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5 on 5: Takeaways after a 1-4 stretch

Wins are difficult to come by for the Sacramento Kings. Let's extract some takeaways.

Are the Sacramento Kings the worst team in the league? Without hesitation, they've clearly entered themselves in the conversation, as opponents have pummeled them during this 1-4 stretch. 

While the 5-10 record isn't indicative of how atrocious the Kings are (thanks to some early wins), Sacramento is barely floating above water with opponents swarming around, waiting to pounce. The team defensive rating continues to plummet, and the offense isn't consistent enough to outscore the opponent, except in the lone win over the Indiana Pacers. 

Sacramento's scoring output is inconsequential; they're allowing a bazillion times as much on the other end — the end that wins you games. 

Let's extract some takeaways from the 1-4 stretch:

Defense, blah blah

I won't bury the lede: Sacramento's defense is [insert any synonym of bad]. Whatever word popped into your head is likely an understatement. 

Players are wagging fingers at each other signaling who to guard, no one responds because everyone is busy pointing fingers, and it's an easy bucket for the opposition; you send two defenders to trap Paul George on a pick-and-roll, but he seamlessly splits through and dunks it down because the weak side help arrived late; the opponent's ball movement enthralls players to chase the ball instead of trusting rotations and switches, leaving players, like Patrick Beverley, wide open from deep. 

After 15 games, the Kings’ team defensive rating sits at 119.9, which is 5.5 below the next worst team (Washington, 114.4). Their net rating differential of -9.5 is in last place too. 

Simple solutions aren’t nearby. You just hope the defense doesn’t become habitual for the players, regardless of the coach. The players clearly aren’t buying into the defensive system, and that's perturbing.  

Is any player having a “good” season?

“Good” in this scenario is ambiguous. I attempted to alleviate the depressing discourse about defense by highlighting players who have stood out, but I stumbled. 

The main takeaway here is that the entire team is flawed, and no one has displayed the ability to rise above those deficiencies. As efficient as Richaun Holmes and Tyrese Haliburton have been, they now look mortal. And asking Haliburton to shoulder the burden when the going gets tough is pretty telling for the rest of the roster. 

Let’s look at the veterans: Harrison Barnes peaked against Indiana — who struggles to guard wings because of shallow depth — and has disappeared since; Buddy Hield started a three-point only diet, which has worked because his percentage has ascended, but if the shot’s not falling, he’s now a liability on both ends. Cory Joseph continues to deteriorate on both ends; Nemanja Bjelica has plunged to the bottom of the roster, and his future with the roster is vague; Hassan Whiteside’s movement has dwindled, and even though he’s a fine situational big to have on that contract, he’s not moving the needle; Glenn Robinson III needs to be placed on timeout for attempting to dribble drive and finish over superior defenders. It’s not surprising that he excels in catch-and-shoot scenarios like he just did vs. the Los Angeles Clippers.  

De’Aaron Fox has exhibited flashes of brilliance on both ends — the challenge is to exhibit consistency. But with the entire roster underperforming, ambiguity remains supreme. 

Things are going great.

Nemanja Bjelica’s situation

Speaking of Bjelica, I hope he’s alright. 

We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and if the personal issues are separate from the on-court play, the personal issues are more imperative.

Bjelica won’t solve any of the many on-court concerns Sacramento’s dealing with, but how the situation develops will be interesting. 

Time to let the youngsters loose?

Developing the youngsters was a key priority entering this season. If wins came on the backs of impressive performances by the youngins, that’s just gravy. 

But so far, the Kings aren’t developing, and they aren’t winning. At this rate, the only functioning positive is Sacramento’s hopes to land a Cade Cunningham or an Evan Mobley *cranks up Tankathon for the 15th straight season*. 

While that’s fine in a nutshell, you don’t want it coming at the risk of having these players broken beyond repair *stares at Jim Boylen*. Fortunately for Chicago, crucial pieces like Wendell Carter Jr. look like basketball players again, but if these problems linger for Sacramento, it’s something to store in your mind. 

That being said, why not insert the youngsters? And I don’t mean giving Justin James first-quarter minutes so he can initiate pick-and-rolls while Haliburton roams the wings. Let’s see what Robert Woodard II can do with meaningful minutes. Kyle Guy turned in a promising preseason, and although that's an obvious caveat, he brings more offensive juice to the floor compared to Joseph. The defense is already suffering — with Joseph replaced, at least the offense won’t too. 

DaQuan Jeffries would be a rotational player had it not been for injuries, so that’s one semi-decent positive. And when Jahmi’us Ramsey returns, I’m on board for seeing him fire away some triples. Walton elevated Chimezie Metu after Whiteside’s injury, and it’d be nice to maintain that.

