashed that mid-range game. On defense he hounded the Spurs full court and constantly swiped at the ball.
He finished with 16 points in about as many minutes, missing only one shot all game.
Bogdanovic wasn’t quite as successful, making just one basket, but he was the first off the bench for Dave Joerger, and he looked good with the ball in his hands. He wasn’t quite another Point Guard, but it’s clear that the Kings are going to try to have him be a bit of a playmaker, especially in the Pick & Roll game.
Sacramento’s other rookie PG impressed as well. Frank Mason led the team in scoring with 17 points and even quietly snagged a team high 6 rebounds. Mason has a fearlessness and confidence about him that you don’t see in many rookies.
Skal Labissiere played the most of any King and he scored 15 points including a top of the key three. I would have liked to see him be a bit more active on the glass (just 4 total rebounds) but his offense was solid and I really liked that he showcased that three point range. He’s going to need to make that a reliable weapon in today’s NBA.
Buddy Hield didn’t miss a beat from last year, looking like the same confident scorer and shooter, and getting a bit sloppy when he dribbled too much. He didn’t hit a three tonight, but that’s not too worrying given his history.
Willie Cauley-Stein fouled out in just 15 minutes of action so we didn’t get much of a look from him. He definitely was trying to showcase more of an offensive game, similar to last year. It should be noted that Willie’s Free Throw shooting form looks much improved from where it was at the start of his rookie season.
Justin Jackson was the most disappointing Kings rookie, missing all seven of his shots. They were fairly open opportunities too, but he wasn’t able to get any to go in. Malachi Richardson also looked a bit rusty, going 1 for 5 from the field with his lone make being a transition three.
Georgios Papagiannis had a frustrating game in which he simultaneously had good plays (including a very nice top of the key jumper) and bad plays (three turnovers on three straight possessions). He should have had a block as well, but he got whistled for a bad foul call on it.
All in all we got some nice flashes from the young Kings. This team looks like it’s going to play fast and unselfish. Going forward I’d like to see the youth play with the vets to get more of a feel for how the team will play during the regular season. The game definitely got sloppier (on both ends) when the Kings pulled all their veterans, but the tempo went up.
It will be interesting to see how the Kings handle their abundance of guards. At times the Kings had three guards in the game at the same time, and I expect we’ll see that more often than not this season; Sacramento’s wing options aren’t the best, with just Carter and Jackson being true wings.
The Kings will face the Spurs again this Friday, this time in San Antonio. After that will be a much anticipated matchup against the Lakers and Lonzo Ball on Sunday.