New-look Nuggets, Kings set to open season

NBA

Following a strange offseason and a delayed start to this year’s campaign, the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets are ready to kick off 2020-21 when they meet in Colorado on Wednesday night.

For the Kings, last season was another year in which the playoffs weren’t in the mix, as they missed the postseason for a 14th straight year, the longest drought in the NBA. With some roster changes that will integrate young players, it will be a tough task to reach the postseason in the stacked Western Conference.

Sacramento finalized its roster Monday by cutting Frank Kaminsky and giving a guaranteed contract to DaQuan Jeffries, who played on a two-way contract last season. Jeffries, 23, will complement the young trio of Tyrese Haliburton (20), Robert Woodard (21) and Jahmi’us Ramsey (19), who also made the roster.

Once again the Kings have retooled after the departures of veterans Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kent Bazemore, Yogi Ferrell and Harry Giles III. They still have D’Aaron Fox, who signed a rookie extension last month.

“It’s a different day than any other day, this and the trade deadline,” said Fox, who led the team in scoring (21.1 points a game) and assists (6.8) last season. “Sometimes you build a bond with guys really quickly and with them leaving, it doesn’t stop you from talking or anything, but at the end of the day, there’s a business side of the game and it is what it is.”

While Sacramento is trying to build a contender, the Nuggets feel like they’re capable of challenging the Los Angeles Lakers atop of the Western Conference. Denver is coming off a deep run in the Orlando bubble, rallying from 3-1 series deficits against Utah and the L.A. Clippers before succumbing to the eventual- champion Lakers in five games in the conference finals.

If the Nuggets are to challenge L.A., they’ll have to do it with some notable changes. Gone are Jerami Grant, who spurned a three-year, $60 million offer from Denver for the same offer with Detroit, and Mason Plumlee, who also signed with the Pistons.

The Nuggets quickly pivoted when Grant bolted, signing JaMychal Green, and brought back Paul Millsap on a one-year deal. Denver also drafted Zeke Nnaji and R.J. Hampton and signed 29-year-old Facundo Campazzo, who had played for Real Madrid. Campazzo is a rookie and is playing in a crowded backcourt, but he has made an impression in the short preseason.

“Truth be told, Facu was not really a hidden gem,” Rafal Juc, the Nuggets’ international scout, told the Denver Post. “He was arguably a top-five European player for half a decade or so. So basically, he’s been on our radar for a while.”

Denver’s success will run through 7-foot center and triple-double threat Nikola Jokic, who averaged 24.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists in the postseason. Only 25, Jokic and Jamal Murray have established themselves as the core of the Nuggets.

Murray capped his third NBA season with an electric postseason with two 50-point games in the series win over the Jazz and a 40-point effort in Game 7 against the Clippers.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.