Winning with veterans is nugatory considering the way the team is trending. Sure, throwing the youngsters into the fire may not be the best idea, but it’s a nebulous one. Sprinkle in minutes for the youngsters alongside Fox, Haliburton and a slowly improving Marvin Bagley and see what that produces. 

Marvin Bagley’s improvements

I didn’t include Bagley under the second takeaway because I wanted to save that discourse for here. He was always going to start rusty. Coming off a season where he only logged 326 incoherent minutes, didn’t play in the bubble and dealt with limited preseason minutes, the early struggles weren’t shocking. The bunnies were hopping out; the touch needed refining; and the jumper wasn’t salivating. 

Once in the 0th percentile for eFG%, he’s now jumped into the 22nd. The rim finishing has increased to 70%, good for the 62nd percentile, which would be a career-high if sustained. The mid-range level — the bulk of his attempts — needs tuning. The three-point shot, at 39% (per Cleaning the Glass), is in the 67th percentile (all percentiles per Cleaning the Glass). 

The defensive concerns haven’t vanished. There have been flashes of solid reads as a weak side and individual defender, but just like the entire team, it requires addressing. On a positive defensive note, his field-goal defensive-rebound percentage of 22.5% is in the 73rd percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. That’s the second-best mark on the team besides Whiteside, who has logged more minutes at center. The Kings are 29th in the league in rebounding. They’re struggling to close possessions, but Bagley’s silently been a bright spot in that area. 

Bagley would also benefit from an uptick in touches. Per tracking data, Bagley averages 43.3 touches a game, fifth on the team. But his points per touch — 0.311 — is the third-best rate on the team among players with meaningful minutes (Woodard is #1, give him more minutes). 

I won't delve into the many other issues besetting the squad (because we'd be here a while), so what else has stood out to you?

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Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
January 21, 2021 4:34 pm

Wait, is Nemanja not with the team or is he dressed to play but is not playing due to personal issues?

If the guy is practicing and going through pre game warm ups but is not playing for “personal issues” that seems like a bigger story.

January 21, 2021 4:41 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

He has been still going through warm-ups

January 21, 2021 7:44 pm
Reply to  Greg

I don’t understand. Is this Walton being obtuse or Walton being stupid?

January 22, 2021 5:35 am
Reply to  rc50cal


January 21, 2021 4:51 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Seems like Coach Dingus mispronounced “personnel.” Personal issues tend to keep a guy in street clothes at minimum, and not with the team, generally.

And Bjelica has been just shockingly awful when I’ve seen him this season. I sure that he hasn’t forgotten how to shoot, but he seems like a guy that uses the preseason to play himself into shape, and he didn’t get enough time this year, and bleh.

January 21, 2021 9:13 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Mispronounced or didn’t understand? 😉

Last edited 2 months ago by Carl
January 22, 2021 5:35 am
Reply to  Carl


January 21, 2021 6:37 pm

I have been surprised that Woodard has not received more floor time. He seems calm and plays within himself.

January 21, 2021 7:42 pm

Bagley’s recent play has changed my opinion from trade him for a third to might as well keep him and see if he can develop and stay healthy.

January 21, 2021 9:11 pm
Reply to  rc50cal

Bagley is definitely turning a small corner it’s encouraging. Playing within the flow of the offense. The corner 3 has been pure and he’s taking charges. Nice to see the gritty side of him.

One more thing, he’s responded well after the Team Bagley fiasco. I’ve been impressed.

Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
January 21, 2021 7:49 pm

OT: That’s cheap for Porter Jr. Kind of wish the Kings had done that.

January 21, 2021 8:08 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

I don’t. I have no interest in the Kings getting involved with that. I don’t think it’s cheap at all. I think they’re lucky they got anything.

Last edited 2 months ago by BestHyperboleEver
Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
January 21, 2021 8:25 pm

I’m on the fence with him, but if the price was that low, there is probably a very good reason.

January 22, 2021 8:02 am
Reply to  Adamsite

The reasons have been pretty well publicized.

January 21, 2021 8:17 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Does the Kings brass ever do smart? Christian Wood was avail in the offseason. But, Noooooo…

January 22, 2021 8:32 am
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

Wood was even more available two seasons ago. They need to do a better job of scouting the lower levels and identifying those guys BEFORE they break out.

January 22, 2021 8:45 am

To expand, G-League FA guys like Wood are one thing. Another are guys that belong to a club but can probably be had on the cheap. Guys like Isaiah Roby (who has looked great), Chris Boucher (before this season), Vanderbilt, etc. They have to ID those guys early and trust their evaluations enough to go get them.

