It is tempting for me to believe the Kings will not lose the rest of the year. After winning their last two in a row (OKC and Philly), they are a seemingly unstoppable force. 64-8 here we come, right?
Yeah, not happening. In fact, this is still most likely a 20-25 win team at best. They go back out on the road tonight to face the resurgent Knicks, the dominant Wizards, and a crap Atlanta team. Problem is, they never win in Atlanta. I think they haven’t won there since 1897.
I don’t think I will expect a win for the remainder of the season (except the Lakers of course). This team will go through ups and downs, and they will make some pretty dumb mistakes. Despite the two wins in a row, there are some serious questions remaining:
-George Hill. What the Hill George?
-Will Vince Carter be able to contribute on the floor half as much as he is off it?
-Skal has seemingly regressed. Is that his fault, or the fault of the rotations?
-Shaved Head Willie is undefeated. But will he be able to stay consistent?
-How do we work Frank Mason into ballgames?
-What the hell do we do with Malachi Richardson?
Vlade Divac was smart to give himself options. George Hill hasn’t even unpacked, but even he knows he’s probably not long for this place. I think Vlade’s original notion was to have Hill as an insurance policy, and ship him when De’Aaron Fox showed he was ready. Problem: Fox is ready, but Hill’s value is rock-bottom. You can’t afford to buy high and sell low, so you have to continue to play him in hopes that he gets hot and more valuable.
Kosta Koufos has been quietly fantastic this year, despite many in the fanbase disagreeing. He ain’t flashy, he won’t posterize anyone, and kids aren’t waiting outside in the rain for the new Koufos 4 lows to drop. But he is a total pro, knows his role, and does all the dirty work. He’s another guy I see on the move this year. I imagine Vlade and co will try to reward him for his service by putting him on a playoff team. Pairing him with Hill to get a package back that includes salary dump and a 2019 1st round pick is my bet.
Malachi is the tough one. Though he shows signs of developing, he just can’t seem to get into a rhythm. This isn’t totally his fault either. But with Bogdan, Temple, Hield, etc, he just seems to be the odd man out. I’m not necessarily advocating that they trade him, but he may need to be the attractive young piece that puts a deal over the top. To be honest, if he paired with Hill and Koufos in a package that brought back a large expiring and that mid-level 2019 pick, I’d pull the trigger.
Harry Giles has become the Kings’ Unicorn du Jour, and for good reason. Not only was he highly sought after out of high school, but all reports have him looking fantastic in practice. The Kings have said they’ll re-evaluate him in January, but I believe they’re just keeping their options open. I don’t expect to see Giles in the NBA this year, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Let the kid learn on the bench and in practice, and hopefully the care and patience will pay off. I like the idea of going into next year with a top 10 pick, plus a fully-healthy Giles to add to this young core. Give the kid a shot at rookie of the year next season.
About that pick……
One thing I believe above all is in the franchise’s value placed on this summer’s pick. This is a 3 year rebuild, and in year three they have no 1st round pick to rebuild with (as of now). I also think the timeline is such that in year three, they’re hoping that pick will be in the low teens. This summer’s pick represents their last (hopefully) swing for the fences pick for a while. Will the Kings tank? Not really. If this team all of a sudden reels off 10 of 12 and finds themselves in contention for the 8, would they stay the course? I’m sure they would.
But this is reality, and in reality that ain’t happening. I expect the second half of the season to be filled with youth and losses, education and disappointment. Vets being shipped off at the deadline. The vets left over resting literally every other game.
Divac and Joerger know they’re playing the long game. So far this year, things are progressing nicely, with glimpses of hope here and there (especially Fox and Justin Jackson). Borden seems to be an NBA ready guy right now. Year One of the rebuild is on track, but Year Two needs to be planned and accounted for as well.
Imagine adding Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley or Luka Doncic to this squad next year. Hopefully that thought will help temper some of the tough losses we are surely going to see fairly soon.