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Kings’ Player Power Rankings Week 14: The Rise of Sabonis

De'Aaron Fox slips for the first time this season.
By | 9 Comments | Jan 23, 2024

Jan 14, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) and center Domantas Sabonis (10) talk during a timeout in the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Team Record (24 – 18) 7th in the West, 3rd t in the Pacific Division

We’ve reached the approximate halfway point of the season. It’s been a month since we last took stock of our players’ performance, and it’s astounding how much can change in just a month. As of December 11th, the Kings held a 12-8 record, placing them sixth in the west and second in the division. However, since then, they’ve slipped to seventh in the West and third in the division with a current record of 24-18. This means they’ve had a near-even split of wins and losses, going 12-10 over the past month or so. Overall, the team’s net rating for the season stands at .6, a decrease from last year’s 2.6.

Before the Kings managed to rebound and secure a victory against the under-strength Atlanta Hawks, they were caught in a four-game losing streak. The last three losses, against the Pacers, Suns, and Bucks, were by a combined margin of just eight points. Despite these close contests, the team unfortunately suffered a disappointing and one-sided defeat against the Sixers. Many factors may have contributed to the recent struggles – lack of effort, inadequate rim protection, inconsistent shooting, and more. But in my view, De’Aaron Fox’s underperformance is the major reason. Fox, who has consistently been the top-ranked player in this column, has not been his usual self since the start of 2024. His monthly average currently stands at 21.7 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds, but with a shooting percentage of just 41.7%.

Contrastingly, Domas Sabonis has been performing exceptionally well during the same period, averaging 21.6 points, 14.2 rebounds, and 9.1 assists, with an impressive shooting percentage of 65.6%! I might be giving away a potential shift in the player rankings, but as things stand now, Sabonis is undoubtedly the best player on the team.

  1. Domantas Sabonis: As previously mentioned, Sabonis has been on a tear lately, but in truth, he’s been dominating the entire season. Domas leads the NBA in rebounds for the year, ranks seventh in assists, and is tied for first in triple-doubles. His performance should undeniably earn him another All-Star spot, but we’re all too aware of how often our star player gets overlooked by the national media.
  2. De’Aaron Fox: Slipping to the second spot for the first time is Fox. Despite a noticeable dip in his stats, I am confident that he will reclaim the top position by the end of the season. Whether it’s an injury he’s battling, personal matters, or a mid-season slump, I fully anticipate Fox to bounce back stronger after the All-Star break, particularly if roster upgrades arrive before the trade deadline.
  3. Keegan Murray: Another ascending in this week’s ranking is Keegan. Though Monk had previously nudged him out of the third spot, let’s be clear that this isn’t due to any perceived drop in Monk’s performance – he’s been largely exceptional recently. However, Keegan has solidified his position as the team’s third pillar, proving himself as undoubtedly the strongest two-way player on the squad and showcasing All-Star potential. In his last 10 games, he’s averaged nearly 19 points, 6.4 rebounds, a steal, and almost a block per match with a 54% shooting rate, and 41% from beyond the arc.
  4. Malik Monk: Were the Kings performing just a tad better, the buzz surrounding Monk as 6th man of the year would be deafening. This month, Monk is posting an average of 16.5 points and 6.3 assists. If the Kings return to their winning form, he’s a strong contender to finish among the top three in the vote.
  5. Kevin Huerter: Since the most recent addition of Pels Oppenheimer, Kevin Huerter has been averaging 13.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game over his last seven matches. It might be tempting fate to declare K-Von’s comeback, but it seems like he’s truly back!
  6. Trey Lyles: There’s a significant gap from the top five players to the rest of the group. By default, Trey emerges victorious as our most robust and dependable forward, second only to Keegan. His stats may not be flashy, but even when his shots aren’t landing, which is often the case, he manages to influence the game and assert his presence in other ways.
  7. Harrison Barnes: My favorite tweet of the night came from my guy, Jrue, shedding light on the current state of Harrison Barnes.

    To put it plainly, Harry has not been his usual self, but it’s hard to blame him entirely when he seldom has plays designed for him. Yet, he often lacks the initiative to fight through screens, aggressively rebound, generate opportunities for teammates, or step up as the vocal veteran presence that this team desperately requires.

