Authors note: Through the generous contributions of fellow SB Nation writers, I am embarking on a Pacific Division preview series in which I get expert opinions on each of the non-Lakers teams by people who cover them on a daily basis. Next up in the series, the Sacramento Kings.
It’s hard to believe the days of Shaq and Vlade battling (flopping) in the post, Doug Christie and Rick Fox literally fighting on the court and en route to the lockeroom and Robert Horry’s shot are now over a decade old.
Although the Lakers and Kings were consistent benchmarks of the Western Conference during the early 2000’s, recent history has been unkind to both organizations as they have lately found themselves jostling over lottery odds instead of playoff berths.
As similar as their routes may have been, the Lakers took a giant step forward this summer by landing LeBron James in free agency, while the Kings continue to try and find their footing through the draft.
The Kings are most likely not rebounding back to contention anytime soon, but with another lottery pick now in tow and an extra year of seasoning for their young core, is this the season the team finally turns a corner?
To help answer that question and further discuss the team, the editor of SB Nation’s Sactown Royalty, Greg Wissinger, hopped on over to the site to breakdown the Kings, De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball and LeBron James in a Q and A:
SS&R: What were the fanbase’s initial feelings about the Kings taking Marvin Bagley III second overall? Have these feelings changed since Summer League?
Wissinger: While there are certainly Kings fans who wanted Bagley in the draft, a significant portion, if not a majority, were absolutely upset at the team for passing on Luka Doncic.
While Bagley showed some flashes in Summer League, a minor hip injury limited him to just a couple of games. In the games we were able to watch, a lot of Bagley’s weaknesses were on full display and did not change many fans’ minds.
SS&R: The Kings have a bit of a front court log jam with their mix of lottery-drafted bigs and a few veterans still on the team. How do you expect the team distributes minutes?
Wissinger: With Dave Joerger at the helm, none of us are sure. The hope is that Zach Randolph is glued to the bench with the majority of minutes going to Willie Cauley-Stein, Harry Giles, Bagley, and Skal Labissiere. Realistically Kosta Koufos will still see significant minutes since he’s the most consistent big man on the roster.
SS&R: Last season, the Kings and Lakers both selected point guards in the lottery (who just so happen to have a baked in rivalry). How would you grade De’Aaron Fox’s rookie season? And what are your general thoughts on Lonzo Ball’s game?
Wissinger: I’d give Fox a C+. He showed flashes, and I still believe in him long term, but he looked like a rookie most of the time. He needs to improve his shooting and make a bigger impact on defense.
I’d grade Lonzo as an Incomplete. It seems like he was having a fine season, but he can’t be fully evaluated given his habit of ducking De’Aaron Fox.
SS&R: What do you think is the most interesting storyline to pay attention to for the Kings this season?
Wissinger: Harry Giles. If he can stay healthy, he could be something special. He wowed us in Summer League, and could have an enormous impact on the Kings if he can play like a pre-injuries Giles.
SS&R: In your opinion, what needs to happen in order to make this season a success?
Wissinger: The Kings aren’t a playoff team barring some sort of miracle. More than anything, we just want to see the young players grow and improve, and the Kings need one or two guys to emerge as real future stars that the team can be built around.
SS&R: This summer the Lakers added LeBron James, what were your initial reactions? And where would you now rank them in the Western Conference standings/contention chances?
Wissinger: I was fine with LeBron going to the Lakers, I only hated it because I hate seeing the Lakers succeed.
I think there is a good chance the Lakers make the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed, but I don’t think they’ll be real contenders this season. The roster is obviously built with next summer and next season in mind.
SS&R: Why do you think the Kings have been so historically inept for so long, and how sad does it make you? (Our very own Harrison Faigen asked this)
Wissinger: The Kings are historically inept because of bad ownership. From the broke Maloofs to the incompetent meddling of Vivek, everything starts at the top. It makes me very sad, and caused irreparable damage to my liver every season.
My only beacon of hope is that someday the sun will destroy the earth, and by extension the Lakers.
Special thanks again to Greg for hopping on and sharing the point of view of our pacific division neighbor. For more Kings’ coverage, you can follow him on Twitter at over at @gwiss and myself at @AlexmRegla.