Training camp starts next week. Here’s part two of the list of questions for every player at camp. (Read part one here)
Can Chris Duarte maintain good health this season?
Chris Duarte could be very good for the Kings, but he could also be a letdown. If the latter ends up being the case, it’ll almost entirely be tied to health.
Losing Sabonis—whom he had great chemistry with—during his rookie season and having Tyrese Haliburton justifiably commanding practically all of the ball handling and creation responsibilities, there are some reasons why Duarte’s efficiency dipped in year two. Playing with Sabonis again and the rest of this Kings team should give him the platform to bounce back.
But again, it’s about the injuries.
Duarte played a total of 46 games last season. Joining the league-renowned training staff could set him on the right path, but the question of health remains because it can always be tricky.
After all, Duarte did not play much late in his successful rookie season due to injuries. He only played 55 contests that year.
It’s simple. Can he stay healthy?
Is the EuroLeague MVP going to defend NBA players well enough to provide his highest possible impact?
Shooting, size, rebounding, and awareness are all things Sasha Vezenkov will bring with him to the NBA. However, as for his defense, it’s difficult to project how he’ll look. He could prove to be fine, he could need some time to adjust early on, but that defense will have to be adequate for Vezenkov to see the play time he seems capable of commanding.
If his defense holds up—and to be clear, it doesn’t have to be great—then Sacramento will be able to maximize the benefit from what appears to be a beautiful shooting touch. It will also allow Trey Lyles to play more at the 5, which was a lineup that proved to be a difference-maker whether you look at the late January overtime win in Minnesota after Sabonis fouled out or the playoff series against the Warriors.
Pinpointing the playoff series, playing smaller with Lyles at the 5 was a key adjustment for Mike Brown.
Having Vezenkov allows for more of that, so the defense from the EuroLeague MVP will have to be up to par with the NBA level.
That’s not casting doubt, it’s just something that has to happen.
Is Alex Len ready for a full season as the backup should he win minutes over McGee?
Last year, Alex Len was such a shot in the arm for a team that spent the majority of the season “searching” for answers at the backup 5. Perhaps “shot in the arm” isn’t a fair characterization because Len was on the team the whole time without being given a shot until the final eight games of the regular season.
Still, he was incredibly solid and, at times, was a real difference-maker in his minutes backing up Sabonis.
Yet, because it was such a small sample size, the question has to be brought up: Could he realistically be relied on to give that kind of performance in a more prolonged period if asked to?
It’s fair to at least consider that his satisfactory play could have had a lot to do with being fresh. If he wins minutes as the backup (true) center, could he sustain that level of play?
Perhaps it doesn’t matter too much if there is more of Lyles at the 5, but nevertheless, a 30 year-old Len has to be able to put in a full season of production if he wants full hold of the role he is capable of playing.
Is JaVale McGee going to fall back on his three-time championship experience or really produce?
The JaVale McGee signing and the confidence the franchise appears to have in him is great news for Kings fans considering the aforementioned issues at the backup 5 last season. With Len, McGee is another veteran that’s proven he can contribute off the bench as he’s done so in recent years for really good teams.
But at age 35, last season may be as telling as any other season.
After all, Dallas signed him last summer to a three-year deal with the intention he’d start. McGee ended up playing 42 games, far less than Dwight Powell (76 games played) and Christian Wood (67).
McGee obviously offers a knack for throwing down lobs efficiently, rebounding, and blocking shots, but there is a possibility that his main contribution may come from his championship experience and the accompanying leadership.
But he did lose his starting job quickly before essentially falling out of the rotation. A Mavericks analyst noted his struggles on defense as well as his failure to form chemistry with Luka Doncic, both of which played a large factor in his disappointing season.
A different defensive scheme and a new home could help McGee bounce back, but the age factor will come into play. And at this stage, it wouldn’t be improbable that he’s reached a limit, which would in turn limit him more to a veteran leader role more than anything else.
Does he still have it?
Is there a chance Kessler Edwards makes contributions at the 4 position?
With Chris Duarte on the team, Kessler Edwards may be on the outside looking in when it comes to minutes. His defense and awareness of many of the little things will earn him minutes from time to time, but there may be a need for Edwards to expand his versatility, especially if Duarte looks more like his rookie season than his second season and remains available.
In Summer League, Edwards showed a few things that appeared to be efforts to expand that versatility and impact on the floor.
One of them was being more aggressive with the ball. That will not be needed in the regular season because there are plenty of other guys Mike Brown will lean on with the ball in their hands. Edwards had some moments during the summer, but he demonstrated he’s probably never going to be that type of player.
