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5 on 5: Five Takeaways After a 4-1 Stretch

The Sacramento Kings have flipped the switch after a putrid 1-4 stretch, winning four of their last five. It's time for new takeaways.

The Sacramento Kings are fresh off a victory against the New Orleans Pelicans, capping off a five-game stretch boasting a 4-1 record. The record marks a stark contrast to the 1-4 record from their previous five-game stretch, so our takeaways today will be more buoyant than the last.

In these five games, the Kings have conquered the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors and the Pelicans, while the lone defeat came against the Miami Heat. It's a spell in which De'Aaron Fox has ascended into "the guy", which is arguably the best sign of the season.

Let's dive into some takeaways:

$KINGS

How much would you invest in the Sacramento Kings right now? During their previous 1-4 stretch, you could fill the boat with money because, with a defense as lamentable as that, they'd eventually fix the wrinkles.

The Kings are still last in defensive rating, 117.6, which speaks volumes to how atrocious they were, but that figure has improved. Despite remaining stuck in the basement of teams with struggling defenses, the Kings have allowed over 110 points just once in this stretch.

Part of that is because Miami, New York, Orlando and New Orleans have floundering offenses (Miami's ratings aren't indicative of their talent; they've suffered multiples injuries and health-related setbacks) with offensive ratings placing at or below 18th in the league. Toronto is currently 13th in offensive rating, so they're a mesial team in that regard.

Nonetheless, the Kings' defense of the recent past would've purposely opened the floodgates; instead, they've worked cohesively to keep the gates shut, and thanks to their offensive performances, they've collected necessary wins against either struggling or injured teams.

The upcoming schedule is where the Kings will demonstrate which version of themselves they really are. The next four games will include the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers. All are powerful teams that will make considerable noise come playoff time, so this is the genuine test. Let's see how royal the Kings are.

STABLE PERFORMANCES

Stable. That's not just an intended pun, but it's a perfect summary of Harrison Barnes' performances lately. He's producing career-high numbers in various categories, providing a pivotal wing presence the Kings have lacked for years.

In all of Sacramento's wins, Barnes dropped at least 20 points. The only outlier being an 11-point outing against a health(ier) Miami squad. And while his performances are definitely worth celebrating, I'm treading with caution, especially with the looming slate of powerhouses.

In the 1-4 stretch prior to this one, Barnes delivered only one optimistic performance, which came against the Indiana Pacers. Indiana has struggled to contain quality wings because they've been missing key depth in that area, such as Jeremy Lamb (who has since returned) and T. J. Warren.

Then, Barnes floundered against teams with stronger defensive matchups: Portland Trail Blazers (Robert Covington, Gary Trent Jr., Derrick Jones Jr., Rodney Hood); Los Angeles Clippers, twice (Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris); Pelicans (Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart). New Orleans sorely missed Steven Adams' presence patrolling the paint in the recent matchup, as Barnes constantly attacked the basket and knocked down his threes as the cherry on top.

Now in this stretch, Barnes benefited against teams with weaker wing depth: Knicks (Reggie Bullock, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Alec Burks); Magic (missing Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu, James Ennis, Dwayne Bacon, Gary Clark, a disinterested Aaron Gordon); Raptors (missing OG Anunoby and Norman Powell).

Barnes has been nothing short of solid; he just needs to maintain this level of efficiency against superior and tougher matchups.

ROOKIE OF THE MONTH

Deservedly so, the NBA named Tyrese Haliburton the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for January.

Haliburton has revitalized the future outlook of this team, immediately inserting himself as a core piece. Interestingly enough, the last five games haven't been Haliburton's best, especially from deep.

The Iowa State product has torched opponents from long range, but that hasn't been the case recently. In this stretch, Haliburton is shooting 24.1% (7-29) from beyond the arc. What was once automatic needs adjusting. The looks he's generated haven't been terrible. His clever fakes and footwork have steered into positive looks, but they're not falling.

