Last season, the Kings were one of the best teams in the league at one thing: shooting the long-ball. In fact, they tied for the fourth best 3-point percentage in the league, nailing 37.6% of their attempts from beyond the arc. The majority of guards, wings, and bigs that spent significant time on the court were able to knock down shots, especially in the latter part of the year. In the post-Boogie era, the Kings accuracy increased by 4.2%, going from 36.5% prior to the trade, all the way to 40.7% which was behind only the Portland Trailblazers after the All-Star break.
DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Tolliver, Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Arron Afflalo, Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, and Langston Galloway all departed in either the Cousins trade, were cut, or were allowed to walk in free agency, and the Front Office did little to replace those shooters this summer, especially from the front court positions.
Last Season vs Last Season vs Current Roster
The 2016-2017 campaign can essentially be split into two, smaller intervals as both the roster composition and goals of the franchise were vastly different before and after our swap with the Pelicans.
The pre-trade group had eight players average at least one three-pointer made per game: DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Tolliver, Rudy Gay, Garrett Temple, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, and Arron Afflalo. Even after losing three of those contributors to either injury, trade, or general-awfulness which led to being cut, Sacramento was able to replace that production with three incoming players: Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, and Langston Galloway. Currently, there are only four players on the team who can meet that same bar.
|Temple + McLemore||2.2||Afflalo + McLemore||2.5||Bogdanovic + Carter||? + 1.5|
|Total 3PM||10.8||Total 3PM||11||Total 3PM||7.9|
Quantity isn’t everything of course, but Dave Joerger’s squad was also able to shoot accurately from the outside as well. Out of the original eight players listed above, six of them were able to shoot better than the NBA average from beyond the arc (.358), and seven players were able to best that number in the post-trade period. Again, only four players hit that mark last season with our current makeup.
Now, after cutting Afflalo and Tolliver, signing Hill, Carter, and Randolph, and drafting Fox, Jackson, Giles, and Mason, the Kings have set themselves up to struggle mightily in an area of strength from just one season ago.
While our guards and wings will still be able to make long distance shots, our front court players have almost no experience in being able to consistently stretch the floor.
DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Tolliver, our most reliable power forward rotation from the 2017 season, absolutely blow our projected power forward rotation, Skal Labissiere and Zach Randolph, out of the water when it comes to three pointers attempted per game, made per game, total attempted, and total made.
Former vs Current Power Forwards
|Player||3PM Per Game||3PA Per Game||Total 3P Made||Total 3P Attempted|
|Player||3PM Per Game||3PA Per Game||Total 3P Made||Total 3P Attempted|
Boogie and Tolliver took 7 more three-pointers per game and almost 400 more throughout the entire season. In fact, our former power forwards made more shots from beyond the arc last season (185) than all of our current big men combined in their entire careers (151).
The Fox Conundrum
The lack of shooting from our big men wouldn’t normally be a concern in a season of rebuilding (or tanking) as the Kings are expected to be one of the least successful teams in the league; however, the larger issue at hand is the possible stunting of our lottery pick’s growth due to a lack of vision from a free agent perspective.
De’Aaron Fox is going to desperately need space to operate against elite players on a nightly basis. As we witnessed in Summer League, he doesn’t look comfortable shooting from beyond the arc, and his 25% accuracy in college certainly supports that theory. His natural-born quickness is only going to take him so far when defenders collapse the paint against his drives and he has few options to kick the ball to on the perimeter.
While other teams with point guards who struggle with their outside shot have consciously acquired stretch-fours to give their guards room to operate, the Kings have essentially ignored that need with their current roster composition. For example, John Wall is a below-average shooter from beyond the arc (32%), but Washington was smart enough to pair him with Markieff Morris at power forward (36% from deep). In Minnesota last year, the Timberwolves paired Ricky Rubio (30%) with Karl-Anthony Towns, who makes 37% of his long-balls. Elfrid Payton (27%) played alongside Serge Ibaka (40%) in the failed experiment that was the Orlando Magic. Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox’s best hope is Zach Randolph; who was the eighth worst 3-point shooter in the entire NBA last season, knocking down only 22% of his attempts.
We can certainly try to pretend that Skal is going to suddenly turn into a stretch-4, if we’re willing to ignore the fact that he took only 8 three-pointers in his entire rookie season (for comparison sake, fellow rookie power forward Marquese Chriss attempted 224 last year), and only 2 three-pointers in his freshman year of college, but the fact remains that Sacramento ignored the concept of a modern day power forward in free agency. Not a single player who can play either big position can consistently knock down shots from beyond the arc.
Now, the Kings do have some pieces who can shoot the rock. Vince Carter and George Hill were both added in free agency, Buddy Hield and Garrett Temple stayed on the roster, and rookies Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin Jackson, and Frank Mason III were all reliable snipers in their previous roles, but only two of these players can share the floor with De’Aaron Fox at a time.
|Frank Mason III||PG||47%*|
*Bogdan Bogdanovic in Euroleague
*Justin Jackson and Frank Mason III in NCAA
Most teams have the ability to slide a larger wing player into the 4-slot in small-ball lineups, a la Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, and Omri Casspi last season, but Sacramento will already be playing a small-ball lineup for the majority of the time with their troubling lack of size at the small forward spot. Garrett Temple, Vince Carter, and Justin Jackson are more SG/SF combos than pure, modern-day wings, and not a single one of them can easily or realistically fit into the power forward position.
Instead of running a lineup with Fox, three shooters, and a big to rebound and defend, our rookie is going to be forced to try and attack the paint with two lane-cloggers constantly in the game. Two of Zach Randolph, Skal Labissiere, Kosta Koufos, and Willie Cauley-Stein are going to be on the hardwood a vast majority of the time.
While some compliments can be paid to our Front Office for bringing in George Hill to alleviate pressure from De’Aaron Fox, while also managing to snag a couple of reputable veterans in Vince Carter and Zach Randolph, their lack of vision in shaping the roster around our lottery guard is a serious concern. Vlade Divac cut our only stretch-4 on the roster, didn’t replace him with a reliable outside threat, and didn’t supplement that weakness with a versatile wing who can play both forward spots.
While chaos may be a ladder for some, the havoc that opposing defenses are going to be able to wreak against our archaic roster construction is only going to serve as a roadblock for our young stud’s growth.