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Training camp battles: Breaking down Kings' depth at point guard
Is there room for three point guards on the final roster?
This is the first in a series of posts breaking down training camp battles leading up to the Kings' 2022-23 training camp coming up in late September.
The rebuild isn’t complete, but heading into training camp for the 2022-23 season, the Kings have plenty of question marks.
As the saying goes, “iron sharpens iron.” The Kings will have competition at almost every position, whether it is for a roster spot, minutes in the rotation or for a starting job, there will be intrigue.
We’ll begin with one of the safest positions on the roster, the point guard spot, where four players will fight for 48 minutes…or more. One of these players will see the bulk of the time and at least one of the others won’t have a jersey on opening night.
Here is how the point guard position stacks up, less than a month before the start of training camp.
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Stats: 23.6 points, 5.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 47.3 FG%, 29.7 3-PT%
Call him the head of the snake or Sacramento’s franchise player, either way, the Kings will go as far as Fox takes them and that has been the case for a few seasons now. For the first time in his career, Fox has a second pillar to help support the tremendous weight of the franchise in Domantas Sabonis.
The two showed promise in their limited sample size together after Sabonis was brought in via trade. That was cut short by a late season hand injury to Fox. They will need some time to develop chemistry, but this pairing could be elite.
Fox spent this summer working out with assistant coach Luke Loucks, even taking Loucks on his honeymoon. This might be the most important season of Fox’s career and there is a chance he takes another tremendous leap in production this season.
Entering his sixth NBA season, Fox is still one of the fastest players in the league. He’s developed into an extremely high-level scorer, with potential for more and when he was asked to take on the role of lead distributor following the trade of Tyrese Haliburton, he stepped up to the challenge.
Fox was lights out from the mid-range last season, shooting 45.8 percent on 626 shots between 3-feet and the 3-point line. He also shot an incredible 71.4 percent at the rim, making him one of the tougher covers inside the arc.
Fox’s struggles from 3-point range have plagued him throughout his career and last season was no different. He shot just 29.7 percent from long range, which was the second lowest mark of his career. If he can shore up this area, it would open up even more options for Brown’s offense.
In addition to his struggles from deep, Fox’s defensive metrics need some work. He locks in against elite offensive players, but has struggled to remain consistent on a nightly basis. Brown demands that every player gives effort on defense, so there is potential for growth in this area, especially with Fox’s speed and quickness.
Lastly, be it covid, a hand injury or smaller issues, Fox has missed a total of 58 games over the last three seasons. If the Kings are going to be successful, they need their best player to suit up and play closer to 75 games a year.
Stats: 11.5 points, 4.2 assists, 2.2 rebounds, .7 steals, 41.8 FG%, 31.6 3-PT%
Mitchell was a surprising selection with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, but he fits perfectly into Brown’s defensive schemes and his skill set translated quickly to the NBA level.
A tireless worker, Mitchell hit the rookie wall on more than one occasion last season, but he persevered and finished on a high note over the last 30 games of the season.
The 23-year-old guard isn’t one to take time off. He’s been in the lab all summer long working to improve every aspect of his game. If last season was any indication, Mitchell is a major minute player with the potential to run the team in a pinch and also finish games.
He’s not a perfect backcourt mate for Fox due to his size, but his energy and ability to guard up should allow for plenty of crossover.
Rarely do you see a player come into the league and instantly become the team’s hardest worker. There were nights where Mitchell would leave the floor, hit the media room and head straight to the practice facility to get more shots up. He’s a culture builder and brings an edge that the Kings have been lacking for some time.
On the offensive end, Mitchell is consistent and better than expected. He’s a ball control specialist that posted a 4.2-to-1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio and when the Kings needed him to take over the starting point guard role in the final 10 games, he averaged 19.5 points and 10 assists a night.
Mitchell makes his money on the defensive end. Despite his size, he’s a handful that fights through screens and pesters taller opponents.
In his rookie campaign, Mitchell’s shooting numbers were not what you expected. He has perfect form on his jump shot, has an ability to create space off the dribble and he shot 64.2 percent at the rim. The mechanics are there, but the Kings need him to hit more than 31.6 percent from long range.
