The Sacramento Kings are halfway through their rollercoaster of a season, and we’ve gathered the crew together to go through some player and coaching staff grades. On Monday we took on the guards, on Tuesday we graded the team’s forwards, and today’s session will include centers and coaching staff. Let’s dive right in!
Richaun Holmes is pretty damn good, especially for a guy getting paid just $5 million this season. In fact, I would propose that any contender outside of the Sixers and Jazz (Lakers, Bucks, Nets, Clippers) would become the instant favorite if they were to add Holmes to their roster – that’s how effective he would be for a playoff team come postseason time. On the year, he’s scoring an incredible 1.37 points per possession in the pick-and-roll, good enough for the 90th percentile, and he’s been even better in transition, scoring 1.47 PPP, ranking in the 94th percentile. Add into that mix solid rebounding, good, if unspectacular rim protection, and a killer push-shot that can’t be stopped, and you have an incredibly impressive season from a guy who was struggling to get rotational minutes just a couple of seasons ago.
Richaun Holmes was spectacular for the Kings last season, but I wondered if his strong play was sustainable. Was Holmes really that good? How did he go unnoticed and underutilized for so long?
Holmes has answered all my questions this year. He’s a tremendous role playing center, and an absolute bargain for what the Kings are paying him this season. He should get a nice pay bump in free agency this summer, and I hope it’s from Monte McNair and the Kings. I think he can be a part of the solution here with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. The jury is still out on Marvin Bagley, but I think the Kings have three players in Fox, Haliburton, and Holmes that I’d like to see remain in Sacramento for some extended period of time. I’d add Harrison Barnes to that short list, but I think it’s possible that his trade value is so high league-wide that the assets received will be worth the player sent out.
It is hard to not remain impressed with Richaun Holmes. He is currently sitting at 2nd across the league in field goal percentage (65.1 percent) and as Doug Christie says, the push shot’s patent has now been approved.
He is far and away the best defensive center on Sacramento’s roster, even though some of that has to do with who is replacing him. He still remains foul prone, partially due to horrible perimeter containment from the rest of the roster, but he has displayed some switchability this year as well and I believe he has an argument for being a top-15 center in the league. Unless Monte McNair has a deal he can’t turn down at this deadline, I would expect the Kings to re-sign Holmes this coming offseason as they should with how he came into his own in Sacramento.
What more could you want from Richaun Holmes? Plays within his role? Check. Efficient offensive player? Check. Solid defense? Check. Energy? Check. Value to contract? Check.
Giving Holmes an A is as automatic as his push shot.
I didn’t expect much from Hassan Whiteside when he joined the Kings on a minimum deal, and he hasn’t done much to meet or not meet those low expectations. His rebounding and rim protections numbers are as fantastic as one would expect from a player of his skillset, but Whiteside’s inability to move laterally or defend more than two feet away from the rim, and his recent descent into a Zach Randolph territory of hops, has really limited his effectiveness on the court. A team could do a lot worse than Hassan Whiteside as their backup center, but they could also do a lot better. Complete meh.
Hassan Whiteside will put up numbers if Hassan Whiteside gets minutes, but his production is largely fruitless. The Kings are terrible when he’s on the court (not entirely his fault as the whole second unit minus Haliburton has been bad) and his game is incredibly frustrating to watch at times. He hasn’t been terrible, but he’s been nothing more than fine’ and in my opinion a downgrade from what Alex Len gave you off the bench last season.
I think this mainly has to do with what your expectations were for Whiteside coming into the year – mine were minimal. He has probably produced at about a minimum value, which is what he signed for this offseason.
He has fallen out of the rotation for stretches this season, because for the most part he is not a positive on the floor. It’s nice to be able to place a pure rim protector out there in specific matchups, but I will always prefer his minutes go to Marvin Bagley or Chimezie Metu when healthy. Hassan Whiteside is a total non-factor for me.
I had very low expectations for Whiteside, and he has pretty much done what I expected. He’s sometimes useful, sometimes not, and you never know which you’re getting. His teammates seem to like him, he doesn’t cause off-court issues, it’s all very “meh” for me. I don’t mind him being here on a minimum contract, I also won’t mind when he’s gone.
Chimezie Metu was a complete mystery to me heading into the season, and he kind of remains a complete mystery to me. I’m glad that he showed enough to not completely get played off of the floor in his few minutes, a la Justin James, but he also didn’t necessarily convert me into a believer either. He’s been very okay for a two-way player filling in due to injuries.
I had not seen a single minute of Chimezie Metu coming into this season and was unsure if he was an NBA player. At very least, Metu gave it his all during his time on the floor and displayed some intriguing shooting potential.