Despite the perimeter struggles, he's doing what's required when an essential component to his game is lacking: helping elsewhere. Haliburton is still dishing dimes to teammates, providing quality defense, and now he's rebounding at a higher level. In the last three games, he's averaging 8.0 rebounds. He grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds against New Orleans.

Keep shining, rook. There are plenty of awards awaiting you.

COJO, PLEASE DO *SOMETHING*

In the offseason, I detailed why the Kings needed to scour their point guard depth. I was low on Cory Joseph entering the season, and he has proved me correct.

Following Monday's contest, Joseph now has a net efficiency rating of -20.1, meaning the Kings are 20 points worse when he's on the floor. That rating slots him in the 2nd percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. You read that right.

I'm still perplexed how Toronto allowed him to prosper with a 16-point outing, a season-best. They deserved the loss just for that alone.

His three-point shot has declined to 32% (13/40), placing in the 30th percentile, per CTG. On non-corner threes, the bulk of his attempts, he's 20% (5/25), placing in the 2nd percentile. He's not a shot creator for himself or for teammates, and his defensive prowess continues to diminish as an on-ball and off-ball defender.

Look at what he produced in a nine-minute stretch against New Orleans:

https://twitter.com/TheSanjeshSingh/status/1356427892062707712?s=20

IT'S RAINING TRIPLES

Buddy Hield's three-point diet continues to accentuate. Hield has attempted 71 shots in the last five games. Fifty-four of them have materialized from beyond the arc.

Fortunately, he's converting them at an absurd rate. He's 25/54 (46.2%) from deep, and that could've improved had he not went 4-15 from three against New Orleans. Hield's early season struggles are quelling, even at the cost of his mid-range jumpers and shots at the rim.

Sixty-five percent of Hield's attempts have transpired from non-corner threes, slotting him in the 100th percentile, per CTG. Seventy-four percent of his attempts are on all threes, placing him in the 91st percentile. Both easily rank as career-high percentiles, as his struggles from the interior have ushered him into augmented three-point attempts.

Only 17% of Hield's attempts transpire from mid-range, and that number plunges to 9% on shots at the rim. Both are career-lows. He's not seeking to attack the rim, nor is he seeking to punish defenders playing drop coverage by attempting, and converting, on middies. Not making his threes will highlight that trend, but the Bahamian is pouring it on lately nonetheless.

As Sacramento trends uphill, what else has struck out to you?

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Kosta
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February 3, 2021 8:58 am

As Sacramento trends uphill, what else has struck out to you?

Haven’t seen much of RBG III lately.

andy_sims
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February 3, 2021 9:26 am
Reply to  Kosta

Ren Blobinson the Gird?

9sac8
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February 3, 2021 10:01 am
Reply to  andy_sims

Underrated Comment Alert (UCA)

Thank you sir. 👏 👏 👏

Thank you for the laugh 😂

Last edited 1 year ago by 9sac8
Kosta
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February 3, 2021 10:26 am
Reply to  andy_sims

D’oh! Hahaha

(Dang. I’ve been making lots of mistakes like this lately.)

Jman1949
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February 3, 2021 1:05 pm
Reply to  Kosta

You’re becoming Notorious!

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Kosta
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February 3, 2021 4:05 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

Mo Cash Considerations
Mo Problemz
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AmateurNerd
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February 3, 2021 9:10 am

Bagley has quietly played better of late, too. If we stop thinking of him as “the guy with the loudmouth dad who Vlade picked ahead of Doncic and was raised by said loudmouth dad to think he’s God’s gift to basketball” and instead as “the guy who’s dealt with terrible injury luck and was picked way higher the late-lottery slot than he should have been,” he looks increasingly competent out there. Still just waiting for the injury bug to strike him again, though.

PretendGhost
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February 4, 2021 10:32 am
Reply to  AmateurNerd

I never thought I’d be upset atWalton for not playing him enough. Especially when the other team is beating the Kings on the defensive boards late game, he should at least get SOME 4th Q/Center minutes.

Peja
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February 3, 2021 9:25 am

Richaun Holmes has had an amazing defensive presence in the 4th quarter. He is coming up with timely blocks and is at the tops in the NBA with field goal percentage and efficiency. Going into this season I thought about him as an amazing trade asset and now I am wondering how we can keep him on the team moving forward.

