Kings’ Player Power Rankings: The Titanium Man, Domantas Sabonis and Keon Ellis Are Reshaping Kings’ Playoff Push

As the season enters its crucial final phase, Sacramento Kings find strength in Sabonis’ record-tying performances and the impactful debut of Keon Ellis, setting the stage for a strong finish.
By | 4 Comments | Mar 25, 2024

Feb 14, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Malik Monk (0) and forward Domantas Sabonis (10) and guard De'Aaron Fox (5) react in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Team Record (41 – 29) 7th in the West, 3rd t in the Pacific Division

Currently positioned 26th in three-point shooting percentage for the season, they rank 17th in scoring, 16th in defensive efficiency, 17th in overall net efficiency with a rating of 1.4, and 12th in offensive efficiency.

The final stretch of the season has been nothing short of exhilarating with just 12 games left! Since Keon Ellis has become a regular fixture in the lineup once again, the Sacramento Kings have soared to second in defensive rating (105), lead the league in steals (9.7), and are third in net rating (11.7). Granted, it’s a small sample size, but consider the caliber of teams faced during this period: Orlando, ranking second in defense and 13th in net rating; the Bucks, with the ninth-best net rating and fifth in offense; the Knicks, sixth in net rating and eighth in defense; and the Lakers, who, despite their average output this season, remain a notable victory as it was the second completed season sweep against the evil empire in franchise history. This phase feels like a trial for envisioning Keon in a more substantial role, either as a starter or contributing over 20 minutes per game.

We also tip our hats to Kevin Huerter, who suffered a dislocated left shoulder and a labral tear. His likely absence for the remainder of the season is a significant loss, contrary to the views of some skeptics. Despite being seen as defensively vulnerable and inconsistent in shooting, Huerter’s playmaking abilities and his knack for opening driving lanes and spacing the floor cannot be understated.

Keon Ellis is a long-time favorite of most at the Herald and any Kings fan with a pulse and reflecting on our last player power rankings from week 14 I still ranked him in the top 10 over Davion despite barely logging any minutes in the regular rotation. Week 14 was a simpler time in late January 2024—Madam Web hadn’t made Morbius look like the godfather and the Niners were in a prime position for a Super Bowl run.

There’s been considerable debate about whether Ellis embodies the ideal “3 and D” player many fans envisioned acquiring. While he may not fit the traditional mold of a rangy wing, his defensive coverage across positions and his judicious offensive contributions underscore his value. He crystalizes Harrison Barnes’s position as a definitive third or fourth option nightly, taking significantly fewer shots per 36 minutes compared to his predecessor, Red Velvet. In fact, he takes about 50% fewer shots, with Huerter averaging 12.9 per 36 minutes and Keon only 8.1. He’s a competent and willing shooter but knows his fuel is best reserved for doing his thing on the defensive end. 

Buckle up, Kings fans! This week is packed with four exciting matchups, starting with tonight’s game against the Sixers, followed by two crucial battles with the Mavs, and wrapping up with a Sunday matinee against the Jazz. Best of all, they’re all home games!

