Buddy Hield

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Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Report: Kings not interested in trading De’Aaron Fox in Kyrie Irving deal

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Kyrie Irving submitted a list of preferred teams, but – without a no-trade clause and locked into his contract for two more years – he has minimal control where the Cavaliers trade him. So, other teams are emerging.

Like the Kings.

Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer:

I just heard Irving’s name attached to Sacramento, not sure what comes back to the Cavs other than Kentucky point guard De'Aaron Fox.

Fox – the No. 1 No. 5 in last month’s draft – could make sense as the centerpiece of an Irving trade if Cleveland wants to get younger in preparation of LeBron James leaving next summer. The Kings could also include some combination of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson and/or future draft picks.

But it doesn’t seem that concept is getting off the ground.

James Ham of NBC Sports California:

A league source confirmed to NBC Sports California that the Kings have no interest in dealing Fox, who they acquired with the 5th overall selection in June’s NBA Draft. The 19-year-old is considered the future of the franchise at the point guard position and according to the source, any rumor of the team offering him in a deal are false.

Irving is way more valuable than Fox, even to Sacramento. Irving is just a few months older than Bogdanovic, a rookie the Kings just signed to join their young core. Irving’s contract would keep him in Sacramento for two years, and a desire to spread his wings could secure him longer.

Maybe the Kings are just delusional about Fox’s value. Or maybe Vlade Divac is just trying to gain leverage. After all, he doesn’t have a track record of trustworthiness when he says he won’t trade someone.

Most likely: The Kings know they lack the assets to get Irving without gutting their team to the point it wouldn’t be worth it. So, rather than entering a prolonged pursuit of him only to get rejected later, they’re just saying they’re not interested.

Top of the draft board shines at Summer League

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The depth and quality of the 2017 NBA draft had teams tanking at the end of the regular season in hopes of vaulting into the top three picks.

With the huge caveat being that it was only summer league action, those at the top of the draft made quite a first impression.

Summer league play was set to end on Monday night after Portland played the Lakers in the Las Vegas league championship game. Over leagues played in Orlando, Salt Lake City and Vegas, many of the top 10 picks gave their teams plenty to feel good about before heading into the league’s quiet period for the next two months.

No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball owned Vegas with a pair of triple-doubles to help the Los Angeles Lakers reach the title game. Top pick Markelle Fultz showed off his wide array of scoring tricks in Utah before sitting out much of Vegas with an ankle injury and No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum of Boston was drawing comparisons to Paul Pierce while dominating both in Utah and Nevada.

The competition these rookies will face will increase exponentially when training camps open in October. And there is a long list of summer league standouts – Nikoloz Tskitishvili, anyone? – who never amounted to anything in the NBA. But for struggling franchises like the Lakers, Sixers, Suns and Kings, seeing some real promise from their youngsters the first time they step on the court is encouraging.

“Every day, Magic and I say: `How are we pursuing excellence?”‘ Lakers GM Rob Pelinka told reporters in Vegas on Sunday, referring to new Lakers president Magic Johnson. “To win the Summer League (would be) a step in that direction.”

Whether the Lakers achieve that goal or not doesn’t mean the suffering of the last four years is over. Far from it.

The real test awaits in a couple of months. But for several franchises that are in the business of selling hope right now, business is good.

Here are some other takeaways from summer league action:

PACKED HOUSE: Buoyed by Ball and the Lakers, the Vegas Summer League enjoyed record attendance numbers, including multiple sell-outs of Thomas & Mack Center.

What started as a gathering of a few teams 13 years ago has turned into a full-fledged event under the guidance of coaching agent Warren LeGarie and Albert Hall. Sponsors are lining up to get in on the action, fans crowd the concourses looking for autographs of the next big things and established stars like LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas and John Wall sit courtside to watch the games.

ESPN and NBATV televise the games and over 500 media credentials were given out for the Las Vegas site alone.

The Vegas tournament has grown to include 24 teams and is also home to the league meetings, where owners gather to consider rules changes and other orders of business for the season ahead.

“I told Mayor Goodman that we should get a commission for the NFL and the NHL following in our footsteps,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last week. “We were here when some leagues weren’t even taking advertising in Las Vegas, and we’re proud to be here. I feel our Summer League has become a fixture in Las Vegas, part of the permanent summer calendar.”

OTHER STANDOUTS: Fultz, Tatum and Ball weren’t the only youngsters to have strong showings in summer league.

Dennis Smith Jr., the No. 9 pick by Dallas, may have been the best player in Las Vegas, averaging 17.3 points and 4.2 assists per game for the Mavericks and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell averaged 28 points per game in just two games for the Jazz.

