The 2017-2018 campaign is going to feature positional battles at almost every spot on the Sacramento Kings roster. A lack of upper-level talent, coupled with the hodgepodge of end-of-the-road veterans and inexperienced players, has everyone wondering who’s going to be given playing time right off the bat, and who’s going to have to earn every minute on the floor.
While the starting lineup will almost certainly change several times throughout the year, Dave Joerger’s opening night group may very well indicate his balance between trying to win games and his focus on developing the youth. Will he trust the young guys early on or will he lean too heavily on veterans to try and play less chaotically? Who’s going to find themselves in his good graces early and which player will be frustrated with his lack of court time?
His choices will affect the on-court production, wins and losses, chemistry in the locker room, lottery positioning, and possibly even trade requests later in the year.
Without further ado, here’s who I believe will be starting for the Kings on October 18th.
PG: George Hill
This was an easy pick. Hill is the best player on the Kings, the only quality starter on the roster, and simply has to beat out two rookies for the job. The former Utah Jazz member will run a clean game on offense, eliminate careless turnovers, and can defend either guard position, which should help his projected backcourt partner immensely.
SG: Buddy Hield
Hield earned the right to be the de facto starting shooting guard through his play in the latter part of the year. In fact, I would even say he showed a lot of promise at the end of last season. As a starter in Sactown, he averaged 16 points and 4.6 rebounds per game (7th best in the NBA among shooting guards), while also recording two assists and shooting 41% from deep. He’s a scoring machine, and while his defense and decision-making both need quite a bit of work, his ability to put the ball in the bucket will provide a ton of value for a team who will regularly struggle to score. He will easily lead Sacramento in the scoring column throughout the year.
SF: Garrett Temple
Aside from the #15 overall pick, Justin Jackson, Sacramento doesn’t have a true small forward on the depth chart. Vince Carter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, the aforementioned Justin Jackson, and Malachi Richardson could all theoretically be slotted into the starting wing spot, but Temple is probably the most versatile player who can man the position. With Hield’s lack of consistency as a secondary ball-handler, Temple can act as an escape valve if George Hill is pressured, and his ability to guard both shooting guards and small forwards will also alleviate some defensive duties from Buddy Hield. The versatility of Hill and Temple’s defensive abilities will allow our young shooting guard to take on the least offensively talented player between the opposing team’s 1-3 spots.
PF: Skal Labissiere
Assuming our head coach doesn’t roll with the always depressing two-center lineup that he seemed to love last season, Skal Labissiere shouldn’t have too much in the way of competition at power forward. Zach Randolph may very well be suspended for the first couple of games, and even if he’s not, Z-Bo is a 36-year old inefficient scorer who was a negative on the defensive end of the floor last season. His only other competitor, Harry Giles, didn’t play a minute of Summer League basketball and is projected to spend the majority of the year over in Reno developing his game. Unless Skal has totally dropped the ball in his development and work ethic this past offseason, expect to see him as one of the starting crew against the Rockets.
C: Willie Cauley-Stein
Out of all of the positional battles, Kosta Koufos vs Willie Cauley-Stein is probably the biggest question mark headed into October. The former is a steady hand who brings exactly the same contributions on a nightly basis, while the latter has an incredibly high ceiling and has shown flashes of being a competent starter. The duo of Labissiere and Cauley-Stein certainly leaves something to be desired when it comes to physicality and bulk, but the thin towers can also overcome that disadvantage through pure athleticism and length. He’ll lose the privilege of starting games if his rebounding numbers are as poor as last year’s start, but Willie Cauley-Stein should be in the opening lineup to begin the season.
What do you think? Does the most expensive rookie in history, Bogdan Bogdanovic, have a shot at taking the spot from Temple or Hield? Will Dave Joerger rely on his veterans to begin the year? Can Willie Cauley-Stein beat out old faithful in Kosta Koufos?
Who do you believe will be starting on October 18th?