Two the NBA's most exciting young cores take the floor in Phoenix on Tuesday. Both the Suns and Kings are littered with recent lottery picks taking up a large portion of the rotation.
The Suns are the NBA's youngest team with a core featuring Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, De'Anthony Melton, Elie Okobo and Dragan Bender. The Kings' young stable includes De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Harry Giles, Justin Jackson, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Skal Labissiere, among others.
Both teams are very much building for the future which begs the question: Which young core would you rather have?
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Although I think De'Aaron Fox has a chance to be the best player out of this group, I'll go with the Suns.
Devin Booker is the best player right now and looks to be a star at what is perhaps the league's thinnest position. Given the Suns' lack of depth at the point guard position, he is also being challenged to expand his game this season in ways that will only prove beneficial as Booker loves to evolve as a playmaker.
Let's say in five years that Booker and Fox cancel each other out (not a safe assumption by any stretch). I'd much rather bank on Ayton or Bridges developing into an All-Star calibre player than any of the aforementioned Kings players. That's not even considering the fact that Phoenix likely has another top pick on the way while Sacramento's 2019 first-round pick is going to either Boston or Philadelphia. If you view future draft assets as part of a core - almost necessary in a case like this where one far outweighs the other - then I'm rolling with the Phoenix core long term even if the Kings look like the far better team right now.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I'm rolling with the Kings.
Over the past four years, Sacramento has done an excellent job stockpiling talent that not only complements one another but fits the mould of the direction the game is trending.
It all starts with De'Aaron Fox, who has shown exponential growth from his rookie to sophomore year, constantly proving himself as the perfect point guard to hand the keys to. Fox gets after it defensively, wreaking havoc on opposing ballhandlers and creating fast break opportunities for his team. Offensively, he is excellent at getting downhill and finding his teammates once the opposing defence collapses.
Sacramento's franchise point guard has the luxury of playing alongside the likes of Buddy Hield (41.1 3P%) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (39.7 3P%), who combine to make nearly five 3-pointers per game at a high clip. On the interior, the Kings have four versatile young bigs in Willie Cauley-Stein, Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles III and Skal Labissiere.
The most encouraging part of it all? 26-year-old Bogdan Bogdanovic is the oldest of the aforementioned players, and he's just in his second NBA season.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I'll take the Kings, too.
While I wouldn't be surprised if Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton end up being the first and second best offensive players of this group in a few years time, they might always be limited defensively. It makes the draft day trade for Mikal Bridges a smart one - Bridges is the ideal wing to pair with Booker and Ayton because of his 3-point shooting and versatility on defence - but the Suns are still in need of two others players (a guard and forward) who can play off of Booker and Ayton and cover up their weaknesses.
That leaves quite a lot to be determined.
The Kings, meanwhile, have a star on the rise in De'Aaron Fox, one of the best 3-point shooters in the league in Buddy Hield, a versatile secondary playmaker in Bogdan Bogdanovic and a number of big men who can fill different roles. Willie Cauley-Stein, for example, is starting to develop into the player many believed he could be when he was first drafted and Marvin Bagley III is a natural scorer who has a lot of upside mainly on offence.
Those players have their own limitations, of course, but I think Sacramento's core as a whole has less glaring ones than Phoenix's.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I'll take the Suns.
I think when you have the best player out of both rosters in Devin Booker and the one with the highest ceiling in Deandre Ayton I can't pass up the opportunity to ride their wave. It may take a couple years but I think Mikal Bridges will be a solid role player for them. They'll also finish this year near the bottom of the league which may give them a chance to end up with another top end draft pick in R.J. Barrett or Zion Williamson.
It may take them longer to reach their ceiling, but the Suns to me have a brighter future. Sacramento is a good story and has been a surprise so far this year, but how much better can we truly expect them to be with this core?
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