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Chainmail: Answering your questions about the Sacramento Kings

You asked, we answered!

Welcome back to Chainmail! We had a plethora of wonderful questions this week, as Will and I discussed our biggest and best takeaways from the four game start, Marvin Bagley's development, season-long expectations, and much, much more!

As always,  want to thank our sponsor for the mailbag, Carter Imports! Carter Imports is a Sacramento-based company that imports some of the very best Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Cretan Thyme Honey available in the world today. There has never been a better time to support one of our own than right now!

Let's dive in, shall we?

From: SMF-PDXConnection

What would you say is your biggest positive surprise and your biggest negative surprise so far this season?

Tim: I don't know if this is my biggest "surprise" because I was always super high on him, but Tyrese Haliburton's stellar play has been such an encouraging sign. He's passing well (21 assists), while not coughing up the ball (3 turnovers), while also shooting incredibly efficiently from the floor: 56% on field goals and 50% from deep. Oh, and he's already the most naturally talented guard/wing defender that the Kings have at the moment. This. Kid. Can. Play.

Will: Tim answered the positive, so I'll answer the negative here. The Kings, by most measures, are a fairly bad basketball team and their luck is going to run out at some point. If the Kings weren't currently cycling through Managers and various coaches like the waxing and waning of the moon, I might accuse the franchise of deliberately gaslighting the fanbase in regards to what they hype up vs. what gets put out on the court. This year the Kings brought in Alvin Gentry and Rex Kalamian as offensive and defensive coordinators to help their famously friendly, player-centric head coach and new general manager Monte McNair and others hyped the return to a quicker pace and a new focus on three point shooting. Well, the Kings are currently in the bottom five in pace, bottom three in three point attempts and this wasn't due to any sort of injury or sudden change in reasoning. They're just, not doing it... again. Now, to be fair to the other side of this coin, they're 9th in points per game and 11th in three point percentage. Christmas promised a fast new toy with lots of excitement and shooting and all we got was 3 unexpected wins and early national praise for the team. Boohoo, right?!

From: Kosta

Some athletes can be superstitious. Maybe they wear lucky shorts underneath their uniforms, refuse sex from their spouse all throughout training camp until after a boxing match, or cut their nails on the sidelines, or rub another player's knee on the bench.

Are any of you superstitious? Or even a little stitious? What are some things you might do during a game to help the Kings win?

Tim: My watching experience has evolved quite a bit over the years as kids and a wife have been added to the picture, so I don't have any particular superstitions right now. However, things were much different in childhood. I can recall one night in which my parents were jawing away after a Sunday night church service, so my brothers and I went out to the car to listen to the Kings game on the radio. The Kings were up big when we turned on the game, but they immediately started coughing up the lead as soon as we started listening. Of course, we shut off the radio and the Kings ended up squeaking out a close victory.

Will: I haven't been, of late, but that's not to say it wasn't always this way. When I lived at home and watched the games with my pops, the Kings would find a way to send him to bed early every once and awhile. Without fail, some time in the third or early fourth they'd let their opponents go on a run and he'd just stand up and say "well, they don't have it tonight". Once in awhile it was I who left early for social calls etc. but without fail, whenever one of us left... The Kings would come roaring back in grand fashion and win it with dramatics. So, whenever the worm turned and either one of us could hear everyone else in the living room get excited or start yelling down the hallway telling others to watch, it became tradition that we weren't allowed back into the living room to watch. If you gave up, you had to stay gone or ruin the good fortune of the Kings. Some of the longest winning streaks the Kings have had in recent years started with us leaving the game early and games later ended with us getting curious about another game we'd left and came back in to watch. Even for little things, like going to the restroom. If you left and the Kings started on a run, you stayed gone.

From rc50cal

What record on say 2/28/21 has front office thinking playoffs instead of draft position?

Tim: They probably need to be above .500, and more importantly, the kids need to be carrying them to that record. If they're two or three games above that mark, I could see the Kings cautiously pursuing roster upgrades, although I don't believe they'll do anything crazy or take on any long-term contracts. If there's a solid, expiring player who could help the team, that may be a possibility.