Sacramento’s De'Aaron Fox, the fifth overall pick out of Kentucky, displayed his athleticism and defensive instincts for the Kings. Josh Jackson, the No. 4 overall pick by Phoenix, averaged 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in Vegas and played with a competitive fire that intrigued many scouts leading up to the draft.

Portland’s Caleb Swanigan was consistent throughout and San Antonio’s Bryn Forbes had a pair of 35-point games to give the Spurs another promising young talent in the pipeline as they wait to hear from Manu Ginobili on his future.

FLIP SIDE: Just as we shouldn’t read too much into the successes of summer league, so to should the struggles be taken with a grain of salt. But Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls’ No. 7 overall pick who came over in the draft-night trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, shot just 24 percent (6 for 25 on 3-pointers) in Las Vegas, not a great sign for a 7-footer billed as the best shooter in the draft.

Sacramento’s Buddy Hield, the centerpiece of the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans in February, shot just 35 percent in three games in Las Vegas, a mark was aided by a binge of six 3s in his final game against the Lakers. Not what you want to see from a second-year player who will turn 24 in December.

 

Report: Final season of George Hill’s Kings contract just $1 million guaranteed

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I wasn’t a big fan of the Kings giving George Hill – a 31-year-old with a history of nagging injuries – a three-year, $57 million contract.

But the deal won’t necessarily be as costly as it initially sounded.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

The Kings still had to outbid the market for George. Nobody is rushing to Sacramento for less than top dollar.

But this contract is far more manageable than one that would have guaranteed Hill $20 million at age 33. He’s far more tradable, or – if his production declines in the next couple years – waivable.

I still question the wisdom of the Kings, who also signed Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, pushing in this year. They owe their unprotected 2019 first-round pick to the 76ers or Celtics. So, this season was Sacramento’s last chance to tank before their young players developed too much for that to be a viable strategy.

Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson, Georgios Papagiannis, De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Bogdan Bogdanovic form a nice young core. It’s not one strong enough to bank on, and I think a higher lottery pick this year would go further than Hill’s veteran mentorship.

Maybe Hill plays well enough to be traded for value. Maybe he leads a surprising upstart into the playoffs sooner than expected.

Those are narrow targets to hit, but at least the Kings are trying with Hill’s contract being less of a long-term burden.

Report: Zach Randolph headed to Sacramento on two-year, $24 million contract

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It’s going to be weird seeing Zach Randolph in a uniform other than the Memphis Grizzlies’ blue and white.

It’s sad to see the official end of grit n’ grind in Memphis.

But we knew it was coming, and this is one of the two death blows (the other being when Tony Allen signs somewhere else, too): Zach Randolph is headed to Sacramento on a two-year deal, something broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This seems a bit steep Randolph, who will turn 36 before the start of next season. That said, he can still produce, averaging 14.1 points per game, shot a solid 44.9 percent last season, still can a team buckets around the basket and has a dangerous midrange game. His rebounding isn’t what it once was, but he halted his decline in that area last season. However, as he has aged he has slowed, and he can be a defensive liability.

Randolph took less than he could have gotten elsewhere with his last deal to keep Memphis together, nobody should blame him for getting paid.

I have no idea why Sacramento made this move, in combination with getting George Hill on a three-year, $57 million deal. There is bringing in veterans to mentor — Philly did it with J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson on one-year deals — and there is killing future cap space for players who help you win a little more now more now (if they stay healthy) but don’t get you into the playoffs in the crazy deep West. The Kings did the latter, apparently making desperation moves to end a decade-long playoff drought. They bet on and older player in Randolph and a guy who missed 33 games last year in Hill who has a long history of injury issues.

Sacramento has some nice young pieces to start rebuilding around — Buddy Hield played well after coming over from the Pelicans, Skal Labissiere showed promise late in the year, they just drafted De'Aaron Fox, there’s Willie Cauley-Stein — let them learn on the job and get more, better players on their timeline. The Kings were going to make a play for Otto Porter at the max, which made sense (even though Washington would have matched). They could make a play for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Detroit (the Pistons would have to shed salary to match, and they probably would), az Zach Lowe noted.

If the Kings lose a lot this year, it helps their draft pick next year. Keep their powder dry for the summer of 2018 when the free agent market will be tighter, and that money will have more value (plus the Kings don’t have their first round pick in 2019, so winning more works). Sacramento chose not to.

The Kings again seem to be thinking short-term, not long-term, they appear to be thinking about a push for the eighth seed (which is unlikely) rather than building something sustainable for the future. Basically, they remain the Kings.