The Intrigue of the Kings Second Unit

The Sacramento Kings are one of the more interesting, young teams to keep an eye on this preseason. There are position battles across the board, with hungry youngsters looking to nab starting jobs from established veterans. Coach Dave Joeger and his staff will construct their optimal starting lineup, which will presumably feature mostly grizzled veterans. It is the second unit, however, that will be the most intriguing of Sacramento’s lineups.

With plenty of training camp and preseason left, the Kings starting lineup is far from being set in stone. One of the few things we know for sure is the backcourt: It is a near certainty that George Hill and Buddy Hield will be the starting guards on opening night. Given that information, for this article we can use a forecasted starting five that looks like this:

PG: George Hill
SG: Buddy Hield
SF: ??? (Temple/Carter/Bogdan)
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Kosta Koufos

While my projected starting lineup differs heavily from fellow Kings Hashtag author Nick Agar-Johnson’s, each are reasonable and possible final decisions that Joeger makes. Nick’s point about the Kings focusing on youth in his lineup preview is spot on, though I believe it will take until at least the new calendar year before the youngsters take a majority of the minutes. My forecasted lineup is strictly for opening night and the early part of the season.

The remaining rotation players will make up the second unit, which will be the unit to keep your eyes on. Depending on preseason performance, and whichever one of the five qualified players end up as the starting small forward, my forecast for the Kings second team looks like this:

PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Bogdan Bogdanovic
SF: Justin Jackson
PF: Skal Labissiere
C: Willie Cauley-Stein

The intrigue comes from the youth and potential. Fox, Bogdanovic and Jackson are rookies, and Labissiere is entering his second season. Cauley-Stein is entering his third season as a pro and happens to be the current longest-tenured Sacramento King. The lineup is big and features two 7-footers down low. The combination of WCS and Skal was affectionately dubbed “The Thin Towers” by Kings fans last season. Jackson is a lanky 6’8”, his reach and length making him play even bigger than he is. Bogdanovic’s height is above average, and Fox is a surprising 6’3”. With that abundance of youth is athleticism. This unit is going to run, and the fast breaks they run will be one of their most useful weapons. De’Aaron Fox will instantly be one of the fastest guards in the league, and his athleticism and ability to finish at the basket on fast breaks will be enough of a threat to opposing teams. Combine that with his passing skills and the freakishly athletic big men trailing him, and Sacramento will have one of the most exciting fast break teams in the game. Jackson and Bogs will need to be held accountable for running the wings and hitting transition jumpers for the fast break to be a truly effective weapon.

As for the small forward position, it may be a revolving door all season, not only for this second unit but for the entirety of the team. The Kings have a plethora of options at that spot. Will Coach Joeger go with a veteran like Vince Carter or Garrett Temple? Will Malachi Richardson get the playing time? Last season, Joeger gave Richardson regular yet limited minutes when the Kings were still battling for a chance at the 8th seed. Or could Justin Jackson continue to impress as he did in Summer League and swoop the starting gig? Hell, even Bogdanovic will be considered for playing time at the 3. Small forward will truly be the position to watch for the duration of training camp and the preseason.

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