Sacramento was always one of those teams. By that I mean the team where players go to bury their career in mediocrity and losing. Despite the countless lottery picks, the Kings never put it together. Or even got close. This offseason they traded away one of the most promising young guards in Tyrese Haliburton for a fringe All-Star Domantas Sabonis. These are win-now moves from a team that should be looking to accumulate assets and build around the few pieces that they have. Yet despite the endless criticism, the Kings have taken the league by storm. Both by their amazing beam celebration after every home win and the fact that this Kings team actually has a winning record and is currently 5th in the West.
What Went Right
For as bad as this team looks on paper, there was still a plan. Feed De’Aaron Fox, let Domantas Sabonis space the floor, and try to get as many shooters and secondary playmakers around the Kings two stars. So far this plan has worked brilliantly. Fox is averaging 23 ppg and 6 apg, really becoming the center of this offense. The ability for Fox to break down the defense with his speed allowed for open shots and has really opened up the offense. This play from Fox is not being dropped by the role players around him, as the Kings have 5 other players averaging double digit points. Probably the most surprising aspect of this team is the fact that they are shooting so well from 3. Kevin Heurter, Sabonis, and rookie Keegan Murray are hitting 40% from three, with multiple others being high 30% shooters. The fact that Sabonis and Murry serve so many roles for this team has really been the key to the Kings entire success. As much as Fox and the role players have been doing, having two bigs that can play in the post, shoot the three, and play really solid defense is what has allowed the Kings to have the success that they do. Teams just can’t cover Fox when they have to worry about so many shooters on the court, or it is impossible for teams to take away the two man game when Fox is coming downhill and Sabonis can either roll or pop. This has helped them to become the highest scoring offense in the league, and is what the Kings hope to continue to do for the rest of the season.
Why It Might Not Be Great
The Kings are riding a wave. And waves eventually die out. This is not a team relying on stout defense and a multitude of different scoring options. They are relying on hot shooting and stellar play from Fox. While it is very much possible that Fox keeps his numbers up, it is a different story for the rest of the team. Sabonis has been shooting around 35% from three, except for the 23% he shot last year in Sacramento, which is good for a big but nothing close to the 41% he is putting up now. Kevin Heurter is currently injured, and even he is shooting career bests. The point is, that this shooting is not going to last. Someone’s going to cool off and the entire offense might become stoppable once the shooters stop making. These ups and downs happen to every team, though, and what separates the contenders from the rest of the league is the ability to win games when you shoot bad. That means relying on your defense, and that is not something the Kings can do right now. They have the 25th ranked defense, and this inability to stop the opposition is what might derail the Kings. There could be a bad shooting week, or even a month, and the Kings could drop multiple games because of an inability to lock down and create other forms of offense. This is exactly why the Kings either find some kind of tactical shift, or bring in defensive additions before the trade deadline in order to balance out the team. There is still hope for Sacramento as they continue riding this wave as far as it will get them, but if they can make some kind of move at the deadline we could see this team turn into a real contender.
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