Will: Yeah I think the Kings will have to firmly be in the playoff hunt at that point. I mean a 6th or 7th seed where they feel comfortable knowing that even if they slide a bit, they're still going to end up with a great shot at the playoffs. I would also have to assume at that point that Tyrese Haliburton continued to ascend to where he is knocking on the door as a starter and that they feel the entire timeline for their revamp has been moved up quite a bit. The alternative is too tempting otherwise. If they're in 9th or 10th and just barely on that bubble, they could send out the veterans they wanted to for assets, flounder in the second half to a mid-lotto pick and still praise the season as a success by attributing the run to the core of young players they still had. There wouldn't be any significant backlash because it's what most fans expected prior to the season and they'd be able to hype up their next draft pick as their capstone piece to the rebuild. To abandon a deep draft and their previously discussed strategies would take a really remarkable run from Sacramento.

From Melmoth

Can you give some hope to those of us who are bearish on Marvin Bagley? Is there a stat line to to take solace in? I get that he's rusty from the injuries, so what would indicate this season that he's taking that step towards becoming a solid NBA center (or stretch 4)?

Tim: Despite his 2/5 shooting from deep against the Nuggets a few days ago, I don't really foresee Marvin Bagley becoming a stretch-four. Sure, there may be games in which he knocks down a couple of treys, but teams frankly don't need to respect his shot at this point, nor do I believe they ever will need to respect his shot. He's a slightly-too-skinny center right now.

Okay, some good for you. Marvin Bagley has been excellent on the glass this season. He ranks 23rd in defensive rebounding percentage, 27th in offensive rebounding percentage, and 21st in total rebounding percentage. That's impressive for a guy who hasn't played meaningful basketball in more than a year, as well as someone who's playing next to another center in Richaun Holmes, who also ranks pretty highly in those categories. From a non-statistical standpoint, I think Marvin has looked a lot more comfortable playing within the offense than simply taking a turn with the ball and forcing everyone else to stand around twiddling their thumbs. Do I think he's a future multi-time All-Star? No, but I do believe he can be a quality starter in this league if he can stay healthy.

Will: Man, you asked the wrong man on this one. I guess I could point to his second quarter the other night against the Nuggets where he scored 14+ points and played within himself. That was the first thing I'd seen in literal years from him where I thought "Kid might be onto something right now" and it was a welcome sight for those of us still hoping to find hope. Everything is still "too early to tell" with this team and so I'm really setting my bar low with Bagley, especially in these first 15-20 games. Stay healthy, get a feel for NBA basketball again, show flashes on the offensive and defensive end if you can. That's all I have for him right now and it's all I think we should expect of the kid.

From eurostep

Would you agree or disagree the Kings finally have the right mix of veterans, youth and depth and can finish this season at least .500?

Tim: No. The team is better than I expected them to be early in the season, but I would be pretty surprised if they won more than 30 or so games, especially as I still expect Monte McNair to deal some veterans at the deadline.

Will: I, hmm, I disagree. BUT I will say I disagree with this less today than I did a week ago. I still think this team is due a crashing back to Earth and think that many of these big teams that are struggling right now will get it together with their new personnel, coaching staff etc. very, very soon. This early part of the season masks the flaws on most bad teams and exposes them on good teams with new pieces and I think the West just has a lot of those teams that reshuffled key personnel this season. The Kings caught the Nuggets with their pants down the first night, got overlooked by Phoenix their very next game and then battled against a Nuggets team without their second most important player. Those are all W's and should be commended as such. I just don't see them getting many more chances for wins like that once they're past the initial ten or so games.

From ManilaBayCleanerCrew

With the 2nd Phoenix game exposing our flaws (lack of PF, shot-creator and initiator) who do you think we should target to bolster our squad so we can contend in the future?

