The Sacramento Kings start their preseason schedule on Oct. 1 against DeAndre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns, putting the reigning top picks against one another. The Kings will be missing their best player in Bogdan Bogdanovic, but there will still be plenty to learn from.
Here are five things worth watching in that game.
- Marvin Bagley’s versatility
After a stellar season at Duke, Bagley entered the draft as one of the most NBA-ready talents. The Kings should have drafted Luka Doncic — something I am not afraid to point out — but Bagley’s upside is tantalizing.
At 6-foot-10, he’s an elite athlete with an impressive motor. His finishing and rebounding are well-known skills, but fans should be on the lookout for his perimeter game. A reliable three-point shot will be important for his development, while his ability to handle in straight-line drives and make plays on the move is unique for a big.
- What’s the starting lineup?
Upon his return, Bogdanovic should be locked into the starting lineup. There’s some degree of grey area with him missing time, though, and the Kings need to emphasize player development. The Kings need to keep their young guys in the game.
That, simply put, means Zach Randolph should be firmly out of the picture. Willie Cauley-Stein and Marvin Bagley are the obvious frontcourt starters, while De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield will man the backcourt.
Justin Jackson wasn’t overly impressive last season, but one would expect him to take on the starting small forward role again with Bogdanovic missing time. There is a disappointingly high chance that Nemenja Bjelica gets major time at the three, though.
- Has Fox made strides?
Fox has all the tools to be an elite on-ball defender, as well as a plus defender in general. Monday’s game will be our first chance to see if he’s making strides in that direction.
His offensive development is also worth monitoring. Adding reliable three-point range would greatly benefit Fox’s game, while more efficiency as a scorer should come with more experience. This should be a year in which he takes a solid step forward.
- Harry Giles’ NBA debut
Before enduring multiple knee injuries, Giles was the No. 1 recruit in his high school class. That natural talent, albeit hindered, is still there. His mobility and motor will be valuable in the frontcourt, giving the Kings a high-energy duo next to Bagley.
If Giles can restore his old magic to any extent, he has a very real chance to overtake Cauley-Stein’s starting spot. He looked good in Summer League, which is a promising start.
- Point guard rotation
Fox will get the start, but seeing how Yogi Ferrell and Frank Mason split the reserve minutes will be interesting. Both are undersized, but the Kings might have an opportunity to experiment with two-point guard lineups this season. In preseason, why not?
EARLY PRESEASON THOUGHTS
In what should come as no surprise, Kawhi Leonard looks really good. He’s healthy and the Raptors are set to pose a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference. Boston remains the prohibitive favorite, but Leonard is the best player in the East. That carries significant weight.
As for Boston, Gordon Hayward looked understandably rusty in his re-debut. Kyrie looks healthy and spry, though, and their impressive starting five should rank among the best lineups in the NBA next season.
Markelle Fultz showed positive signs in his first start with the Sixers, hitting a mid-range jumper and two free throws in the Sixers’ win over Melbourne United. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid went to town against lesser competition.
Luka Doncic impressed in his Mavericks debut, dropping some sweet dimes and showcasing his elite handle. You can’t take much away from a game against Beijing, but Kings fans probably aren’t thrilled.
JIMMY BUTLER … AGAIN
Butler is still a Timberwolves member by contract. He hasn’t returned to the team yet and trade rumors have quieted in recent days. Miami and Houston have, for the time being, emerged as frontrunners.
The Heat would be wise to take the gamble. There’s the potential to offload one or two questionable contracts and the Miami culture could suit Butler well. He can also have some discussions with Dwyane Wade about his recent Instagram activity.
As for the Rockets … CP3-Harden-Butler is quite the perimeter trio.
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