14 KINGS - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
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14 KINGS

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When All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the Pelicans last February, he left behind a vacuum—one that gave the rest of the Kings' roster room to breathe. Willie Cauley-Stein looked promising at center. New arrival Buddy Hield averaged 15.1 points per game on 48.0% shooting and looked like a legitimate starter. And after a disappointing freshman year at Kentucky sent him tumbling to the 28th pick in the 2016 draft, 6'11" Skal Labissiere had nights where he looked like the lottery talent that scouts had fallen in love with in high school. Labissiere averaged 17.3 points per 36 minutes after Cousins was traded.

Now there's another new layer of talent. Lightning-quick rookie De'Aaron Fox will pair with the steadying hand of George Hill at the point. Small forward Justin Jackson is fresh off a national title at North Carolina. And Bogdan Bogdanovic arrives from Europe with a deadeye touch.

There are intriguing young players in Sacramento surrounded by the right veterans (Zach Randolph, Vince Carter) to help them grow. For a franchise that's been spinning its wheels for the past decade, that's progress.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2016--17 STATS

COACH DAVE JOERGER

(2nd season with Kings)

2016--17 RECORD 32--50

(3rd in Pacific)

63 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

PG GEORGE HILL [NEW ACQUISITION]

16.9 PPG; 4.2 APG; 47.7 FG%; 40.3 3FG%

SG BUDDY HIELD

10.6 PPG; 3.3 RPG; 42.6 FG%; 39.1 3FG%

SF JUSTIN JACKSON [ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS]

18.3 PPG; 4.7 RPG; 44.3 FG%; 37.0 3FG%

PF SKAL LABISSIERE

8.8 PPG; 4.9 RPG; 0.4 BPG; 53.7 FG%

C WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN

8.1 PPG; 4.5 RPG; 0.6 BPG; 53.0 FG%

BENCH

PF ZACH RANDOLPH [NEW ACQUISITION]

14.1 PPG; 8.2 RPG; 1.7 APG; 44.9 FG%

PG DE'AARON FOX [ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS]

16.7 PPG; 4.6 APG; 47.9 FG%; 24.6 3FG%

SG BOGDAN BOGDANOVIC [ROOKIE, EUROPEAN STATS]

14.6 PPG; 3.8 RPG; 50.0 FG%; 43.0 FG%

• THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING

*NEW ACQUISITION

(R) ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS

(R‡) ROOKIE, EUROPEAN STATS

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP SACRAMENTO

I love that they enter this season fresh without DeMarcus Cousins's trade and free agency talk hanging over them. They can play free and happy. Cousins is talented but it wasn't worth turning over their franchise's direction to him.... I understand people who question how good they can be if GEORGE HILL is their best player. But he's a good two-way player and a leader, which they needed. I like that he can run the point and he can play alongside their rookie, DE'AARON FOX.... Fox has All-Star potential long-term, and I don't see anyone else on this roster who you can say that about. His speed gets compared with John Wall's, but that's unfair for any rookie point guard. With his size, I'm worried about how long he can stay on the court. He needs to build out a jumper and prove he can run an offense.... BUDDY HIELD will be better this year because he can settle into a role. Their offense is going to come from lots of different sources rather than just leaning on him.... JUSTIN JACKSON had a good Summer League; he's always up to stuff. I don't see a huge ceiling for him, but he can be a solid, steady pro for 12 years.... BOGDAN BOGDANOVIC is a great shooter. He's ready to hit the ground running. He's a really good catch-and-shoot player. If he gets a clean look, you think it's going in.... WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN isn't as experienced as KOSTA KOUFOS, but he's the guy you want to groom as the center of the future. His offensive game is very limited but he's active, and he gets up above the rim to challenge shots. You want his motor in the middle of your defense.

TELLING 17.3 STATISTIC

BOTTOM LINE

This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill. The Kings look competent—but the results will come down the road.