Tim: I don't particularly want to target anyone outside of rookie-scale players or 2021 draft picks. If Lauri Markkanen or John Collins or someone along those lines becomes available, sign me up, depending on the price, but there's no desire in my mind to add a veteran to fill that role. I don't want to give up assets for those types of short-term solutions.

Will: Cade Cunningham. The man literally solves all three of your issues. Short of that, I think the Kings should hold off on anyone that isn't named Ben Simmons. Smaller pieces or unexpected members of the core will still show up on their own when vets like Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes get sent away and those will help bolster the Kings glaring issues. Its easy to see a Philly trade now where the Kings could get a young great wing defender in Matisse Thybulle (who is now buried on the bench) and/or a young scorer like Maxey in a trade that sends Hield out East but the things the Kings lack are going to come in the next draft or in a trade somewhere down the line, I just can't put my finger on who exactly.

From Klam

What's your New Year's resolution?

Tim: I don't really do New Year's resolutions, but I would like to get back to consistently working out at some point in the coming months, grow the Watching the Tape podcast with Sanjesh, and continue to build the coolest Kings website to have ever existed. Other than that, I'm pretty chill!

Will: I punted all my incomplete resolutions from last year to this. They aren't original. Pandemic eating had me gaining back the 20 lbs I was down, so I want to drop that and then try to drop it again. I want to get something I've been working on published to share with you all, though that may just end up being bits and pieces. Last year, I made it a resolution to get through therapy and get a promotion so that I could start truly living life. I accomplished both of those things and the day after my last day of therapy and the week after my promotion, the pandemic hit and I was dropped from the company I thought would be my forever home.

So... also, I'm being careful what I wish for: I don't want to end up as a character in Stephen King's Thinner or Misery.

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andy_sims
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December 31, 2020 8:44 am

Do you think that it will likely require an injury to someone in the rotation before Woodard or Ramsey start getting non-garbage time minutes? I really want to see what they can do when they get enough minutes to not feel pressured to Make Amazing Things Happen Or Else.

Gentry has the rotations pretty solid right now, and it’s tough to see a hard left turn for the sake of a couple of second-rounders, promising though they may be.

TheGrantNapear
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December 31, 2020 8:49 am
Reply to  andy_sims

Gentry?

andy_sims
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December 31, 2020 9:23 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

You know, the guy running the offense.

RORDOG
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December 31, 2020 9:26 am
Reply to  andy_sims

does Rex take over the rotations responsibility once the team crosses halfcourt

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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December 31, 2020 9:28 am
Reply to  RORDOG

Yes, they pass the clipboard like a baton

Jman1949
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December 31, 2020 10:32 am
Reply to  RORDOG

That’s why Luke looked so confused at the end of the first Denver game. He was still thinking about Rex’s defensive call and missed the whole Buddy tip-in play.

Adamsite
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December 31, 2020 9:00 am
Reply to  andy_sims

It is too bad that the Stockton Kings are not participating in the Florida G-League bubble. I really think Woodard and Ramsey could benefit in playing some meaningful games there, because I don’t think they are going to crack the rotation here.

By the way, are the Stockton Kings even going to play this season? Has anyone heard anything about them?

Kingsguru21
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December 31, 2020 2:31 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

I think they are not participating in anything this season. Only players assigned to the bubble.

It seems like some of this stuff is still being worked out, though.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kingsguru21
TheGrantNapear
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December 31, 2020 8:52 am

I still think the Kings end up well outside the playoff hunt and some of the vets get traded at the deadline. The semi tank should carry on and an impact draftee from the 2021 draft should help spur a long the rebuild.
I’d say the core is Fox and Hali, I haven’t seen anything from Bagley that leads me to believe he is a top three player on a team. The 2021 draft is where the Kings need to find that third guy. So hopefully we keep playing competitively but start losing more than winning.

Dirkula
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December 31, 2020 8:59 am

Hali already has 21 assists through 4 games?!

