As was noted in this space earlier this week, the roster looks to be crystallizing, but areas of it such as the third point guard still have some question marks revolving around it.
Do the Kings need to go out and add a true third point guard?
Short answer: not necessarily.
Clearly, Sacramento has a nice one-two punch in De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell, the latter of whom is entering his third season after showing a ton of growth in his facilitating abilities late in his second year.
However, with Matthew Dellavedova returning to the NBL in Australia, the Kings appear—at first sight—to be without a third point guard.
Of course, the third point guard role may seem like a minuscule need. In a lot of ways, it may be easier to think of Dellavedova’s intangible influence—due to his experience at the highest levels of the sport’s competition—as practically being the full effect of the vet’s impact on the team. After all, he got hurt the night the team clinched a postseason spot and thus missed the playoff series against the Warriors. In other words, it’s easy to overlook his role, to think of him as more of a uniformed coach than a player.
Not so fast.
Never lose sight of what he did on Halloween night in Charlotte or what he did in late March against the Jazz. In both instances Delly had to step up; against the Hornets early in the year Fox suffered a knee bruise early, and later in the season, Fox was out, requiring the Australian vet to rise to the occasion. There were also other instances where the need for Dellavedova to be the next man up did not necessarily produce such feel-good stories, but even in those scenarios, he more than held his own.
The third point guard may not be a nightly rotational spot, but it’s key in terms of adaptability and depth throughout an 82-game schedule.
As was noted this week, the fact PJ Dozier is still technically on the roster points to that third point guard. Of course, Sac has to guarantee his deal first, but the opposite hasn’t quite happened, which could secure his place on the team when they enter training camp.
Probably most key to his cause to make the roster is what Dozier did in that time following Dellavedova’s finger injury. When Mike Brown rested most of his primary guys against Golden State late in the regular season, Dozier got tread as the backup point guard and he looked pretty good.
Taking from Monday’s piece here on the site, while Dozier lacks certain strengths like championship experience, he still may offer better on-floor ability: “He may not have the championship experience of Delly, but he’s longer, a better and more versatile defender, and younger.”
Surely he’s benefitting from the input of assistant coach Jordi Fernandez, who was an assistant in Denver when Dozier was playing the best basketball of his career prior to an ACL injury.
But beyond Dozier, the Kings have shown ways to adapt in terms of primary ball-handlers and playmakers.
There is an argument to be made that Malik Monk is the third point guard within the scope of a tighter rotation. Obviously, he’s the team’s sixth man and featured bench option, but everyone saw how much he justifiably commanded more of the ball than the true second point guard in Davion Mitchell.
Monk surprised so many observers with his facilitating ability as he averaged about 4 assists all season long. Even when Monk’s scoring production dipped, he still found a way to get 3 to 5 assists per game.
Furthermore—and admittedly getting away from a specific point guard role—Kevin Huerter also showed some playmaking ability. This is particularly true of a late-season segment, most specifically when Fox missed 2 out of 4 games. It may be a small sample size, but again it was surprising: Huerter was facilitating. At the end of February—without Fox—Huerter scored 20 with 9 assists. And in the first week of March, he put up 25 points with 8 assists. There were a fair amount of 5, 6, or 7 assist nights for him.
Before going crazy, the lanky Huerter may still be more of a wing than a ball-handling guard, especially as arguably being more of a connecting-passer than an initiator, but with Sabonis there, it was clear that the two-man game also generated chances for Huerter to create for others in a way that can contribute in order to fill the role by committee.
And off of that, it’s not crazy to extend the opportunity to a guy like Colby Jones that depended on screens and/or the two-man game to be a creator. A rookie may not be pressing towards the front of the line to command much of the ball-handling duties on a talented team, but one can never know for sure, especially in July. Maybe Jones surprises, or maybe he’s forced into a position where he has to step up in that regard. It’s unlikely off the bat, but not out of the realm of possibility in the big picture.
As much as the third point guard is important, the roster makeup does not seem to indicate any need for the acquisition of a true third point guard.
Perhaps veteran and old friend Cory Joseph could have been a decent option, but he just signed with the Warriors. And guys such as Goran Dragic and George Hill may be far too old at the age of 37 (talk about Goran over the Hill), so they may not be a really appealing option in spite of their experience.
Still, outside of Fox and Mitchell, PJ Dozier, Malik Monk, and others do paint the picture of a team that has ample options and thus does not need that conventional, true third point guard.