  8. Sasha Vezenkov:  I considered having Sasha ahead of Barnes, Sasha destroys Barnes in nearly every per 36 min statistic. I’m not saying he’s a better player but I am saying that he’s deserving of a longer leash.
  9. JaVale McGee: Is JaVale better than Alex Len? No. However, JaVale has played more overall minutes this year and logged more run as of late. Len brings a heck of a lot more consistency to the game but JaVale often injects a spark with his alley-oop connections with Monk and his highlight-reel-worthy shot blocks.
  10. Keon Ellis: Keon is outperforming Davion this season, and I suspect the only reason Davion is still in the rotation is to showcase him ahead of the trade deadline. It may sound blunt, but there seems to be no other logical explanation for why Davion is getting more playtime than Keon.

 

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outrider
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January 23, 2024 9:45 pm

What’s going on with Vezenkov? I don’t understand his minutes and why he recently went through a stretch of 6 DNPs in 8 games and in the two games he did play, he played 3 minutes in one and 20 in the other. WTF is that?

His O numbers are better than those of Barnes and I don’t think his D has been any worse than that of Barnes.

RikSmits
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January 23, 2024 10:12 pm
Reply to  outrider

Yeah, Sasha not getting a more steady role is baffling. I understand that he’s no defensive stopper but that doesn’t stop Brown from playing others for significant minutes. And if you love the 3 as much as Brown, it’s even more puzzling.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
January 24, 2024 7:36 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I’ve wondered the same thing and think it may have something to do with familiarity with the schemes. Everyone else in the core rotation has been with the Kings and Brown since the beginning of last season. They may just have more comfort with what is going on. Maybe he’s just behind the learning curve?

RikSmits
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January 24, 2024 8:16 am
Reply to  Adamsite

He’s an intelligent basketball player who has been a successful pro in a league much heavier in schemes and lighter on iso’s than the NBA. I doubt that he would be behind the learning curve.

RobHessing
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January 24, 2024 8:33 am
Reply to  Adamsite

My guess has been that it’s a function of whose minutes he gets in the rotation. Objectively speaking, he is not on a par with Harrison Barnes at this juncture. That puts him up against Trey Lyles. Vez started the season behind Lyles on the depth chart, and in spite of Lyles’ injury he did not do enough in his early floor appearances to move ahead of Lyles. He’s behind Lyles in 3%, rebounding %, TS%. He has a slightly better block % and a lower TO %.

I think it’s just the roster logjam. Three guys that do/don’t bring similar things to the team, and you can’t really play more than one of them at a time. If they are all similar, investment and time served are probably the tie breakers being implemented.

Sacto_J
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January 24, 2024 9:22 am
Reply to  outrider

I’m not a huge fan of Brown’s rotation “searching” so far. Last year it was the Okpala experiment. This season we started with the Duarte experiment. About 1/4th of the way through the season he throws someone else (Ellis) into the starting lineup to see how they gel. Then goes back and forth. Then gets some other rando on a flier mid-season, let’s see how they gel, never mind those other 2 guys we’ve been trying to “develop”. Somewhere after the all-star break its back to working through the first 2 guys he tried, again.
You need 5, coach. 5 solid starters. Make sure your GM hears you and gets you that 5th, coach. Cuz this mix and match, searching all season for the answer at the 2 business ain’t the business.

RikSmits
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January 23, 2024 10:14 pm

It seems that Fox has a funk every season. I’m too lazy to look it up but it feels par for the course (with perhaps last season an exception).

Sacto_J
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January 24, 2024 9:12 am

From a skill standpoint, Domas has always been the better player over Fox. He rebounds and assists better, and runs point almost as well. It’s not Fox’s fault he’s not 7′ tall tho.
Fox is a scorer. A defense destroyer. One of one in the NBA. But, and I mean this with no disrespect, he is absolutely replaceable and possibly our best trade chip. Pure speculation, but I wouldn’t doubt if Fox found out Monte had an offer out there with him in it that Fox wouldn’t be the happiest camper.
Its either that or he’s nursing an injury.

Hobby916
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January 24, 2024 9:32 am
Reply to  Sacto_J

Makes me think maybe he was in the discussions for OG and/or Siakam, or at least Toronto asked about Fox. Trade scenarios are abundant and mostly they don’t materialize, but some players might feel a certain way about that.

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