CBC7E8C9-88CE-4907-8A34-94FD17AC1CAC.gif
rc50cal
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December 31, 2020 9:32 am

I appreciate the people who are still bullish on Bagley. Two facts that have me still holding on to hope are his age€”21€“and his career games played€”79. If I frame his game and career to date as that of a 21 year old €œrookie,€ then I’m not nearly as pessimistic.

Crocoduck
December 31, 2020 10:17 am
Reply to  rc50cal

I’d feel the same way if this actually was his rookie season. The problem is he has the rest of this season and the next before the Kings have to make a decision to offer him his expensive QO and make him a restricted FA.

Monte is in a tough spot with him. His play and injury history probably doesn’t lend well to getting any decent offers for him now, but if he doesn’t improve this season or gets hurt again his value sinks further and the Kings have most likely blown one of the best assets they’ve ever had (that #2 pick).

I think the team needs to set some defined goals for him and give him plenty of minutes to sink or swim. If he hasn’t met any of those goals by the deadline I think the best move would be to move on for the best offer available while his incoming team still feels like they have enough time to make something happen.

PlayoffModeT
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December 31, 2020 2:34 pm
Reply to  Crocoduck

The good thing is we have Monte now. He already let Bogi go, so I’m not too worried if Bagley’s price gets high.

I think we could move forward hoping for Bagley to be better but understanding he could be on another team soon.

Klam
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December 31, 2020 10:30 am

the week after my promotion, the pandemic hit and I was dropped from the company I thought would be my forever home.

I can totally relate, Will. I just got a raise from my job at the end of 2019, and when I got furloughed from my job in late June (along with most of my company), we all had the impression it was just for a short time and that we would be back to work soon. But then in late October we got word from our boss that even though work might pick back up again in Spring of 2021, it wasn’t guaranteed that everyone would be brought back, so if we had to start looking for other job opportunities it would be in our best interests. It was definitely a blow because I’m basically back in the position I was for a year and a half after I finished college, where I was constantly job searching, updating my resume and my website. But I’ve been doing my best to find positive things about everything, and I always have to remind myself that there are MANY people in worse positions than I am. Hoping things can turn around sooner rather than later. 🙂

Last edited 1 year ago by Klam
rc50cal
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December 31, 2020 11:46 am
Reply to  Klam

Best of luck, Klam. I’m rooting for you and everyone else whose life has been turned upside down.

Klam
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December 31, 2020 12:00 pm
Reply to  rc50cal

Thanks! Let’s hope better things are ahead for all of us in 2021!

WGriffith
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December 31, 2020 12:08 pm
Reply to  Klam

Feel for you, man. Especially in your industry. Keep your chin up and make sure you share your successes when some company is lucky enough to have you in their employ.

It WILL come, just a matter of when.

andy_sims
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December 31, 2020 1:14 pm
Reply to  Klam

I’m sorry to hear about your situation and so many others like it, it can be amazingly stressful. The two worst things that we do as adults are moving, and looking for a good job. I got laid off in the spring of 2009, which sucked pretty hard. It took me about four years to get to the point where I could get steady work doing something that wasn’t completely soul-crushing, and it probably wasn’t 2017 until I had caught back up financially.

PRO TIP: Don’t close escrow on a house the same week that you get bounced.

I have a feeling in your case, even though the unemployment is worse this time, the rebound will be a lot faster. The dumb part, as we all know, is that any recovery would be much farther along if Americans were interested in anything beyond their own stupid desires and beliefs.

This may surprise some, but I’m not the most optimistic person out there. Still, I think 2021 is going to get you back on track. Hang in there.

RORDOG
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December 31, 2020 10:42 am

Regarding the sustainability of winning, the 4 factors stats are kind of a mixed bag, but give give some reason for optimism. They’re creating second chance opportunities (11th in OReb%), but limiting their opponents (3rd lowest Opp OReb%). They’re getting to the line (7th FTA Rate), but not giving up a bunch of free throws (lowest Opp FTA Rate). They aren’t turning the ball over (9th in TOV%), but aren’t really creating a ton of turnovers either (23rd in Opp TOV%). And they aren’t shooting very efficiently (20th in eFG%), but neither are their opponents (18th in Opp eFG%).