January 22, 2021 12:15 pm

Peja was the head of scouting all that time, and despite real effort, he wasn’t able to find any burgeoning hoops talent at any of the titty bars in Sacramento.

January 21, 2021 9:37 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

A second rounder that is highly protected is almost free. However, the Kings do not have the culture or leadership in place to turn around Porter’s career.

January 21, 2021 9:50 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

That kid is talented as hell and we need all the young wings we can get our hands on. Like you said, I’m sure there’s good reason his price was that low but I don’t think he could make us any worse.

January 22, 2021 8:35 am
Reply to  wilbur10

He’s pretty talented. I mean, certainly not elite as a prospect. But the reasons his price was so low is he’s had multiple legal issues, multiple blowouts within the org, and at least one public moment that suggests he’s dealing with some real internal demons.

January 22, 2021 8:36 am

Yeah, I feel uncomfortable even having a conversation about this young man’s future, it feels like the basketball stuff is pretty unimportant right now.

January 22, 2021 9:18 am
Reply to  Otis

Agreed. If I can’t root for a good basketball team, I’d like to at least settle for a likable one. I would have a really, really difficult time rooting for Porter.

I sincerely hope he gets the help it seems like he needs, and that he dedicates himself to personal growth. But until there’s some evidence of that growth, I don’t want to have to cheer on a guy with his off-court issues because he might someday be a decent basketball player.

January 21, 2021 8:15 pm

I am hoping trades are going to commence in the the next couple weeks. Everyone should be available. Fox and Hali are probably excluded. Unless some team is desperate for a PG. Then, a massive offer of players and picks should ensue. Not sure what Monte can get for Barnes/Hield. Their bloated Vlade contracts are not trade friendly. Holmes/Bjelica/Cujo seem marketable. Holmes/Bjelica/Whiteside would really help a playoff team. Cujo is playing so bad, I don’t know if you can get any more than a late second for him. Bagley is probably off the table for now considering his improved play.

January 21, 2021 9:23 pm

List of Kings All Stars Since 2020:
Demarcus Cousins (14-17)
Brad Miller (03-04)
Peja Stojakovic (03-04)

January 21, 2021 9:38 pm
Reply to  Falconsfury

Since when?

January 22, 2021 4:36 pm
Reply to  rc50cal

“Edit feature? Hell naw.”

January 21, 2021 10:09 pm

The team who gives up the most points against the team that gives up the least. Thibs Knicks. Knicks are no longer the laughing stock.

January 22, 2021 8:15 am
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

Is Thibs still doing his “play-your-best-players-into-the-ground-guaranteeing-a-decent-early-record-and-the-inevitable-late-season/playoff-swoon-due-to-injury-and-fatigue” thing?


Yep, Barrett and Randle are 1st and 2nd in total minutes played. Tied at 593. 64 more minutes than the next guy. Payton and Robinson are also in the top 30.

January 22, 2021 9:07 am

Seems like a good way to max their trade value and instill a winning culture.

Kings appear to be limiting minutes to reduce trade value and maintain a loosing culture.

January 22, 2021 9:38 am
Reply to  OakieNiner

Who’s minutes are the Kings limiting? The two guys that you could conceivably be “showcasing” for trades are both in the the top 30 in MPG. All the Kings starters are in the top 120 (obviously there would theoretically be 150 starters in the NBA). Haliburton is 2nd among rookies in MPG (Okoro is getting 37!). Even Bagley is getting 26 (30+ recently) minutes per game. Which is plenty for both development and showcasing.

And, of course, I would argue running your players into the ground in the early season to achieve a .500 record isn’t really “instilling a winning culture.”

January 21, 2021 10:20 pm

The Kings have 3 really bad defenders; Bagley Buddy and Bjelica . Everybody else in the 10 man rotation hovers close to the average , though most slightly below.
My coaching philosophy is to try minimize having 2 people with the same flaw on the court at the same time. The Bjelica thing, whatever it is, has made that easier, so it’s down to not having Bags and Buddy on the floor at the same time.
Since we only have 2 ball handlers Fox or Hali must be on the court at all times.
Currently the Kings number 1 priority is to figure out what they have in MB3.
So Bags starts, Fox obviously starts and by my rules Buddy can’t start because Bags is in. Since Both should be playing 30 minutes I guess we have to suffer with 6 minutes of overlap.
In summary, I guess all I am saying Buddy must be a 6th man again.
One added thought, Corey Joseph is not a long term solution, so go with 3 guards and if you need a few minutes let them go to Guy or Ramsey.

