Analyzing The New And Improved Depth Of The Sacramento Kings
Did the Kings add enough talent to compete in a loaded Western Conference?
Bench depth is incredibly important for winning basketball teams.
The Sacramento Kings have lacked true depth on their roster for years, something that is make-or-break for teams looking to move on in the summer months. This was very evident this season when Fred VanVleet, who only started 28 games for the Raptors in 2018-19, was the driving force to Toronto’s first ever NBA Championship due his stellar play.
Getting production out of your bench is vital to be successful in today’s NBA. Having little-to-no drop off from your starting unit can not only keep teams in games, but can even put teams in position win them outright.
Over the past two seasons, the Kings have turned a corner in bench production, leading the league in bench scoring in 2017-18 and ranking fifth in the NBA in 2018-19 (not to mention sixth in rebounding). These numbers were inflated of course, by the production of Marvin Bagley III — a player who really had no business coming off of the bench. Bagley’s contribution of 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game propelled Sacramento up these rankings with his incredible play over just 25 minutes per game (10th out of all rookies).
With Bagley primed to enter the starting lineup this fall, let’s take a look at who will be heading next season’s second unit for the playoff-hopeful Sacramento Kings.
PG – Cory Joseph
2018-19: 6.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.9 APG (25.2 MPG over 82 games)
Joseph is a big upgrade for this Sacramento bench unit as he will slide in to head the offense while De’Aaron Fox is sidelined. The 27 year-old just finished his eighth season in the NBA after playing in all 82 games for the Indiana Pacers — his second straight season playing in all 82 contests.
Known as a distributor, Joseph ranked sixth out of all bench point guards in assists (in 60 games or more coming off of the bench). Joseph brings a championship pedigree to the Kings, an NBA Champion with the Spurs in 2013-14. Joseph is no slouch on the defensive end, averaging 1.1 steals per game in 2018-19. For perspective, that would have placed him third in steals on this year’s Kings team.
Expect Joseph to be aggressive on both sides of the ball next season, and expect him to fit in with the fast paced Sacramento offense as well.
SG – Bogdan Bogdanovic
2018-19: 14.1 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.5 RPG (27.8 MPG over 70 games)
In his sophomore season, Bogdanovic regressed in field goal percentages, although he upped his scoring average from 11.8 to 14.1 points per game. The regression in field goal percentages were due in part to more shot attempts per game as Bogi took nearly three-shots more per game this season than he did in 2017-18.
Bogdanovic was an offensive focal point for the second unit, especially when Marvin Bagley III missed time with injuries. This put more pressure on Bogdanovic to force more shots and attempt to create more opportunities for teammates, which resulted in more turnovers per game in 2018-19 as well. With more offensive options in this years’ second unit and a formidable distributor in Cory Joseph, expect Bogdanovic to play off of the ball more which will give him chances to spot-up and get more open looks.
Last season, Bogdanovic made 79.1% of his three-point attempts when assisted, opposed to 20.9% when unassisted.
SF – Trevor Ariza
2018-19 – 12.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.7 APG (34.0 MPG over 69 games)
The 6’8 wing finds himself in Sacramento for his 16th season, and after a down year in 2018-19, expect Trevor Ariza to mesh well with this bench group.
Ariza is coming off of his worst shooting season since 2010-11, shooting 39% from the field and 32% from three-point land last season. The 34 year-old was one of the best three-and-D options on the free agent market this summer, and Vlade Divac didn’t let one down-year deter him from signing the 2008-09 NBA Champion. Last year, the Kings ran Iman Shumpert and Corey Brewer out as their small forwards (not named Harrison Barnes, of course), and were in the market for a legitimate backup small forward to play behind Barnes next season. Ariza averaged 1.3 steals per game last season, which would have ranked first on last year’s Kings team.
Since the 2013-14 season, Ariza has started every game he’s played in. This will be an adjustment for him, although head coach Luke Walton could opt to play small-ball at times with a lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Ariza, Harrison Barnes and Marvin Bagley III. Ariza brings depth to the Kings, and will only benefit the team if a starter goes down with an injury.
Every team needs a three-and-D option, and the Kings now have their own in Trevor Ariza.
PF – Richaun Holmes
2018-19: 8.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.1 BPG (16.9 MPG over 70 games)
The biggest signing for the Sacramento Kings this offseason may very well be Richaun Holmes.
Holmes enjoyed a breakout year in Phoenix last season, holding per-36 minutes averages of 17.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. The 25 year-old only played 16.9 minutes per game as he played behind last year’s number one pick Deandre Ayton. When on the floor, Holmes was extremely efficient, shooting 60% from the field (including 73% from the free-throw line). Expect Sacramento guards to look for Holmes in the paint, especially on the lob. Holmes shot 74.9% at the rim last season over 231 attempts (77% of the made baskets were assisted).
Sacramento has lacked rim protection in recent years, and with the newly signed tandem of Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes bound for the Capitol city, expect the Kings to challenge opponents in the paint next season. Holmes, standing 6’10 and weighing 235 pounds, averaged 1.1 blocks in his minuscule playing time. Holmes’ 79 blocked shots are 20 more than Marvin Bagley’s team-leading 59 in 2018-19. With Dedmon and Holmes in tow, the Kings will look to cut down on points allowed in the paint in 2019-20.
When playing the Los Angeles Clippers last year, Montrezl Harrell had a field day with the Kings backup bigs. Nobody could seem to stop the Sixth Man of The Year candidate, conceding 21.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game to Harrell. If the Kings want to compete with Harrell and other bigs in the brutal Pacific Division, they’ll need a spark of their own.
Enter: Richaun Holmes.
C – Harry Giles III
2018-19: 7.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.5 APG (14.1 MPG over 58 games)
After sitting out for the entire 2017-18 season, Giles got his first taste of NBA action last year after fully recovering from multiple knee surgeries.
Harry showed the league how crafty he can be in the post, and he also showed the league he has the passion that any team would be lucky to have. Giles held per-36 minutes averages of 17.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, although he was held to a minutes restriction for the entirety of his rookie season. When attempting to score at the rim, Giles shot 68% in 2018-19. Like Richaun Holmes, Giles is a threat on the lob pass as he looks to do a majority of his damage in the paint.
With a full offseason to put on muscle and strengthen his repaired knees, the Kings are expecting big things from Giles next year as he is likely to backup Dewayne Dedmon at the center position.
Rounding Out The Roster
Two players that played big roles during the 2018-19 season have found themselves on the outside looking in for next year: Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell.
Ferrell won the backup point guard job over the recently departed Frank Mason III, averaging 5.9 points and 1.9 assists per game over 71 games. Bjeclica started 70 of the 77 games he played in last season, enjoying career-high’s in points per game (9.6), rebounds per game (5.8) and field goal percentage (47%).
Expect Bjelica to get minutes based on matchups that require floor spacing, while Ferrell could struggle to see the floor–barring an injury to a guard above him on the depth chart. The roster seems about set, and there is a clearer picture of what the rotation could look like. There might not be as many minutes to go around to some of these players, but that’s a small price to pay for a deep and loaded roster.
These are good problems to have for the Sacramento Kings.