Since the Sacramento Kings 3-1 amazing start they have gone 2-5. They have lost by 15 or more in five of their thirteen games, including a loss to the Portland Trailblazers where they blew two 20-point leads in the second quarter and third quarter. Most recently the Kings had their worst loss of the season, a 38 point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
In the offseason recently hired GM, Monte McNair made the decision to hire Alvin Gentry. Gentry has been a head coach/assistant coach in the NBA since 1989. He is a NBA champion and most recently was the head coach for the New Orleans Pelicans. Luke Walton on the other hand since leaving the Golden State Warriors has not been within four games of 500. When Vlade Divac decided to fire Dave Joerger the team had the fifth fastest pace in the league then Walton came in and their pace dropped to the 17th fastest. This was a team with De'aaron Fox and Buddy Hield that added Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes, players who thrive with speed and being in the open court. Since firing Joerger Walton has not been special and has pulled the Kings away from a play style that they won in. McNair has some big decisions to make on head coach Luke Walton. Walton can draw up a play out of a timeout but has not been able to find solid rotations 19 games into the year.
When De'aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton are not on the court Cory Joseph becomes the primary ball handler. Cory Joseph has played well this season but is not a primary point guard. He cannot be the primary playmaker off of the bench because he is not a threat on offense. He is a below average playmaker, that is struggling from deep, and struggling to create open shots for others. With Joseph by himself on the court the offense is stagnant and one dimensional. Fox or Haliburton has to be on the court for the Kings, otherwise Buddy Hield takes a pull up three over a defender or Harrison Barnes has to put up a shot with three seconds left on the shot clock. If the Kings want to make a playoff run they need a true backup point guard to back up Fox.
Last season Kings fans and the NBA saw great production by power forward Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica shot nearly 42% from deep on 4.5 three’s a game but this season is shooting just under 24%. Coming into this season with a healthy Marvin Bagley III meant Bjelica would see a cut in minutes because they wanted to see what Bagley III can give the team. In 72 games last season Bjelica put up good numbers for a stretch four alongside Richaun Holmes, but this season that is just not happening. Instead of shooting from four feet behind the arc, like last season, he is driving more often and playmaking more than ever. That may be because of the change in the offense this season, but his value has significantly dropped because he is not shooting the ball the same as last season. Since January ninth Bjelica has not played a game and Walton has continued to dodge questions asking about the role of Bjelica. Bjelica has popped up in trade rumors multiple times this season and may be a key trade piece heading into the trade deadline in the next few months.
With the number two pick in the 2018 NBA draft Vlade Divac chose to draft the forward from Duke, Marvin Bagley III. The hype around Bagley III was his second jump and his insane athleticism. In his healthiest season yet Bagley has averaged 13.3 ppg and 7.8 rpg with six double-doubles in just 19 games. There are still three problems with Bagley III’s game this season; he struggles to catch the basketball, he won't dunk the basketball, and he can't guard anyone. Bagley III has a lot to work on this season, it is a contract year, and he is not playing up to the contract he and his father want for him. A healthy season for Bagley is more important than him trying to average 20 ppg like the media wants him to.
On the Bright Side
Last season Barnes played for team U.S.A then traveled to India to play the Pacers to start the season. Due to those trips he came out flat and although he still averaged 14.5 ppg, he wasn't the same Harrison Barnes from Dallas. With a shortened offseason due to the pandemic Harrison Barnes had a longer offseason than usual to recover and focus on the regular season. This season Barnes has come out on fire, shooting 42% from three, averaging more assists than he has in his entire career, and whenever the Kings need a bucket he puts the ball in the basket. Barnes has been the biggest surprise for returning players this year averaging 16.5 ppg and 6.4 rpg. Barnes is looking like Barnes from college and seems to have more bounce than he has in his past four seasons.
The biggest bright spot for the Kings is the rookie Tyrese Haliburton. He is everything the Kings have needed, he is fun to watch, he is a winner, and he can shoot the lights out of the ball. Haliburton is shooting one of the highest percentages of any Kings player this season at 41.7%. He is top five in assists, steals, efficiency, points, and blocks. He has closed out big games for the Kings and seems to tip every pass in his direction, Haliburton is the steal of the 2020 NBA draft.
Buddy Hield - The Kings may look to dump his contract after a lack of production this year and issues with the franchise.
Hassan Whiteside - A great big man who could be traded to a playoff contender like the Lakers because of his defense.
Nemanja Bjelica - A stretch big man any playoff team would love to have, on the last year of his deal, and can bring a playoff team extra offense off of the bench.
Harrison Barnes - Barnes has a huge contract, he is playing really well, and could be dumped to a playoff team looking for a 3 and D wing.
Cory Joseph - A solid backup point guard for a playoff team that can guard another team's best guard down the stretch.
Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III to the Chicago Bulls for Zach Lavine, Lauri Markkanen, and Cristiano Felicio.
The Kings receive Lavine, an all-star caliber player who can be the Kings closer and shooting guard of the future. Markkanen gets a change of scenery and can bring the Kings a young stretch four to play alongside De'aaron Fox. Felicio is involved in the trade to make salaries equal each other.
Jabari Parker, Robert Woodard, and 2021 2nd round pick to the Charlotte Hornets for Malik Monk.
De'aaron Fox teams up with his college roommate who has struggled in Charlotte but can come off the bench for the Kings and bring instant offense. The Hornets receive an expiring contract in Parker that can still give solid production and Woodard, a solid young piece.
Look for Hassan Whiteside to be a big name before the trade deadline to teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, and Charlotte Hornets.
The Sacramento Kings need to make key decisions for the future. De'aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton are a part of the future. Is Buddy Hield? Is Luke Walton the coach of the future? Who will be moved at the trade deadline? Whiteside and Bjelica should be looked to be moved at the deadline, they are both on the last year of their deal and can give playoff teams great production off of the bench. If it is possible to package Hield with one of the young rookies a deal could totally be possible, at 28 Hield doesn't fit the Fox, Bagley, and Haliburton timeline. If the Kings keep losing games they shouldn’t be losing Walton needs to be fired and trades need to be made in order to obtain players that fit the timeline.