  1. Domantas Sabonis: Meet the Titanium Man, a nod to Paul McCartney, a treat for Marvel enthusiasts, and my personal pitch for Domas’s next nickname. He ALWAYS plays, endures at least seven heads per game, and has quietly really improved on the defensive end this season. While he may not be the quintessential rim protector, his skills in defending big men in the post are often overlooked. He’s also decent when it comes to switching on defense, and his effort to hustle for deflections is admirable. Not to mention, as widely recognized, Domas is currently topping the charts in rebounds, double-doubles, and triple-doubles, and is the second player EVER to log at least 53 consecutive double-doubles since the NBA-ABA merger, with a shot at becoming the record’s outright leader. I initially believed Fox would surpass Domas as the team’s key and top player, but with 12 games remaining, I’m confidently proclaiming it’s all about Doooooomaaaantas Sabonis – let the “Seven Nation Army” riff play.
  2. De’Aaron Fox: Fox is averaging a cool 26.6 points, 6.2 assists, and 5.6 rebounds since the All-Star break. His season average of 2 steals per game is just a hair’s breadth away from surpassing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who leads by only 0.1 steals. This season, Fox has elevated both his defensive play and shooting prowess. He would easily be the top player on at least 10 other teams in the league if it weren’t for sharing the spotlight with the “Titanium Man,” Domas Sabonis. 
  3. Keegan Murray: Murray is a two-way player, make no bones about it. In just his second year, he’s emerged as one of the league’s top defensive forwards, evolving into a genuine weak-side rim protector that his team sorely requires With Huerter likely out for the rest of the season, he’s got a real opportunity to elevate his offensive game and become the unquestionable third option on the team. 
  4. Malik Monk: Last I wrote in this column, “Were the Kings performing just a tad better, the buzz surrounding Monk as  6th man of the year would be deafening”. Well, I think we can now call the buzz deafening as of 3/20 he leads all players with 1,050 bench points and 352 assists this season. Nobody else has reached 900 points or 300 assists.  
  5. Harrison Barnes: Since the start of February, Barnes has averaged 13 points and 3 rebounds per game. This role appears to be a perfect fit for him at this stage of his career and is precisely what the Kings need from a fourth or fifth option. From my perspective, Barnes has never looked more consistent and dependable during his tenure in Sacramento than in these recent months. 
  6. Kevin Huerter: Let us pour one out for the homie, Red Velvet who’s likely played his last game of the season. Averaging 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists this year, he has seen a notable decline from his initial season with the Kings. As noted earlier, his impact on the game outside of his box score stats is often undervalued as someone who stretches the defense and is a willing and capable playmaker.
  7. Keon Ellis: In his nine games as a starter, the Kings are 8-1 with Keon averaging 7 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, oh and there’s the 2.3 steals and.8 blocks per game.
  8. Alex Len: Remember that time Len blocked Jonathan Isaac in back-to-back shots in a crucial sequence of the Magic game? This example perfectly encapsulates his influence on the team this year.
  9. Trey Lyles: Trey’s contributions in rebounding, defending against larger forwards, and opening up the defense have flown under the radar this season. Previously labeled as merely a pick-and-pop player with defensive shortcomings, he has significantly developed his game to become a dependable and valuable asset off the bench.
  10. Chris Duarte: While many might have anticipated Davion filling this spot, the truth is that Duarte has shown remarkable consistency since the All-Star break. Over the last 13 games, he’s maintained averages of 6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.8 assists, along with steady shooting and solid defense on the perimeter.

Let’s energize the Titanium Man moniker and get a Herald shirt mad! Calling on Greg Wissinger and Kevin Flippin to lead the charge 😉

[Editor’s Note: a t-shirt using a name owned by Disney, what could go wrong? – Greg]

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March 25, 2024 3:08 pm

You forgot Davion Mitchell.

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March 25, 2024 7:51 pm
Reply to  Jack

Easy to do.

You trading him for KD?

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March 25, 2024 5:41 pm

This was fun… Complete with Zingers! I like.

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March 26, 2024 8:37 am

Zack – I thoroughly enjoyed this. Please keep’em (your posts) coming.

The Domainator – personally, I prefer this to Titanium Man. The Ox (also prefer) will not rust however.

Fox (and rhymes with Ox) – after a major step up in performance and understanding game situations, seems to see-saw this season as he works on making himself a 3-point threat that just isn’t reliable enough. He is Dame Lillard Lite for me on that front. Now – if he sticks with his drive/short range game in the clutch – he’s uniquely amazing.

Monk- 6th man, not a starter (just too darn wild) but what a fountain of energy!

Keegan – following the Paul George/Khris Middleton path. Just needs more seasoning and playoff experience.

Davion – Since the start of March, he’s been the contributor we hope he’d be.

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