What does this all mean? Who knows, but it’s not like you can point to one crazy outlier, other than maybe the free throw discrepancy. On the flipside, their shooting efficiency (52.1 eFG%) will probably improve as the season goes along. Last season, for example, they finished with the the 11th best eFG% (53.4%), and the roster isn’t a whole lot different. The rebounding seems sustainable with the bigs they have. Health is obviously a wild card here, but I think their floor is probably ~29 wins, and there’s a path to get to ~36 wins. To me there are 2 factors that I’m watching:

  • Can Holmes/Bagley continue to coexist in the starting lineup? The team has a whopping +15.9 (O: 124.6, D: 108.8) net rating in the 65 minutes they’ve been on the floor so far this season. I don’t expect it to stay that high, but can their net rating at least stay positive when both are on the floor?
  • Can Fox/Haliburton/Bagley make 6+ threes per game? They were able to do that against Denver on Tuesday, but they’re averaging less than 5 made threes per game so far this season. If they can show some consistency, then the team can probably get up to around ~14 3PM per game as the season goes along.
rc50cal
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December 31, 2020 11:48 am
Reply to  RORDOG

SSSI approved! I’ll still be surprised if this early success is more than fool’s gold, but pleasantly so!

RORDOG
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December 31, 2020 1:38 pm
Reply to  rc50cal

the point was just to look at which parts of the small sample size look sustainable. If the Kings were winning because their shooting efficiency so far is way above average, then you would expect a ton of regression. At this point they’re winning by not giving their opponents a bunch of extra possessions, and getting to the free throw line a ton. The hope is that they can increase their shooting efficiency to slightly above league average to offset the expected regression in FTA rate.

1951
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December 31, 2020 11:28 am

Remember, the Kings teased us last year too by playing fast in preseason and then coming out running like a tortoise. This seems to be Luke’s MO with this team.

hyped the return to a quicker pace and a new focus on three point shooting. Well, the Kings are currently in the bottom five in pace, bottom three in three point attempts and this wasn’t due to any sort of injury or sudden change in reasoning. 

rc50cal
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December 31, 2020 11:50 am
Reply to  1951

I heard his reasoning for the slow pace, but I do not understand. It’s not like this team is stacked with unstoppable half court scorers or a stout defense. Their best attribute 2 seasons ago was speed! So frustrating!

WGriffith
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December 31, 2020 12:11 pm
Reply to  1951

That’s part of what has me down on this team. I’m not sure if he’s doing it his way to snub his nose at McNair, that he’s still dumb enough to think they need another half a season to “pick up the offense” or if he’s entirely unaware. Either way, the Kings still have arguably the worst coach in the league and his assistants can only make up for that so much.

Kingsguru21
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January 1, 2021 12:34 pm
Reply to  WGriffith

At some point, and you can consider this a complaint from one of the denizens in the peanut gallery if you like, it would be nice if we could have a fully fleshed out discussion of what we expect from B-Ref, NBA.com, etc etc numbers. Not only what numbers mean or their definitions, but what we can expect from looking at them. It’s one thing for a few people to know what they mean, but the fact so many people can’t differentiate how many shots you get at the basket vs how many times a team gets up and down the floor over the course of a game is a classic example of keeping track of just what the hell we’re actually talking about.

Teams have found a way to make an adjustment by getting back to make sure the Kings don’t run on them especially when Fox is on the court. What the Kings need to be able to do is effectively counter that and we haven’t seen that counter consistently. That’s certainly an important assessment of whether or not Luke Walton should stick around as a head coach, IMO.

Kingsguru21
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December 31, 2020 2:29 pm

No. The team is better than I expected them to be early in the season, but I would be pretty surprised if they won more than 30 or so games, especially as I still expect Monte McNair to deal some veterans at the deadline.

So much this.

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