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30Q: How much better can the Kings’ bench be?

The Sacramento Kings didn't swing for the fences this summer, but they did make some noteworthy improvements on the bench.

Luke Walton used just four players off his bench on opening night vs. the Denver Nuggets last season: Tyrese Haliburton, Cory Joseph, Hassan Whiteside, and Nemanja Bjelica. The rest of his bench unit to start the 2020-21 season was filled with unproven young depth: Glenn Robinson, Justin James, Robert Woodard, Kyle Guy, and Jahmi'us Ramsey. It was arguably the worst bench in the NBA, both on paper, and on the court.

For whatever reason, Monte McNair punted the 2020 offseason. It wasn't until the Kings were on the fringes of the play-in race that McNair went out and landed Luke Walton a few serviceable bench players at the trade deadline. It wasn't much, but the additions of Delon Wright, Terence Davis, Moe Harkless, and Damian Jones upgraded the team from an awful bench to somewhere below average, and they weren't killing the team every night anymore.

The Kings should have an improved bench unit heading into the 2020-21 season. You wouldn't call it one of the NBA's best, it's too reliant on potential for that praise out of the gate, but they have significantly more playable options, and it could be a real strength to this team if, say, Buddy Hield would accept a role carrying them offensively.

Sacramento has some often talked about roster balance issues despite what Monte McNair is saying publicly, and that makes their starting lineup difficult to predict. If you can't predict the starters, good luck guessing what the regular bench rotation is going to look like, but the talent floor of this roster has been raised.

In the frontcourt, Alex Len, Tristan Thompson, and Damian Jones should be better than what Hassan Whiteside or Nemanja Bjelica gave the Kings last season. In the backcourt, whichever members of the promising guard logjam come in off the bench should be better than Cory Joseph's disappointing run in Sacramento. Davion Mitchell is the big addition here, and while I'm less sure about what his offensive contributions might look like in year one for a smaller guard that has to adapt to NBA size, his defense is going to make a real impact for that unit.

On the wing, despite how light that position still is, they have Moe Harkless as a steady-but-unspectacular veteran who can eat up minutes with Louis King as a higher-upside player that could break through, and Terence Davis who should be able to play some three off the bench despite his size that is probably more suitable for guard.

We'll see if internal improvement from the Kings' youth, and noticeably improved bench depth is enough to put Sacramento in the playoff / play-in race, but that seems to be what Monte McNair is banking on after another offseason without that big swing for the fence we keep speculating about. Do I think McNair needed to more? Yeah. But I also don't want to completely discount how awful their bench unit was to start the 2020-21 season, and how much better it looks (on paper) now, both offensively and defensively.

The Kings didn't take that gigantic talent leap fans wanted, myself included, but this is a better roster than they started with last season, and Sacramento should feel that improvement most in their bench play.

How many wins is that improvement worth? We'll find out.

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Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
September 26, 2021 1:42 pm

As you said, last year’s beginning bench unit was Whiteside, Joseph, Nemanha and Hali. Assuming Walton does a Walton and starts the same five (which he will) in Fox, Buddy, Barnes, Bagley, and Holmes, this year’s first four off the bench are likely to be Hali, TT, Mitchell, and Harkless.

Are Hali, TT, Mitchell, Harkless that much better than Hali, Whiteside, Joseph, and Nemanja? I’d say yes, but not by much. Better on paper defensively but not sure if it is that much better in the W/L column.

Ellis5
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September 26, 2021 9:09 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Hedging one’s bets can not only be a savvy move… It can save you money…. Savvey.

Kosta
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September 26, 2021 2:25 pm

There’s lotsa room for improvement!
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Klam
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Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
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Nostradumbass 19
September 26, 2021 6:20 pm
Reply to  Kosta

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RighteousandHopeful
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September 26, 2021 2:37 pm

This season’s bench appears to be light years ahead of what started out a year ago. Night years being a metaphor for brighter days ahead.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
September 26, 2021 3:50 pm

Light years? Monte replaced bench players in the 7-10 man part of the rotation, while still keeping the same core rotation 6 of Fox, Buddy, Hali, Barnes, Bagley, and Holmes which make for a 35 win team. Again, the Kings swapped Joseph, Whiteside, and Nemanja for Mitchell (a rookie), TT, and Harkless. The new players might, and that’s a big might, add 2-3 wins.

IMO, there has been no seismic shift. This is virtually the same team as last year with some minor alterations to the periphery.

WizsSox
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September 26, 2021 4:35 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Hence why he said the “bench appears to be light years ahead”…not the team as a whole.

Gabriel_Bonito
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September 26, 2021 3:01 pm

I’ll just copy pasta a thing I wrote on defector that encompasses all my thoughts about my favorite team:

The kings have two players and flotsam. Godspeed, Monte. I’ll never be able to quit my Kings. Like the door that opens to Joseph in ‘No Exit’, I see it and can’t think I deserve to escape. That Inez is right, I’m not worthy.
They are my toxic boo that has convinced me I deserve the games I watch. Hope for De’Aaron, hope for Tyrese; there is no hope for me.

Still true.

MadDam
September 26, 2021 3:51 pm

And our front court will explode once Boogie’s back.