We didn’t see a lot of them, but I liked most of the Chimezie Metu minutes this season. If it weren’t for a dirty play by Jonas Valanciunas, he may have passed Hassan Whiteside in the rotation by now. Metu appears to be a good athlete and a decent finisher with a nice touch on his jumper. He plays hard, tries to defend and block shots, so I remain intrigued. I don’t know if he gets a look beyond this season, so I’m hopeful that when he’s healthy, those backup center minutes go right to him. I’m not certain that he’s an NBA player, but I don’t think we’ve seen enough to determine that one way or another.
I would certainly not mind keeping Metu on the roster as the third string center and see what he has. His hand situation is obviously unfortunate (Sacramento hasn’t forgotten Jonas Valanciunas), and it would be great to see him in the second half of the year. There may be a high-energy rim running big man with potential as a shooter and maybe passable rim protection.
He also may not be an NBA player in a few years, but I am slightly intrigued from the few stretches he was on the floor.
Metu has flashes where he looks good, and stretches where he’s still very raw. It says something about Metu that we considering his injury a setback for the team’s depth. Whether that says more about Metu or more about the rest of the Kings roster is up to you to decide, but it’s probably more of the latter. Nonetheless, he’s been solid for a guy on a Two-way contract.
Luke Walton is not a good NBA head coach. He proved that in Los Angeles and he’s now proven that in Sacramento. After this season, or whenever he’s let go, I won’t be surprised if he never gets another shot as a head coach again. He also hasn’t been bad at everything this year, hence my D grade.
I know my fellow writers and commenters will almost certainly focus on the bad, and there’s a lot of it, especially on the defensive end, but I’ll take a moment to point out some of the good. First, Walton’s immediate dependence on Tyrese Haliburton may feel obvious due to the rookie’s level of play, but there are plenty of NBA head coaches who would not be operating with the same level of trust, including our beloved Dave Joerger. There has also been a highly complimentary adjustment made to Harrison Barnes’ game. We’ve all noticed his offensive game rise to another level this season, and a lot of that has to do with his newfound role as a key initiator and scorer in Sacramento’s offense. On the year, Barnes is driving the ball 8.3 times per game, a 35% increase year over year, and that has resulted in HB increasing his scoring from 14.5 points to 16.7 per game this season. Also, please fire Luke Walton.
Luke Walton is a tough one to grade, and it was made even tougher following a recent report from Sam Amick and Jason Jones in The Athletic claiming that Walton has essentially done everything Monte McNair has asked of him this season. Do I think Walton is a good NBA coach? Not really. Do I think his roster kinda sucks? Yeah. Do I think they should have (statistically) the worst defense of all-time? No. Do I think the Kings were trying to win this season? Considering how they handle the Bogdan Bogdanvoic match, I don’t.
How do you grade Walton under those circumstances? He hasn’t (reportedly) lost the locker room. There hasn’t been any big internal drama. There were no expectations for the Kings to be better than they have been, so I’m going with a C-‘ here. I think he’ll be appropriately let go at the end of the season so Monte McNair can find his guy, and I think everyone in the organization kind of knows all signs are pointing in that direction, so the Luke Walton situation is what it is. He’s been a serviceable tank commander and kept the peace, and I look forward to a different coach on the sidelines for the Sacramento Kings next season.
I don’t think that Walton deserves all the blame for the Kings shortcomings this season, and he didn’t deserve all the praise during the stretch of seven of eight wins. My issue with Walton is that I can’t point to one circumstance where I feel like he has optimized a player, but there are a few where he has misused talent on the roster.
Maybe his freelance scheme could work with already high-IQ, talented players across the roster, but he is certainly not an ideal coach for a young and developing team. He seems to be an offensive focused coach, but it’s hard to not question if the offensive growth of this team is simply due to Fox’s jump, the addition of Tyrese Haliburton, and maybe the presence of Alvin Genty. The roster is not talented enough to make a real playoff push this season, but Walton certainly does not put his players in ideal circumstances.
If the idea is to develop talent, then why is Marvin Bagley not playing more? Why was Glenn Robinson III favored over DaQuan Jeffries? Cory Joseph over Kyle Guy? It’s hard to gauge who is specifically making these decisions, but overall I do not think Walton is a good coach and this season has done nothing to change my mind.
Walton isn’t the solution to any of Sacramento’s problems, but he’s also not the only cause of Sacramento’s problems. The players seem to like playing for him, but the players also check out for long stretches while playing for him. I suspect some of why players like Walton is that he doesn’t hold them accountable, but that’s just my personal speculation.
Giving credit where it’s due, this team has a very real offensive system and you couldn’t say that before Walton arrived. On the other hand, they have the worst defense in NBA history, and that also wasn’t true before Walton arrived. Walton probably catches more blame than he deserves in some areas, and less blame than he deserves in others. That feels like a low C to me.