Sonoma may not have its own professional basketball team, but California is one of the true epicenters of the NBA. And even though it feels like we’re only just wrapping up the summer, the 2019-20 season is just around the corner. It should be a fun one for area fans of the sport, with two particularly exciting and interning teams nearby in the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors.
On the Kings front, it’s hard to see anything other than a team on the rise. Sacramento has been in the NBA dog house for the better part of the 21st century now (ever since the early years at least), and even a couple years ago still looked like something of a mess. Semi-eccentric tech entrepreneur Vivek Ranadive has been an unconventional owner with some some bizarre ideas, and former star Vlade Divac initially looked like a total wild card when he was first hired as general manager. Somewhere along the way though, those two and their front office rounded into fine form, and all of a sudden the Kings have some of the most promising young talent in the NBA.
The young core of the Kings is comprised primarily of three players: De’Aaron Fox, a speedy and dynamic point guard who played his college ball at the University of Kentucky; Marvin Bagley III, an uber-talented forward out of Duke University; and Harry Giles III, Bagley’s fellow Blue Devil and a one-time elite prospect who’s spent years battling knee injuries. Last season, these three came into their own as promising pieces of a team that could contend sooner rather than later. Fox and Bagley are potential stars who could be among the NBA’s best at their positions, while Giles has made remarkable progress – not toward what he once seemed destined to be, but toward being a reliable rotation player.
Ranadive and Divac have surrounded this young core with a solid corps of veterans. Sharp-shooting Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic will fill in the guard positions alongside Fox, while Cory Joseph and Yogi Ferrell make up an above-average backup point guard tandem. Harrison Barnes and Trevor Ariza will bring experience, versatility, and defense to the small forward position. And while neither is a star, Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes can eat up minutes at center so that Bagley can play power forward (where he’s best) and Giles won’t be asked to do too much. To be clear, this is not a roster that is likely to compete for a deep playoff run; it may even be one likely to miss the playoffs simply by virtue of the strength of the Western Conference. But it’s a better roster than the Kings have had in years, and should make the team fun to watch both this season and in the near future.
Where the Warriors are concerned, it’s almost hard to know what to expect. The 2019-20 team won’t resemble the one that won championships in 2017 and 2018, thanks to the departure of former MVP Kevin Durant and a potentially season-long injury to star shooting guard Klay Thompson. And yet, it still wont’ be surprising to see Golden State counted among the league’s favorites. In fact, those who want a more exact idea of what to expect should keep an eye on the sportsbook from FanDuel and its counterpart on DraftKings, which are making official betting odds more visible and available than ever to U.S. sports fans. As of now, these odds are still making it appear as if the Warriors should be one of the better teams in the league, even if they’re not a prohibitive favorite any longer.
This is largely because the Warriors still have two of their longtime stars in place in Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Curry is expected by many to turn in an MVP-level season if he can remain healthy, and some buzz is starting to build that Draymond Green could be in for a big year. Rest assured with their winning pedigree these two will do all they can to keep the Warriors in the mix, and without a definitive juggernaut to oppose them, they may well succeed. Throw in the that Thompson could return in the second half of the season, and these Warriors still won’t resemble the 2017 or 2018 title teams – but they might look a bit like the 2015 one.
Where there are still question marks is on the bench and in the supporting roles. Players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, and more recently Kevon Looney and Quinn Cook, are appreciated by Golden State fans, but perhaps don’t get enough attention in NBA circles more broadly for how much they did to fuel the team’s dynasty. Of that group only Looney remains, and the Warriors will be looking for fresh contributions from the likes of big man Willie Cauley-Stein, journeyman shooting guard Alec Burks, and possibly rookies Eric Paschall out of Villanova and Jordan Poole from Michigan.
It’s anybody’s guess what to expect from this group. And then there’s D’Angelo Russell, the one-time Ohio State star whose career blossomed last season in Brooklyn before he was packaged in a Durant deal to Golden State. Russell has the talent to elevate the Warriors, but many also believe he will be traded midseason.
Add all of this up, and it’s going to be a very interesting season in the area. Given how many cities traditionally have teams that are either out of contention the moment the season starts or headed in the wrong direction, fans in Sonoma could do worse than to have the up-and-coming Kings and the contending Warriors within driving distance.