Kingsguru21
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September 26, 2021 3:53 pm

I don’t think the bench is as bad as it was to start last season, and I don’t think it’s likely to be a top 10 bench in the NBA, either. But I think top half is doable. That starts with Mitchell and Davis. Harkless needs to be the 3&D guy he is, and you probably can expect Bagley to come off the bench if he’s healthy. You’ll need more out of Len and Thompson than what you got from Whiteside last year.

So middlish bench depending on what you believe Davis, Mitchell and Bagley could do. Or not. Recent history says not.

SelecaoKOJ
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September 26, 2021 9:39 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

This is the year Barnes starts to slow down. If Bagley doesn’t show a marked improvement on D, this team is doomed to be mediocre. If Fox has a bad night, this team still really doesn’t have much of a chance to win against good teams. Fox has to great every night for this team to have a chance. Hali does not have the atleticism nor the handles to be 1A. This is Fox’s 5th year. If he is more than just a good player on a bad team, he will need to prove it this year. If not, We are now seeing Fox at his ceiling.

The starting 5 really strikes no fear in any good team. Other than making it hard for Fox. No other player in the Kings starting 5 is a problem for most good teams. We’ll see about Davion. But, Walton will ruin him.

4on5
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September 26, 2021 6:39 pm

They are completely short a starting caliber forward, are mostly point guards and centers, have a few players that flat out don’t want to be here …. BUT did you notice how much better our 8th to 11th men are?

4073BE08-4701-4D7E-832A-3FEDBA199CBC.gif
murraytant
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September 26, 2021 8:19 pm

If the starters are the same, the bench is Hali ( but improved), Len/TT for Whiteside ( an improvement), Harkless for Belly ( better on D, worse on O) and Mitchell for CoJo – better.
Slight to moderate improvement. Deeper bench much better: Ramsey better this year than last, King better than Justin Jackson and Metu better than Metu ( old vs. new version)

SelecaoKOJ
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September 26, 2021 9:41 pm
Reply to  murraytant

I forget to Mention Harkless who is done. He will show up once every 5-6 games. He’s in Sac to get paid nothing more.

SelecaoKOJ
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September 26, 2021 9:27 pm

Bench won’t make any difference. Alex Len is Kangz overrated and is nothing more than a journey man. Why is it Kings fans love this guy like he’s MOses Malone Savant. If he was that solid he wouldnt’be on his 10th team. Tristan is done. If you bothered to watch him play last year, he’s no more servicable than Whiteside was. Davis was playing for a contract last year in extended minutes. Jones is very average. The only saving grace for the second unit is that Hield accepts his role. But, I suspect his pride will defer. Davion looks like a nice player. He’s also a rook being coached by one of the Bottom 5 coaches in the NBA, so I am not expecting much. Any potential will be curtailed by Bong Hit Walton’s wonderful rotation ideas. Plus, Davion will have mucho issues with bigger guards.If Davion can channel from Pbeverly that would be a welcome change.

The only hope for the team to make the playoffs means Fox will have to make an incremental jump in his game leadership, Ft’s, Shooting 3s, and D, and Hali would all of a sudden have some decent handles(He doesn’t) and in year 2 teams have the scouting on his shooting mechanics and how he needs time to get his shot off.

It’s ok to be hopeful. But, I am not sure you were sober when doing this mailbag.

The Kings hope of making the playoffs rests on the health of the Clips and Denver. If Kawhi and Murray don’t come back soon, Kings could take advantage. That’s the only way the Kings are getting into any playoff/playin concersation.

Lakers, Jazz, Suns, Dubs, Dallas, Memphis, are locks. Barring injury.

Clips, Denver, Port, and Minny are my picks for the 7-10.

Minny is my surprise. Ant will win Most Improved. Become a Top 10 player this year.

Kings and Deck Chairs all over again. 34-39 wins.

RikSmits
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September 26, 2021 10:32 pm
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

Agree on a lot of points, but Denver without Murray is still significantly better than the Kings. His absence hurt them in the playoffs, but they are still a good team without him.

andy_sims
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September 27, 2021 10:12 am
Reply to  RikSmits

You’re only saying that because they have the reigning MVP and incredibly strong roster.

WizsSox
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September 27, 2021 7:41 am
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

But, I am not sure you were sober when doing this mailbag.

Its not the mailbag article.

Those in glass houses….

Kangz_Landing
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September 27, 2021 10:09 am
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

This is a master class in Pessimism. Not a snarky comment, as I agree that all of these are the worst case scenarios, but if Bazemore and Len could look so refreshing back in 2019 then the same Len, a Davion, a motivated Moe and a sparkplug like Davis gives me a bit more hope and a few more wins than the peanut gallery we had on the bench last year.

DutchKingsFanInUK
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September 27, 2021 12:11 am

The bench is probably somewhat better less bad, but I doubt it will be much of a change. In my opinion, other teams in the same tier like the Spurs, Pels and Timberwolves have similar or better benches. At least when it comes to talent. As Jerry said on the podcast: talent wins you games. That’s why I for the life of me can’t figure out why we unloaded a good and proven backup guard in Delon Wright for a seemingly washed Thompson. Sigh.

Last edited 3 months ago by DutchKingsFanInUK
Malrock
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September 27, 2021 8:14 am

You heard it hear first. Better bench leads the Kings to the Playoffs!

andy_sims
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