Heading into the 2017 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings did not have a single pure point guard on their roster. Garrett Temple played some point guard last season, but Temple at lead guard is like trying to jam a puzzle piece into the wrong spot, it doesn’t really fit. Thankfully, Sacramento used their No. 5 overall pick on De’Aaron Fox, the speedy floor general out of Kentucky.
The 19-year-old only spent one season in Lexington, but what a season it was. Fox averaged an impressive 16.7 points, 4.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game for the Wildcats. He also outplayed Lonzo Ball in both meetings against UCLA and was stellar in the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, there are concerns about his jump shot, but those may be a little overblown. If Fox’s performance in Summer League is any indication, he is going to be just fine. This kid got drafted fifth overall for a reason, he is in Sacramento to contribute right away.
In fact, at the time Fox was drafted, it appeared as if he would have a wide open path to the starting point guard gig. But not too long after the draft, the Kings’ brass decided to add George Hill, a veteran point guard who spent the 2016-17 season with the Utah Jazz.
Hill had an exceptional year in Utah as the nine-year veteran averaged a career-high 16.9 points per game along with 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds, a stat line eerily similar to that of Fox’s lone season at Kentucky.
So now that there are two players more than capable of handling the starting point guard duties in Sacramento, what will the position look like in the regular season? Will Hill’s and Fox’s playing styles mesh well? Will they clash? Will one get significantly more minutes than the other? Will they play together in the backcourt?
I believe there are two scenarios that could unfold in 2017-18.
First Scenario: Head coach Dave Joerger runs out plenty of small-ball lineups and often plays Hill and Fox in the backcourt together. While Hill has the necessary skills to be the primary ball handler, he is more effective off the ball than Fox is at this stage of his career because of his ability to shoot the three (buried 40 percent of attempts from beyond-the-arc last season).
A lineup featuring Fox and Hill at the guard spots could give other teams headaches because both can handle the ball, get into the paint and play gritty perimeter defense. Fox would most likely play with the ball in his hands while Hill plays on the wing and runs off screens to look for scoring opportunities.
Second Scenario: De’Aaron Fox steals the spotlight right out of the gate and George Hill becomes frustrated. This could very well happen. Fox looks like a potential star and if that potential is realized sooner rather than later, that could mean less minutes for Hill. If this sequence of events take place, it would not be surprising to see the veteran point guard’s name pop-up frequently in rumors ahead of the trade deadline.
Hill actually wants to be in Sacramento as his subdued personality is a fit in smaller markets. But if he is not getting a chance to contribute this late in his career, he might want to go play for a contender where he has an opportunity to make a run in the playoffs.
Prediction: I would lean toward the first scenario as far as actually becoming a reality. I think Hill’s game will complement Fox’s skill set well because of his ability to play off the ball. I also think Joerger is going to like having him around because he can mentor the first-year point guard as he transitions into the NBA.
However, if the Kings struggle as much as people expect them to, Hill is going to be a hot commodity on the trade market. If Sacramento receives an offer it likes and De’Aaron Fox has shown enough to handle the primary point guard obligations on his own, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them unload the veteran.