On the defensive end, he is so close to greatness. He can’t grow, which causes some issues, especially when the Kings ask him to take on a larger player. If he can handle players 6-foot-5 and below, he’ll stay on the court for plenty of minutes. If he’s asked to defend players like Luka Doncic, then he’ll need help.
Lastly, what is Mitchell’s ceiling? If he was a little bigger, you could see him playing a modern day Eric Snow role alongside Fox. For now, he is a top 10 pick that will likely play sixth man minutes alongside a talent like Malik Monk for long stretches.
G League Stats: 23.7 points, 5.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 52.4 FG%, 44.6 3-PT%
Cook’s disappearance from the NBA game makes no sense. He is basically the offensive version of Mitchell, with an elite skill as a shooter. He earned a championship ring with the Warriors back in 2018 and a second with the Lakers in 2020. After playing just 23 games between stops in LA and Cleveland in 2020-21, Cook was forced to play for Lokomotiv Kuban (?) before earning a call to the Stockton Kings of the G League in 2021-22.
Cook has a history with Brown from their time together with Golden State. He also seems to understand the value of his place in the league and he was willing to venture back to the G League last season in an attempt to prove that he is still a player.
Shooters shoot. Whether it was in the NBA, the G League or abroad, Cook has shown an incredible ability to shoot from the perimeter. The 29-year-old guard is a career 40.8 percent shooter from deep.
In addition to showing an ability to shoot, Cook is a solid assist-to-turnover man. He’s a player who can step in and play reserve minutes and act as a scorer or a primary ball handler, which he showed off with the Stockton Kings last season. He can also come off the bench as a spark plug scorer if that’s what the team needs.
In certain situations, a knock down shooter can stick around forever. Unfortunately for Cook, he hasn’t been able to prove that he can be more than a tertiary player on a really good team and provide depth in a different or unique way.
If the Kings are looking for a stopper as an emergency point guard, Cook is the wrong guy. He has finished as a positive in the net offensive/defensive rating just twice and isn’t known as a game changer on the defensive end. If they are looking for a player who can step in and space the floor for others, then he is a perfect fit.
ABL Stats: 10.3 points, 4.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds, .8 steals, 38.9 FG%, 35.8 3-PT%
Dellavedova was fun for a moment at the NBA level. Like Cook, he has a history with Brown from way back in 2013-14, but the road has been rocky for the Australian.
Injuries have all but crushed Dellavedova’s career over the last few years. He played 156 games over four seasons before finding his way to the Australian Basketball League last year. When he’s healthy, he’s a solid contributor, but that is a huge question.
Dellavadova teeters on the brink of being tough and dirty at all times. He’s a throwback of sorts who has carved out a niche in the league as an instigator. The Kings need this type of player, even if it’s just as a practice dummy.
In 447 career games, including 93 starts, Dellavedova has shown that he can hold his own on both sides of the court. He’s a career 36.4 percent 3-point shooter with a 3.7-to-1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Delly is a good sized guard with a championship pedigree and both NBA and international experience.
There was a time when signing Dellavedova would have been celebrated. Now he is closing in on 32, played last season in Australia and hasn’t stayed healthy since the Barack Obama administration.
Dellavedova isn’t the shooter that Cook is. He also isn’t the floor general like the other three point guards on the list, but he does bring something different. The question is whether he is a player or a player development coach at this point.
Fox will play between 33-35 minutes per game. Mitchell will play 25-28 minutes per game. These two statements will require that the pair play plenty of minutes together in a small guard lineup.
With minute eaters in the form of Fox and Mitchell, the Kings could go into the season without a third point guard. They have others, like Malik Monk and Terence Davis, who can handle the ball, and the offense will run through Sabonis for much of the game.
If the Kings do keep three point guards, an early prediction is that Cook has a slight leg up on Dellavedova. He’s younger, doesn’t have an injury history and his 3-point shooting is a focus of this offseason. Dellavedova is a bigger guard and he’s known for his toughness and edge, but Cook is a safer bet.
Regardless of who makes the final cut, the reserve spot will be a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ player. Fox has a history of missing games during the regular season, so there is a chance this player sees the court, but nothing is guaranteed.