SACRAMENTO – The Sacramento Kings swung for the fences during the NBA Draft Thursday night. They filled holes, took a gamble and might have even come away with a steal or two in their four selections. There are major roster questions that still have to be answered in free agency or through trade, but here is a look at how the new faces fit into the current situation in Sacramento.
De’Aaron Fox, point guard, University of Kentucky
Sacramento let it be known early that Fox was a target. The speedy point guard put on a show in his lone season in Kentucky, averaging 16.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 29.6 minutes per game. He’ll need to improve his 3-point shooting (24.6 percent) to keep defenses from sagging off and clogging his running lanes, but his mechanics are sound.
According to Vlade Divac, “De’Aaron is our future.” Whether the team will look to add a veteran presence is still in question. Veterans Darren Collison and Ty Lawson have spoken about their willingness to return as a mentor, but Fox is expected to play major minutes in his rookie season as the Kings look to turn up the tempo.
Fox is a big time athlete with great size for the position. Standing a little over 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-6.5 wingspan, the left handed point guard projects well on both ends of the floor. He’ll need to add weight to his 170-pound frame, but the Kings have a strong strength and conditioning team that has been working overtime all summer building on last season’s draft class.
With both Collison and Lawson entering free agency unrestricted, Fox is likely the Kings starter on Day 1.
Justin Jackson, small forward, University of North Carolina
Jackson tested the draft waters a year ago and decided to return to the Tar Heels for one more season. The gamble paid off as Jackson and his North Carolina teammates rolled through the NCAA tournament and were crowned champs.
In addition to winning it all, Jackson showed major improvement in his junior year under Roy Williams. The 22-year-old wing posted 18.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 32.2 minutes per game. Jackson’s biggest improvement came as a perimeter shooter where he converted 36.8 percent of his 3-point shots, compared to just 29.2 percent as a sophomore.
Like Fox, Jackson needs to add strength and weight to compete in the NBA for 82 games a season. He is a wiry athlete that stands 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, but he weighed in at just 201 at the Draft combine (up from his 192 a season ago).
As of today, Jackson is the only true small forward on the Kings roster. They have options in Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson, but they will likely address the position in free agency or through trade. Jackson will play minutes as a rookie, but how many will be determined by how quickly he can adjust to the NBA level. He’s a mature scorer and he has defensive potential, but he will likely begin his career in a reserve role, at least initially.
Harry Giles, power forward/center, Duke University
There was a time when Giles ranked amongst the very best of high school player in the country. A series of bad breaks led Giles to tumble down the draft board where the Kings were more than willing to gamble at the 20th selection.
You can take his numbers at Duke and throw them out the window, he was never truly healthy in his time with Coach K. Standing 6-foot-10.5 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, the 232-pound big has an incredible frame. Unfortunately, the frame is supported by two surgically repaired knees.
Giles tore his ACL in both knees as a prep athlete in separate incidents and he needed a third procedure to clean up one of his knees last year. If there is good news here, it is that both knees were damaged in contact injuries, as opposed to the knee giving out in a non-contact situation. The scope that occurred later is also not out of the norm as the body attempts to adjust to the changes in the joint.
Like the Duke medical staff, the Kings will need to show patience in years one and two as Giles continues to heal from the series of surgeries. The Kings knew the risk of drafting the talented 19-year-old and they also know that players like Danny Manning, Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin went on to have very successful careers after bilateral ACL tears.
Don’t expect Giles to play major minutes in year one, but the Kings fell in love with his talent in a pre-draft workout in Sacramento. The team has a bevy of bigs, including Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and Georgios Papagiannis. This is a risk/reward pick for the future. If Giles can get right, he could be the best big man taken in the 2017 NBA Draft and maybe even a lot more than that.
Frank Mason III, point guard, Kansas University
Despite collecting a room full of trophies in his senior year at Kansas, Mason slid to the early second round where the Kings shunned trade offers and pounced. Like Fox, the high-flying guard was a major target of the Kings, even coming to Sacramento twice for visits before draft night.
The 23-year-old Wooden Award winner dominated in his final season under Bill Self, averaging 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 36.1 minutes a night. He even shot 47.1 percent from behind the arc on 4.8 attempts per game. At 6-foot, 189-pounds, the biggest knock on Mason is his lack of size. He makes up for that with power and a 41-inch vertical.
Sacramento is in a tough situation when it comes to their point guard position. Fox was a no-brainer at number five and Mason is an NBA ready contributor at pick 34. But can they walk into a season with two rookies manning the point guard position?
It’s possible. The Kings have Temple on the roster, who can steal some minutes, but Fox and Mason make an intriguing thunder and lightning pairing that should be a lot of fun to watch. Don’t be shocked if Mason earns a spot in the rotation in training camp and plays solid minutes in a sparkplug role off the bench as a rookie.