BuffaloDiaspora
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February 3, 2021 9:40 am

It’s amazing the CoJo had a +/- of 0 during that highlighted stretch with the rest of the guys on the floor playing 4 on 5

RORDOG
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February 3, 2021 9:43 am

he does all the little things that don’t show up in the box score, but help your team to not win or lose.

WizsSox
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February 3, 2021 12:37 pm

I mean if he could do that every game and have a +/- of 0 then that would be a win for the Kings : )

RobHessing
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February 3, 2021 9:44 am

Been fun to watch. Not quite buying in yet, though. The desert that is Kings fandom has presented itself with plenty of mirages over the past decade and a half. Not drinking the sand for at least another month.

andy_sims
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February 3, 2021 9:54 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Not even New Sand, with Guarana?

ForKingsandCountry
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February 3, 2021 10:15 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Yeah as always when the Kings go on a little mini-run, I need to see a sustained level of effort for more than a week to believe they’ve flipped any sort of switch. The reality is we played 5 bad/covid/injury-compromised teams in a row and low and behold we looked better. Now, I do think Fox’s play has been fun to watch but other than that I don’t see any reason why we aren’t going to continue to get steam rolled by good teams which I expect to happen potentially starting tonight.

Kosta
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February 3, 2021 10:30 am
Reply to  RobHessing

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Otis
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February 3, 2021 12:35 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

I distinctly remember a certain 13-7 stretch last season…

Kingsguru21
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February 4, 2021 9:48 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Not drinking the sand for at least another month.

I might need another 2 weeks beyond that. Even with beating Boston they’re still 30th in DRtg right now. You can’t win games consistently that way. And it’s not like they are barely 30th. They are a point and half worse (118.2) than Portland who is at 116.6. Who are 2 points better in ORtg on top of that.

This isn’t really sustainable unless the Kings really improve to middle of the pack defensively.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kingsguru21
SelecaoKOJ
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February 3, 2021 9:57 am

It’s nice to see Fox take on a more Alpha role.

Still not convinced he can do it against good/elite teams.
He will need to show it against the Clips, Nets, Celts, Nugs and Sixers.
Even if the Kings lose most of those games.
If those teams are healthy, they just have better overall talent and coaching.

Beating the Nugs a third time will be very difficult this time around. Nets, Sixers, and Clips should Best the Kings.
Celtics will be the first test tonite. Celtics backcourt is finally healthy. Kemba, Brown and Tatum played fantastic last night

kings4ever
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February 3, 2021 3:08 pm
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

You are not convinced a 3D magician can continue to work his magic? Why not? Do tell!

Fox has added an awesome step back 3 to his arsenal and he has the side step 3 as well, which may be more potent. This is when the defense closes out on you and you step to the left or right behind the line and launch. Fox can do this, he loves the crunch time, he has all the skills. He can basically toy with opponents like they are role players in his own play.

And where is Otis to comment on Fox’s last game, was his internet connection down again 🙂

Here’s the point. If you want to question Fox and his undeniable awesomeness, what can you legitimately point to as some limitiation in his mental or physical skillset that leads you to doubt his pending stardom???

The guy is an incredible player. He made Lonzo Ball look like his Ball Boy.

Stats and wins are not relevant to claim Fox is not a star because stats can be distorted and wins are not solely attirubtable to one player. But if you can cite a fundamental issue that Fox has, for example, immaturity, poor shot mechanics, lack of agility, lack of juke moves to free himself, lack of work ethic, lack of vision, then we can talk about how he is not going to measure up to your standards.

But this is when the critics run into problems. They cannot cite legitmate flaws to Fox, mentally or physically. Instead they are adhering to old opinions proven wrong, and they are unwilling to let go of those incorrect assessments.

rockbottom
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February 3, 2021 10:03 am

Team is close to being very good on offense and close to being just poor on defense ! Clear improvements and Holmes a keeper !

