Here on Bright Side Of The Sun, we are going to take you all the way through Phoenix’s 16 roster spots previewing what to expect from each one of them during the 2018-19 season.
First up is George King, the No. 59 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft — who currently holds the Suns’ only two-way contract slot, allowing him to bounce back and forth freely from Northern Arizona.
Unlike Davon Reed last season, who played with the NAZ Suns for rehab purposes, expect King to be in a similar role as Alec Peters this time last year. It’s very likely he won’t see playing time with the main roster unless injuries change things, but still should expect to see the court in March and April once the G-League season ends.
Capping off their strong draft night haul along with Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Elie Okobo, King continues the front office’s blueprint of versatile, two-way wings who can be impactful on both ends. Even though he flew under the radar throughout the 2017-18 season for Colorado, King’s skill set fits into what NBA teams look for nowadays, as they place premium value on shooting and switching ability defensively.
Last season, King averaged 12.9 points, 7.8 rebounds (1.8 ORB), 1.1 assists and 0.7 blocks while hitting 39.5% of his three-point attempts.
King is already 25 years old, older than most of the Suns’ roster, which makes his ceiling rather low after five years under head coach Tad Boyle with the Buffaloes. Either way, King does bring more to the table than Peters does, which gives him a much greater shot at sticking around past this season.
Not only did King shoot 40.1% for his collegiate career on 3s, but his 6’6”, 219-pound frame showed immense durability when he played the majority of his minutes as a small-ball four. One trait I noticed when watching some of the 59th pick’s games was King’s ability to get vertical, timing blocks at the rim with above-average precision.
Another area that popped off the page when examining King with a closer lens was how he was able to nab rebounds with ease. Even with height disadvantages against most opponents — he had to guard Ayton plenty in both of their matchups against Arizona — King displayed a knack for finding the loose ball, time after time.
Helped by his 6’11.5” wingspan (+5.5 H2W discrepancy), King played the role of an energizer most nights for Colorado. He not only handled the dirty work inside, battling down low for rebounds, but could also stretch the opposing defense and hit outside shots consistently. Add in his willingness to scrap for loose balls and have a nose for deflections, and King at least looks like he can be someone who sticks when given the right development plan.
And under new head coach Igor Kokoskov, Phoenix may represent one of King’s best landing spots. During the sneak-peek we saw at Summer League of King functioning within Kokoskov’s high-movement offense, he fared well. Not only was he hitting his perimeter looks, but he could explode past his defender and dunk it. Unfortunately, King didn’t see as much time on the floor as I thought he would, but he at least proved he’s a worthy flier in the late second round by Phoenix.
NAZ’s head coach, Bret Burchard, is a name you should get familiar with, because he’s also been instrumental on the main roster helping the younger players get ready. Now, as the main voice in Prescott Valley, I’m excited to see what groundwork he and fellow Colorado alum, General Manager Louis Lehman, lay out for King this season and beyond.
King will step into a starter’s role immediately for NAZ, as Rahir Hollis-Jefferson, Mike Young, Eric Stuteville and journeyman Lavoy Allen are the only ones remaining in the frontcourt from last season. Whether he’s at small forward or in the small-ball role, expect King to bring that intense motor and put it to good use under Burchard and Co.
When we look at King’s possible role on the main roster, this year and in the future, it’s fair to say there could be some P.J. Tucker parallels that intrigued Phoenix when they selected him June 21. Since the Suns shipped Tucker off to Toronto, allowing him to earn a huge payday via the Houston Rockets soon thereafter, they have missed his presence as the gritty defender who can stretch the floor at any given moment.
I’m not saying King will be this type from Day 1, but the fundamental archetype is at least there for him. The former fan-favorite in Phoenix also was an undersized forward who had an NBA-ready body to handle switching onto bigs with little issue. Sounds a lot like the model King should be following, doesn't it?
Like Tucker, King is someone who rarely makes mistakes while sticking to the fundamentals, tough and incredibly hard working. At Summer League minicamp prior to taking off for Las Vegas, King was the last one out on the floor putting up shots. He knows his time is now to impress and stick around past his rookie campaign.
Taking it another step further, the physical similarities are there between Tucker and King. When he entered the draft after his junior season, which included raking in the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Tucker was 6’5”, weighing in at 225 pounds while displaying his long 7-foot wingspan. Meanwhile, King, as mentioned, tested at the Draft Combine at 6’6”, 219 pounds.
As you can tell, I’m driving the King train, if he’s developed as something of a Tucker 2.0.
Though General Manager Ryan McDonough said the Suns would only keep two rookies prior to draft night (I can’t blame him after stealing Okobo atop the second round), King became the team’s fourth draft pick as the night played out. As far as expectations go for next season, don’t expect to hear much from King outside of Prescott Valley. With that being said, though, King could impress enough throughout the season in G-League action to see late run in the final 15-20 games, playing around 10-15 minutes on average.
If King sees action under Kokoskov, he could be an ideal extra body to throw out there in halfcourt situations, where he shined for Colorado as a spot-up shooter. Cut from a cloth similar to that of Trevor Ariza and Bridges, King could be in line to do some damage as a proficient shooter out of the corners.
With an already crowded wing rotation in Phoenix, King will be a name not many will be familiar with, but we could hear plenty from him with strong performances in the farm system up north.