The second was far more applicable. It seemed there were a handful of moments where Edwards played the 4 position, guarding bigger guys and getting more involved on the glass. In this regard, he looked promising.
He’s fairly strong relative to the wing, but as for the 4 position, he lacks some bulk. Still, his efforts were sharp and he displayed fearlessness against bigger forwards. And regardless of strength, he may prove to be more slippery and scrappy on the glass as he showed this summer.
Of course, with Murray, Lyles, and Vezenkov, there might actually be more available minutes at the wing, but Edwards’ overall minutes will increase if he can prove he’s able to play at both forward positions.
Will Colby Jones get off to a solid start showing he can shoot at the highest level?
Colby Jones could be considered on the higher end of second round selections by this Kings team because this summer’s draft class was strong and Jones was slated as a late-first rounder by some.
He possesses a skillset that seems well suited for being an NBA two-guard that can guard the wing.
But he’s still a second round selection, so how he pans out is a mystery, especially before the season’s gotten a chance to start.
A huge indication as to how that will go will be how Colby Jones shoots. That, after all, is his biggest question mark.
Jones put himself in a great position in terms of draft positioning by finishing his Junior season with a 37.8% three-point percentage. That was critical as he shot 33.3% and 29.2% in his Freshman and Sophomore seasons respectively.
It’s not like his shot form is such that the 37.8% season has to be viewed with skepticism, but one breakout season is not a surefire sign of a guy that can hit three’s at the next level at the requisite clip.
After all, look at Davion Mitchell. But at least for Mitchell, there’s elite defense. Shooting is even more critical for a guy like Colby Jones.
Keon Ellis (two-way contract)
Is Keon Ellis the “third point guard”?
Keon Ellis appeared to take another step closer to providing an NBA impact at Summer League. He was everywhere on defense, hitting jumpers, and getting to the rim.
One of the things that seemed like a more stark evolution was his ability to initiate for Luke Loucks’ Summer League squad.
Looking at the standard NBA roster, there’s not really a true third point guard. So he could be utilized more, especially with one year as a pro under his belt.
Now is he really the third point guard? No. He can’t even really be considered a point guard.
However, given that the conventional third point guard role is apparently not viewed as a necessity due to the amount of guys who could handle primary ball handling duties, it’s Ellis’ game that could be tapped if guys go down or miss time. He may not be stepping up the way Matthew Dellavedova had to, but there may be a chance for him to get in the mix, which is the key point.
At the end of the day, Ellis offers a skillset that seems more versatile than a year ago, so he’s put himself in a better position to see some fill-in time if needed, and a lot of that growth seemingly has to do with his creating ability.
Jalen Slawson (two-way contract)
Will Jalen Slawson make strides developing a specific role?
Second round selection Jalen Slawson, despite his age, is still a ways away from making an impact at the NBA level.
He played a point-forward type role at Furman, but it’s unlikely he’ll assume that role in his professional career. With Stockton, where he’ll play most of the time, he could play that role, but that’s unlikely to change anything about a prospective NBA role.
At Summer League, Slawson struggled to assume the duty of role player. He showed some great defense and some heads up play in transition, but his ability to be an impact from the margins—namely spot up shooting—still needs development.
Can Slawson get off to a good start in his professional career settling into a specific role that could be helpful in the eyes of Mike Brown down the line?
Jordan Ford (two-way contract)
Can more momentum build up on the Jordan Ford train?
The local kid tore it up in Summer League, he then finally got an invite to camp in September that quickly became a two-way contract.
Will this train’s momentum continue to intensify?
He’s clearly earned an opportunity to showcase his skills among the NBA guys, and without a true third point guard, there could (that’s a key word) be some wiggle room to get him on the floor for Mike Brown.
Of course, the Kings have plenty of guys in the rotation that would not require the smaller Ford or any two-way player to step right up into a stopgap rotational role. Still, a lot of this is dependent on what the crafty product of Folsom High School can do.
He’s got some momentum coming into camp. Can Jordan Ford keep it going on up the track?
Deonte Burton and Chance Comanche (camp deals)
Over the past week, the Kings have signed a couple guys to training camp deals that will land both guys with the G League team in Stockton.
First they signed Chance Comanche, who has one game of NBA experience, played 40 games in Stockton last year, and actually looked pretty good in Summer League play for Luke Loucks.
Then, over the weekend, they did the same for Deonte Burton, who played with Stockton and saw some time with the NBA club on a 10-day deal.
There’s one more training camp spot open since Skal Labissiere will not be at camp, so maybe they add another name this week.
As it pertains to these guys, there aren’t a ton of pertinent questions for them given their slim chances to see time with the NBA team.