RORDOG
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February 3, 2021 10:26 am
Reply to  rockbottom

The Kings are the only team that currently has a losing record in the top 10 in offensive efficiency. If they can maintain that level of offensive efficiency, and move up to like the 20th worst defense, then they’d most likely make the play-in tourney.

If that were to happen, does Luke keep his job? It’s technically progress from last season with a similarly talented team.

andy_sims
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February 3, 2021 10:40 am
Reply to  RORDOG

I wonder if they could just demote Lose and hope he takes a job elsewhere. I’m not sure how many peep-show mop-guy jobs are available, but someone might take a flyer on him. I’ll bet Peja could recommend some places.

Peja
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February 3, 2021 11:44 am
Reply to  andy_sims

I have plenty of recommendations. Unfortunately I have to keep what I recommend to Luke private.

andy_sims
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February 3, 2021 12:05 pm
Reply to  Peja

Fair enough, as long as the wheels are in motion, I’m content to be ignorant of the details.

kings4ever
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February 3, 2021 3:33 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Uh, I don’t think you are not contextualizing this properly. The Kings are 27th in net rating at -5.8 ahead of only the Magic (8-14), Thunder (8-11) and Wolves (5-15).

Net rating is a gauge of competitiveness, in this case it reflects blowout losses and squeaker wins for our 9-11 team. If Kings were to maintain their ORtg and improve their DRtg to 20th, then you are talking about wiping out our -6 point differential.

A 20th DRtg would put them around 111.5 (Heat – 20th DTRg) an improvement of 6.1 points fewer allowed per 100 possessions. Then we would have a net rating of +0.3, which would move us from the 27th most competitive team to the 15th most competitive team, likely a playoff team as the 7th or 8th seed.

The point differential or spectrum from the most dominant to least dominant team (competitiveness) is 17.0. Bucks are #1 at +8.4. The Wolves are worst at -8.6. You are theoretically calling for an improvement of 36% (6.1 / 17) within the spectrum of net rating. That is a very substantial move from near bottom to middle of the pack.

A more valid question were this to occur is not “does Luke keep his job”, but does he win COY.

Pistola916
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February 3, 2021 10:51 am

The Kings have 7 of 8 at home but opponents get tougher starting tonight. Aside from the Magic, every team has a winning record. If they come out of this stretch only 3-4 games out of .500, I’d be content. Shoot, they can lose every game here on out as long as the games remain fun and watchable.

Last edited 1 year ago by Pistola916
jlandweh
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February 3, 2021 11:29 am

Who of the Kings are possible buyout candidates? Possibly Nemanja, Corey, and maybe GRIII or Jabari? I love Bjelly and CoJo as people and teammates and would like to see them on roles on other teams.

If so, are there any candidates from other teams that you would be interested in the Kings signing?

kings4ever
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February 3, 2021 2:54 pm

Sanjesh! I did not know or need the stats to know that CoJoSlo is trash, a non-rotational washed up bum, obvious to any astute observer, but I appreciate you citing this stat….

Following Monday’s contest, Joseph now has a net efficiency rating of -20.1, meaning the Kings are 20 points worse when he’s on the floor. That rating slots him in the 2nd percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. You read that right.

This effectively means 98% of rotational players are better than Joseph and he does not belong in the rotation or any rotation. The loyalty and dedication by the coach to a guy who can’t play is astounding, especially when we have a bright prospect in Guy itching to get his chance!

Guy can shoot, he’s strong, he’s a playmaker, he has boundless energy, and Walton treats him like a pariah….disgusting!!!

I said weeks ago Joseph will end the coaching career of Walton, and so either way we are in a win-win, if you take the half-glass full perspective. Either Joseph continues to grind this team into the ground when he’s in the game, ending Walton once and for all (yes! win!), or he comes to his senses like might be happening with Guy getting limited minutes lately, and Joseph is admonished to the end of the bench with Bjelica where he belongs (yes! win!).

In fact I will say if Walton does replace Joseph with Guy, it is too late. Too late! I am not going to give the coach credit for a moves 4-6 weeks after the fact it should have occurred.

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