Since trading DeMarcus Cousins midway through the 2016-17 season, the Kings have been in search of their new face of the franchise. In the process they’ve acquired young player after young player, but so far it has been too soon to declare any one player the next Sacramento Kings star. Let’s take a look at the likely candidates.
Cauley-Stein is entering his fourth year with the Kings and appears to be more motivated than ever, but he should be, as he’s about to become a free agent for the first time in his career next summer. While Willie has shown flashes of stardom in his first few years, they have been all too brief. For every great game he has, there have been 10 more where he seems disinterested or disappears. He was drafted for his defensive acumen and ability, but has seemed more focused on trying to become an offensive option instead. If Willie can put it all together, he could be a star, but at this point we’re at the “I’ll believe it when I see it” stage with him.
After the Cousins trade, Labissiere came out of nowhere to win the hearts and minds of Kings fans. Before the trade, he had barely played for the team and was a complete unknown. After the trade, he played in every game, putting up 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and shot a ridiculously efficient 53.6% from the field. The hype for Skal going into his second season was very high, only for it to fall precipitously once the season actually started. Skal’s ridiculous efficiency from the end of the last season was mainly because he was hitting an absurd amount of midrange jumpers. He shot 52.1% from 10-16 feet and an amazing 57.9% from 16 feet to the 3 point line. Those numbers fell to 37.5% and 32.4% respectively in his second season as team’s adjusted and his shooting reverted to the mean. Skal also had trouble on the defensive end, as though he bulked up he was still too easily pushed around in the post. Skal can still be a good player, and he did a good job of taking more threes last year but it’s unlikely he’ll ever be a star.
I Could See It
There’s a real case to be made that Bogdan Bogdanovic was the Sacramento Kings best player last season. Bogdan came into the league as a rookie but made an impact from day one with his passing, shooting and overall skill. There’s a good chance he could be the team’s best player once again this year, but at 26 years old and with the type of experience he has in Europe, it’s to be expected that he plays better than our other young guys. Now as for being a star, I’d have to see him really take a big step this season in terms of production. I don’t see Bogdan as being the best player on a good team, but I do see him being someone that could be the 2nd or 3rd best guy on a good team. Bogdan’s probably the player I’m least worried about from a talent perspective. He’s already good and I think he’s going to be good for a long time. Should nothing else pan out of the Kings, Bogdan might be the Kevin Martin guy of this Sacramento era.
It appears the Harry Giles hype is real. The Kings took Giles knowing that they wouldn’t be able to play him for a year and hoping that once he was able to take the floor that they have a steal, and right now it looks like they do, although we have yet to see Giles take the floor in actual games that matter. Giles has all the tools to be a star: great size, athleticism, skill and a winning personality. In Summer League this year, he made an impact on both ends of the court and compared favorably to other top draft picks. But so much of Giles is still an unknown. And even if he does put it all together and it does work out, there’s always going to be that lingering feeling in the back of everyone’s head regarding his knees. How long can they hold out? Hopefully forever, but nothing’s certain.
Marvin Bagley III
I’d have Bagley in the next tier up if I wasn’t so worried about the same things that I was worried about when we drafted him. Can he play defense? Can he do anything with his right hand? Will he be able to dominate in a league where he’s not bigger and stronger than everyone like in college? Can he translate his outside shot to the NBA? There’s so many questions with Marvin. But the talent is there. He was one of the best freshman in history in one of the toughest divisions in college basketball. He plays with manic energy and intensity. He should be a good player, and by investing the second overall pick in him, the Kings are hoping he’s going to be a great player. Here’s hoping.
Fox was far from the best rookie last year, and in fact didn’t even make an All-Rookie team (albeit in a very strong class of rookies) but to me he’s probably the surest bet of anyone on this team to become a star. He’ll have to improve his efficiency, both in scoring and passing, and he’ll need to become a stronger defender as well. But he’s also got skills you can’t teach, such as his ridiculous quickness with the ball in his hands, and his knack for taking and making big shots. Fox is a natural born leader and in a guard’s league, Fox can be one of the best if he can bring it all together. I’m probably more excited to see what Fox does in his second year than I am for anyone else on the roster.
I’ll be the first to say that I’m higher on Buddy Hield than others. After all, I love my shooters and Buddy might just be the best shooter to wear a Kings uniform since Peja Stojakovic. That’s not hyperbole either; Only Peja and Mitch Richmond have had better seasons from three than Buddy did last year in just his second season in the league. Buddy’s an older young guy for sure, having played all four years in college and turning 25 in December, but it’s still a learning curve going from college to the NBA. That third year in the league is typically when guys break out, and I think Buddy could be in for such a year. Towards the end of last season, he was really going hard on the defensive end as well, and we know from his time at Oklahoma that he can be a go-to scorer. What Buddy really needs is an increase in volume, and I think he can easily top 20 points a game for this team. I have high expectations for Buddy, and wouldn’t be surprised if he leads the team in scoring this season and if he’s in the running for Most Improved Player award.
Player To Be Named Later
Of course, the next Kings star might not even be on the roster yet. Perhaps none of these guys pan out, or maybe the Kings decide in a year or two to send some of these young guys out in a trade for a disgruntled star and swing for the fences. They’ll also have an enormous amount of cap space next summer, although it’s unlikely the Kings manage to land anyone of note because that never happens. But still, this is a real possibility that must be considered. Given the amount of youth the Kings have, they can probably put together some enticing trade packages should another team be looking to go into rebuild mode.