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Kings vs. Suns Summer League Preview: In Search of Wins in Sin City

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Sacramento rolls into Summer League with high expectations and even higher hopes, taking their first step toward the future in an evening game against Phoenix.

NBA: Summer League-New Orleans Pelicans vs Los Angeles Lakers Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

First off, good to see ya’ll! Just when you thought I was gone for good: it’s time for Las Vegas Summer League baby, and like a bad penny, I keep turning back up! I’m gone for five whole minutes and suddenly Skal is the next Chris Bosh, Omri Casspi is a Golden State Warrior and your kids all got together and decided fidget spinners were gonna be a thing. This is the world we live in and - Oh! I almost forgot! Most importantly, the Kings are suddenly savvy as hell! If I’d have known taking some “me time” was all it took for the Kings to reach a solid level of competency, I’d have gone on a walkabout around the time Paul Westphal decided chest bumps meant never having to say “I’m Sorry”. Welcome to Summer: Where James Johnson is worth $60 million dollars, Phil Jackson’s opinions are worth zero and Vince “Never Going To Happen” Carter is a Sacramento King! Hope springs eternal in the hearts of men, and Las Vegas Summer League is here to tell you that everyone you thought was good is terrible, and that guy you never heard of, well he’s a sure fire Hall of Famer. Enough with the chit-chat! Let’s talk Kings Summer League basketball!

On the heels of one of the most productive off-seasons in their history, Sacramento rolls into Las Vegas with eight guys likely to make the Kings final fifteen man roster, and while most fans are tuning into Summer League for their first glimpse at a new rook or their next 15th man, Sacramento Kings fans are getting a look at a good chunk of the Kings 2017-2018 regular season roster.

When: Friday, July 7th: 7:30 pm PST

Where: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, ESPN2

For Your Consideration:

Changing of the Guard: The future backcourt of the Kings has arrived and Friday’s game against Phoenix will offer up a glimpse of how high these young guards can fly. De’Aaron Fox will be making his debut in a Kings uniform and running alongside him is Buddy Hield who averaged just around 17-5-4 on 32% shooting for his Pelicans squad this time last year. In what should be a fantastic first match-up in terms of judging just how fast Fox can be in the NBA, he’ll have to face off against fellow speedster, Tyler Ulis, who had himself a really nice second half to his rookie season for the Suns. Expectations for Buddy Hield should be sky high for the next few weeks after his jump in play in Sacramento netted him an NBA All-Rookie First Team slot, and in Phoenix he will face a team that is listed as only having one shooting guard, Shaquille Harrison, an undrafted guard from Tulsa. Buddy should dominate in the minutes he plays this year in Summer League, but if you’re looking for improvement, let’s see how he and De’Aaron Fox gel on the defensive end together.

Not to be forgotten, the Kings will also bring former Kansas point guard Frank Mason III in for big minutes. The Naismith College Player of the Year and John Wooden Award winner will be expected to bring his brand of leadership and toughness to floor, and should be an excellent one two punch with his former rival and now teammate, De’Aaron Fox. Phoenix will be trotting out an old friend of the Kings for their backup point guard, David Stockton. With Ulis and Stockton as known entities in the league, there should at least be a decent barometer for where the Kings young guards are at. Malachi Richardson should also be thrown into the mix as a guard as well, though with his recent discovery of 15 pounds of summer muscle, the Kings might try to use him as a small forward as well.

Betting Big Up Front: Possibly the most intriguing match up of today’s game is in the front court. The Kings will trot out fan favorite and future MVP Skal Labissiere against Sacramento native and technical foul machine, Marquese Chriss, and the talk comparing the two will be everlasting and persistent. If you remember, the Kings drafted Chriss with the 8th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, only to trade him for what eventually became Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere, the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic and a 2020 second round pick. Skal dominated in his match-ups against Chriss last season, so it will be fun to see just how much each of them takes of those previous games into a summer league match-up. While Skal might have the highest expectations of anyone on this summer league roster, don’t sleep on Papa G or the King’s 2017 1st round pick Harry Giles. Papagiannis’ transformation in just the last year has been something to behold; from a chubby kid who looked lost out on the floor during Summer League to a slim, svelte player who looked like he could contribute some meaningful minutes on the NBA Hardwood, Georgios has really taken the time to become an NBA ready player, and if given minutes might get a chance to match-up against his own personal rival (at least according to his father’s twitter account), Dragan Bender. Remember the last time these two played one another?

A Pair of Jacks(ons): I’d be remiss if I didn’t even mention the small forwards in today’s game. Both the Kings and Suns will be showing up with small forwards that they took in the 2017 NBA Draft; Phoenix’s #4 selection being Josh Jackson from Kansas, and Sacramento’s #15 selection Justin Jackson from North Carolina. Expectations are very high in Phoenix for Jackson, who was a shooting stroke and some legal issues away from possibly being a Top-2 selection. A creative passer and good defender, Josh Jackson will have to square up against Justin Jackson, the ACC Player of the Year, a fluid athlete and a growing shooter. I’m dizzy just typing this all out. Josh: higher pick, fancy passer, Phoenix. Justin: lower pick, skinny shooter, Kings. Wait, no, yeah. That’s right.

Prediction: All out war. Skal breaks down Chriss on a fake, Chriss bumps him hard on the other end. Papa G sees this and hip checks Bender, who wraps him up hard on a foul on a subsequent possession. Jawing starts. The Jacksons start arguing about whose first name is cooler. Tyler Ulis challenges De’Aaron Fox to a foot race and loses. Refs become confused as to what is even happening on the court and the game gets forfeited by both teams.

[Oh, and one final thing. Eric Stuteville, an undrafted big guy from Sacramento State made the final roster for Las Vegas Summer League, and if he manages to play in any of these games over the next few weeks, he’ll be the very first Sacramento State player to ever do so. Good Luck, Eric! #StingersUp]