January 22, 2021 5:28 am
Reply to  ElRonToro

Bjelica is actually a pretty good defender within a team defensive concept. The problem is, I’m not sure this team has one of those, so he’ll stick out at times.

And frankly, the real defensive issues with this team have been with the starting crew, and Bagley, Buddy, Fox and Barnes are the primary culprits (outside of Walton, of course).

Guys like Joseph and Bjelica have been decent defensively, relative to the starters.

January 21, 2021 10:23 pm

Maybe Dan Campbell can help coach the Kings for a bit. I am sure we’ll slow opposing teams down if we’d learn to bite their kneecaps off. Or even gnaw at their thighs.

January 22, 2021 12:02 am

The 15 game recap none of you came here to read.

Fox: Trying to dominate the opposition when he really needs to learn how to dominate his own team first. Imposing your will on your team is part of being a max player. It just is. He is starting to talk to the refs more and I like that. He will keep improving what more can you ask?

Buddy: This is probably what he will be as long as he tries to shoot his way Into justifying his contract. High volume shooting the team out of just as many games as he shoots them into. Only problem is…when he shoots it lights out we never win by 25, but when he has a bad night shooting we gunna lose by 25. I shed a little tear when I realized he is 2 full years older than Jabari. Players almost never improve at 28. So let Buddy be Buddy, or just give him away.

Barnes: Solid uptown role player. Would make every team in the league better. Unfortunately the cost of the Kings retaining a player like Barnes is steep. At his best when everyone else is at their worst. Can’t tell if that’s is a feature or a bug.

Bagley: Young, raw and improving. Slowly, but improving. Two looks in the first quarter vs Clippers down low without a gather dribble. Both successful. Progress. Stroke on the corner Three. Progress. Willingness to draw a charge. Progress. Obviously still work to do.

Tyrese: If his shot is for real then we really got something. Even if he is a league average shooter he will help this team win a bunch of games. Intangibles + Attitude + Talent = All Star and I’m pretty sure he has got two of the three.

Holmes: Dollar for dollar might be the best contract in recent Kings history. Only because of the uncertainty of retaining his services on the open market I would trade him. Immediately. He can help this team more (tank) by being off the roster. This team is going nowhere this year.

Belly: Can’t weigh in on a guy with personal issues.

Hassan: A big in a league that doesn’t like bigs anymore. Happy he is here. Doing his part. Playing to his contract. Sometimes that’s enough.

CoJo: I’m not sure he is as awful as some of y’all, but he isn’t helping the team win, so you know, maybe you are right. At least the time could be better used by developing a younger guy.

GRIII: I’ve been impressed, at least on the offensive end. How can he not have exceeded expectations.

Justin James: Young and springy, but he looks like the league is too much for him. I have no fear that he will go to some other team and shine. But why not take a good look first.

Metu: I am very happy for the young man. He has shown enough skill to have a long, if unremarkable career. No shade. I honestly think he will be a 10 year pro with a little refinement.

Kyle Guy: Garbage time tease. If this were the MLB he’d be described as a AAAA player. I like what I see, but I never see what I like when he is matched against top of the rotation players. Small sample perhaps, but I’ll need to see it to believe it.

Woodard &Ramsey: Just not enough information yet.

Jabari: Expiring contract that will have a few nights with his new team that make us scratch our heads.

Coach: Terrible, Clueless, easily replaced by a magic 8 ball. Now that Vlade is gone he is easily the worst thing going in the organization and considering that Vivek is the owner…

Fans: Well nobody can tell a Kings fan they aren’t loyal. We certainly are. Another thing we tend to do is overvalue our own. A lot of people up in arms over Harry leaving, but he couldn’t get off the bench without an injury and, don’t hate me, but Bogdan wasn’t lighting it up for the Hawks before he went down either. But hey at least nobody is paying us.

One more thing. The Kings Herald staff is doing a great job making a bad team fun to follow and so are the rest of you board regulars. I read the threads win or lose knowing I will at least get a laugh.

January 22, 2021 7:19 am

Great thoughts and agree with most ! Do wish Kings could have gotten an asset for Bogi ( an asset ) and waited to sign Fox ! Did not believe it necessary to commit a Max deal so soon ! RFA is there to help small market teams from themselves ! Truly, need a sure all star type in the draft and as much as I like Hali a future all star he is not !

January 22, 2021 9:12 am

Excellent point! Rec’d .

Fox: Trying to dominate the opposition when he really needs to learn how to dominate his own team first. 

January 22, 2021 9:00 am

January 22, 2021 9:04 am
Reply to  RikSmits

There you go, if you want to become a winning team you can’t have an inefficient, max contract, high usage, franchise center piece.

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