The Kings’ roster has caught some eyes after the offseason moves they’ve made. What it translates to on the floor is impossible to foretell at this point because Sacramento has more to prove than they have to gloat about, but in trying to get a sense for what Mike Brown’s different lineups and combinations will look like might offer a clearer understanding of what the team might be able to do.
Last year, after Davion Mitchell was added alongside De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, point guard was unmistakably the team’s deepest position despite larger questions surrounding the rest of the roster.
Heading into this year, the situation at point guard—despite containing only two high upside players, not three—is still very solid with the rest of the team appearing to be in better shape, at least on paper.
More than just Fox and Mitchell, the Kings signed Matthew Dellavedova, who will turn 32 in September.
With a borderline all-star, an up and coming defensive stalwart with something to prove on offense, and an experienced and high motor veteran, here’s a look at how the point guard situation is shaping up for this season.
Time and time again, the assumption heading into each season is that Fox is headed towards the next step and approaching an all-star selection. Last year was noticeably underwhelming to start, but it may have ended with the most convincing sense of optimism. So much so that this upcoming year is absolutely his best opportunity to tie it all together and gain the league recognition.
It’s obvious that alongside Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox is a large chunk of this team’s foundation. There’s no question regarding his role on the team as the starting point guard, the primary scoring option, and arguably the leader of the team, so there’s not much analysis needed.
It’s less about needing to envision what the foundational duo can do than it is about what the other guys on the roster can do surrounding them.
Fox and Sabonis are a pairing that should allow each one to really feed off each other. Mike Brown called them a “top-three combination” in the pick and roll, and Marc Spears says people will soon “see” how special they can be.
What the duo did in their time together late last year backs it up. Sabonis’ arrival—and the validation of Fox’s preeminent role in this organization—lead to a hot streak for the point guard that had him playing at perhaps his highest level, not only scoring with force in the paint, but also radiating confidence with his three’s, staying engaged on defense, and being more communicative.
The key, as evidenced by the main focus in bolstering this roster, is outside shooting. Presumably, Fox and Sabonis will share the starting lineup with three-point shooters in Kevin Huerter (.389 3P% last year), Harrison Barnes (.394), and Keegan Murray (.398 in final year at Iowa), and off the bench there is the range of guys like Malik Monk, Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis, and even Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu.
For once there will be a wealth of shooting around the perimeter at any given time, so Fox should not only have a little more space on his downhill drives to the rim, but he could also see a boost in assists with the probability of kicking the ball out to a sharpshooter being much higher, though that may end up being more the case for Sabonis.
Lineups will be formed around Fox in large part, and if he can pick up where he left off and have a consistent year, this team will have a chance to surprise some unsuspecting people.
More than potentially being the captain of the second unit, Davion Mitchell will be the defensive captain of this team.
There are a lot of unknowns about what will happen next season—regarding wins, performance, the playoffs—but there are a few things that one would have trouble refraining from betting on. Chief among them would be that Davion Mitchell will continue living up to his nickname “Off Night.”
As a rookie out of Baylor, he showed the whole league that he is a serious problem for opposing teams on that end of the floor, and with a keen interest in being more of a communicative leader for the team’s defense, his next step going into this year could be special enough to earn him a nod on an all defensive team.
Because of his capabilities on defense, Mitchell will have a chance to command a lot of minutes guarding some of the opponent’s best perimeter players, so much so that the second year man could be featured in closing lineups.
Much of that will depend on the particular matchups and needs on a specific night, but being, without question, the best defensive player on the team puts him up there as likely being a familiar face on the floor in those final minutes.
This may be inevitable if he can take big steps offensively this year. With the learning phases of a first-year campaign behind him and a clear role in the rotation standing before him, Mitchell will have a nice situation to nail down his offensive consistency, especially his shooting.
With the incoming talent in outside shooting, it will be important for Mitchell to show improvement in that area and live up to his potential as a three-point threat. After adjusting his shot throughout his first year—most notably adding more arc to it—the 6’0″ guard noted that in addition to becoming a vocal leader on defense, he’s also putting a lot of focus into his outside shot.
