King impressed in Las Vegas and his skillset could be valuable on a Sacramento team that lacks wing talent
After the G League Bubble in February, NBA Draft czar Jonathon Givony was bullish on Louis King and his ability to get back to the NBA.
In his notes recapping the G League bubble, Givony noted that King was the rare wing-sized player that could dribble, pass and shoot. In an NBA that covets wing players with those skills, Givony figured King would soon get scooped up by an NBA team.
Yet somehow, King didn’t get picked up by an NBA team until more than two months later, when the Sacramento Kings signed him to a two-way deal in the closing days of the regular season. In his brief time with the big club, King played only six games, with his most impressive performance being a career-high 27-point game against the Memphis Grizzlies on May 14.
As impressive as King was in that game, it was still an end-of-season contest with multiple regulars out for both teams, so it was something to take with a grain of salt.
King’s summer league performance, however, seemed to indicate that the game against the Grizzlies might have been a sign of things to come.
In Las Vegas, King averaged 13.5 points and 5 rebounds while shooting 45.2% from three. King put up 21 points and 5 steals on 4-of-8 shooting from three in the team’s summer league championship victory over the Boston Celtics, and was named MVP of the game as a result.
The counting stats don’t necessarily jump off the page, but what did stand out was how he got his baskets. Most of King’s points were in the flow of the Sacramento offense, catching and shooting threes and getting to the rim off of close-outs. King also flashed some impressive moments on defense as he used his 7’0 frame to get into passing lanes and hound his assignment.
All of the skills Kings showed could be pretty plug-and-play for a Sacramento team that needs wing talent in the worst way.
King could very well put those skills to use during the 2021-22 season. As I outlined previously, the Kings basically have two playable wings with guaranteed contracts on the entire roster, Harrison Barnes and Moe Harkless. If one of Barnes or Harkless gets hurt, King immediately becomes the most obvious next man up, if the roster stays as is.
With Barnes and Harkless in their late 20s, King also provides some youth to the wing rotation at his ripe age of 22. Givony posited that had King remained in college at Oregon instead of declared for the NBA Draft, he might have been worthy of a first-round pick by the time of the 2021 Draft rolled around.
Headed into his freshman year at Oregon, King was ranked No. 11 in ESPN’s 2018 recruiting class, ahead of guys like Darius Garland and Tyler Herro. Those rankings don’t mean much at this point, but it does illustrate King’s talent and his potential for growth at the still ripe age of 22.
Another thing to love about King is his tenacity and nastiness on the court, something that has been seemingly absent in recent years for Sacramento. In one instance in the championship game against the Celtics, King picked up a loose ball and emphatically laid in with his left hand and then yelled in the face of Pritchard. There were several other instances in Vegas where King’s attitude on the court was palpable.
Barring injuries, it’s a bit hard to expect King to play right away given Luke Walton’s tendency to play veterans and King’s slender frame. Don’t be surprised, however, if injury or an overall lack of solid wing play forces Walton into playing King sooner than expected.
King is on a two-way deal which limits his appearances in Sacramento to only 50 games, although there is a case that the Kings should elevate him to a fully-guaranteed contract. The way Robert Woodard struggled in Las Vegas, there is an argument that King, not Woodard should be the back of bench wing player with a guaranteed deal heading into this season.
Every team in the NBA could use a wing that can shoot and play defense. There is a reason guys like Danny Green, Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, and Jae Crowder get paid big bucks and are coming up big in the playoffs every year. They match up with superstar wings on a nightly basis and also make their three-pointers at an above-average rate, meaning they fit seamlessly on any team.
King doesn’t need to become the second coming of Kawhi Leonard out there, but if he can come in as a guy that knocks down open threes, defends his position, and plays with an edge, he has the potential to be a major rotation piece in Sacramento for a long time.