Kings' 2024 Season Preview
- By Andrew Seitz, Day 1, 2024
The Kings will look to improve on their 56-win season, and are aiming for 60+ wins and a top 2 finish in the conference, but increased strength at the bottom of the conference could lead to the top teams in the conference having fewer wins than last year. Cohesion will be a big factor this year, as the Kings bring back the same starting 5 for the third straight year, and head coach Matt Turner will have confidence in his second year. We still lack that big-time, drag-the-team-across-the-finish-line-by-himself all-star, but heading into training camp the Kings have strong starters at every position, good veteran leadership, and solid depth at all positions.
Starter: Christian Vickery (WS/48 Rank: 2nd of 28 PGs that started 50+)
Backups: Eli Custer, Marcus Richardson (R), Bakari Kostur
Even if Vickery falls off a cliff this year, stealing him away from the Mustangs has to be considered a success. For two years he was the only veteran presence on a team that made the conference finals, and last year averaged nearly 14 assists per game in the playoffs. His advancing age though means he will get 26-28 MPG, leaving a lot of minutes available for the next generation.
This is the third consecutive season that the Kings will be trying to find Vickery’s successor. The team thought highly of Richardson, enough to trade up in the first round to take him. His JBL ratings are good aside from his outside shooting, which took a dive from his college scouting. There is also a question about his ceiling. Custer played well last year but is more a tweener guard than a playmaking point. Kostur was acquired last season for a second round pick and is a playmaking guard with a lot of room to grow, but is already 24 and still has deficiencies in shooting and defense. If Richardson--currently being mentored by Vickery--improves in camp he will start the season as the backup, but there are clear opportunities for Custer and Kostur.
Starter: Detrez Owens (WS/48 Rank: 8th of 24)
Backups: DeMarco Prince, Custer, Landon Gladden (R)
At just 21, Owens is one of the most exciting players to watch in the JBL, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired: of the starting SG’s last year, only Marcus Dunn and Jermaine Wade have worse defensive ratings. He’ll be entering a contract year and we expect him to be offered the max next off-season.
Prince is the team’s third wing, and is a well-rounded player to come off the bench. Machiavelli will have to avoid the sophomore slump, and I’m very interested to see how much he improves in TC, as there are questions regarding his ceiling. Right now though I’d put him up against any other backup wing in the league. Custer was the backup SG during a large part of last season when Olojakpoke was hurt and played well. Gladden will have to fight to make the roster.
Starter: Victor Olojakpoke (WS/48 Rank: 12th of 24)
Backups: Prince, JaMarcus Thybulle, Zeke Boreczky, Devion Jensen, Cameron Haugh (R)
Olojakpoke takes a lot of flack in the slack channel but I am very happy with his all-around play and room to grow. I’d prefer a superstar at SF, but, failing that, the jack-of-all-trades is what I like at SF. The only negative is that I had expected him to be a lockdown defender. Olojakpoke is definitely above average in defense, but there are several wings his age with better ratings (Brandon Kelly, DeMarco Prince, Zaveon West, and Kareem Teague) and he doesn’t look like a generational defender.
Prince is another all-around SF, but more of a scorer and less of a shooter than Olojakpoke. After Prince, we’re a little thin on true SF’s. Both Tebouleh and Zeke are more suited to being PF’s (the median starting SF in the JBL has B- outside shooting and C post creation, which means that most SFs are more comfortable on the perimeter. Thybulle and Zeke both are more comfortable defending in the post). After being sidelined for TC and a good portion of the season with a broken leg, Jensen had maybe the worst shooting year of anyone ever in the JBL, shooting 26% (14% from 3). Haugh performed well in his senior year at Louisiana-Lafayette and was personally asked to enter the free agent pool by the Kings coaching staff. He will fight for the last roster spot.
Starter: Richmond Benson (WS/48 Rank: 4th of 20)
Backups: Thybulle, Boreczky, Young
BENSANITY is perpetually underrated. His height will likely keep him from being a true star, but he is an efficient scorer that can rebound and play defense, able to defend both the three point line and the rim. I think he is already one of the best PFs in the league and that showed in his WS/48 rating among PFs..
Thybulle is a similar player to Benson and has a lot of room to grow. He doesn’t have the shooting efficiency of Benson, but has better rebounding and passing. We traded Foreman to make sure that Thybulle gets plenty of minutes this season. Hopefully Zeke will be ok with a reduced role, but he will be insurance if we get a good offer for Thybulle. Young was obtained for his veteran leadership and likely won’t dress to start the season.
Starter: Latrell Mason (WS/48 Rank: 13th of 30)
Backups: Jacob Winkowski (R), Young
Former #1 pick and rookie of the year Mason made some positive strides in his second season. Mason is stretch 5 that is more comfortable using his athleticism to run to the rim rather than putting on power moves in the post. Centers in the JBL tend to be rim protectors, and Mason is used to draw those centers away from the basket where they will be less effective. On the negative side, Mason is a good post defender but still has work to do blocking shots. With his height and leaping ability, he should be a lot better.
We were happy with the ratings that second round pick--and alumnus of the greatest school in the country, Penn State--Wincowski showed after moving to the JBL. He will likely never be more than a JBL back-up, but he his strengths are exactly what we were looking for in a center. If Wincowski tanks though, Young will be there as a back-up.