If Mitchell isn’t a consistent threat from three, then it could force tough decisions on whether to focus more on offense or defense, rather than both. That is to say that, even if Mitchell’s defense is helping the team climb back in a game, his inconsistent offensive success from deep could force Huerter or Monk on the floor, especially if either of them demonstrate defensive improvement.
A lack of consistency from Mitchell could take away from reaching the full potential this roster seems to showcase on paper, but the coaching staff would just have to adjust. But if he can be a two-way weapon off the bench that can nail three’s, then that’s a huge advantage for a club trying to achieve the highly elusive place in the playoffs.
And there could be reasons for optimism on this.
Looking at his splits last year, Mitchell’s three-point percentage moved all over the place month by month, which seems to parallel the uncertainties and growth periods typical of a rookie year. One of the things that stands out, however, is that in the split between being a starter (33.7%) and coming off the bench (30.6%), his outside shooting clip clearly does better when in that opening lineup.
Another way to look at that would be his shooting was better when his role was clear.
With more confidence and clarity as to what his role is and what he is able to do, Davion Mitchell could be more than just a backup point guard and defensive specialist, but he’ll have to show it.
Sacramento’s newest acquisition came as little surprise. The Kings had been connected to Matthew Dellavedova since early July, and when McNair said he was still ready to make more moves, inking Dellavedova, or a third point guard, seemed like the most probable course of action.
As a third point guard, Dellavedova does not have an outlook of having a solid place in the rotation night in and night out. While his veteran presence will serve as a nice depth piece on the roster, his most important role will be as a steady figure of professionalism worthy of emulation.
Dellavedova has earned his success in the NBA through a deep commitment to hard work. Having him around to impart upon other guys that kind of work ethic could really maximize the potential of this roster.
It’s not hard to envision how that presence could help the focus of players like De’Aaron Fox, who didn’t get off to a great start last year.
It could help Mitchell in continuing to motivate him on his similar philosophy of being a workhorse, same to rookie Keegan Murray.
It could move the needle on getting less defensively revered players to commit more to that end—guys like Huerter, Monk, and Davis.
He could also be a great role model for a player like Chima Moneke, a Nigerian born in Dellavedova’s native Australia who likewise played basketball at a WCC program (Dellavedova at Saint Mary’s and Moneke at UC Davis) and is trying to establish himself in the world’s premiere basketball league like Dellavedova successfully did.
Without even cutting into discussing lineups and on-floor combinations, there is ample opportunity for Dellavedova to make a positive imprint on this team.
Going in that direction, though, Dellavedova could be a valuable piece in scenarios where guys are injured or missing time because he’ll be able to slide in and be a great stopgap replacement. He won’t necessarily come in and replicate whoever he happens to be momentarily filling in for, but he does plenty of things that can help the team manage in staying afloat should that be their disposition.
Defensively, Dellavedova will be the workhorse he’s always been. His tenacious defense immortalized him in the 2015 Finals and it’s still worth applauding.
Both as a pestilent disrupter at the point of attack and as a team defender—which at 6’3″ always made him a better option for defensive switching than the shorter Quinn Cook—he’ll be able to contribute if the minutes have to be delegated to him.
Since the effect he could have on Davion Mitchell has been mentioned, one of the other things he could do is fill in for the role Donte DiVincenzo played in motivating and encouraging Mitchell to keep bringing it on defense. Dellavedova could aid in fostering defensive communication while working to empower the young talent.
Offensively, Dellavedova will really be showcasing his role as a stopgap. Dellavedova is not a bad offensive player. He won’t be looking to make an impact by trying to score, especially if he’s filling in inside the rotation. Being a veteran, he’ll utilize his nice floor vision and comfort in the pick and roll to facilitate the right kind of play should the team already be showcasing it.
Plus, he’s actually a good three point shooter. In the NBA, he’s a career 36.4% three-point shooter, and last year playing for Melbourne he shot 38% from deep.
Assuming nothing goes wrong for Delly, he could prove to be a great presence in the locker room that serves as a sober and solid fill-in piece as the third point guard.