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Pelicans 135, Kings 123: Destiny, thy name is play-in

The Kings went down big, came back, went down big again, and then tried to come back again.
By | 154 Comments | Apr 11, 2024

Apr 2, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) looks to pass the ball against the Sacramento Kings during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Thursday night’s game, a critical match up in Sacramento’s difficult journey to regain the 6th seed, many Kings fans likely felt the same – the Kings were probably going to blow it, and the evening certainly seemed headed that way early on. Throughout most of the first quarter, Sacramento struggled to hit shots, while the Pelicans struggled to miss, and the Kings found themselves down by 34-11 within 10 minutes of play; however, a late first quarter surge by De’Aaron Fox gifted the Kings a breath of hope, and they charged back into the game throughout the second and third quarters.

Unfortunately for the Kings, Zion Williamson boulder-like shoulders carried the Pelicans team throughout Sacramento’s third quarter run, scoring 17 points in the period, and after the Kings pulled within a single bucket, New Orleans finished the last few minutes of the third on a 20-13 run. CJ McCollum took over in the 4th, knocking down tough three-pointer after tough three-pointer, and before they knew it, the Kings once again found themselves down 23 points about 5 minutes into the final quarter. The game was completely over at that point, and even though a late flurry of buckets by Sacramento breathed some life into the team and the crowd, the deficit was too large too late for the Kings to overcome. De’Aaron Fox led all scorers with 33 points and Harrison Barnes scored another 22, while Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum both put in 31 points for New Orleans.

Playoff Impact

Beyond a single game’s impact, tonight’s loss was especially devastating for Sacramento. They are now guaranteed to appear in the play-in tournament, as they cannot statistically overtake the Pelicans, and at this point, they are more than likely battling to stay out of the 9th and 10th seed, rather than competing for 7th. With the Warriors win over the Blazers, Sacramento has entered into a three-way record tie with the Lakers and the Warriors for the 8th, 9th, and 10th spots in the West; however, the Kings own both tiebreakers, meaning the Lakers or Warriors must finish one game ahead of the Kings to snag 8th. If that were to happen, the Kings would be forced to win both the 9th-10th match up, and the game against the loser of the 7th-8th round to make the actual playoffs. Winning their final two contests against the Suns and Blazers will guarantee Sacramento’s placement in the play-in tournament. Their destiny rests in their hands.

Game Notes

  • Davion Mitchell once again played extremely well in Malik Monk’s absence. The third-year guard scored 13 points and dished out 5 assists while shooting 5 of 8 from the floor, including both of his three-point attempts. If Sacramento is going to fight their way through the play-in tournament, they’re going to need similar contributions from Mitchell going forward.
  • The Kings actually shot well from deep (16/38, 42%), but their lack of attention and execution in defending the opposite three-point line spelled their doom, as the Pelicans made 22 of their 40 three-point attempts, good for a red hot 55% accuracy.
  • The Kings did not lead at any point throughout the night.
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RikSmits
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April 11, 2024 9:48 pm

Hello darkness my old friend…

TheGrantNapear
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April 11, 2024 10:24 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Probably getting even darker next season barring a major trade.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 7:52 am
Reply to  RikSmits

comment image

eddie41
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April 11, 2024 9:49 pm

liked seeing aggressive Keegan. His shot totals were the same, but he was aggressive, looking to score at three levels. Someone has to do it. Then defenders focus on him, he makes a simple pass, and all of the sudden a guy like HB has a step on someone and scores.

In the play-in, do we go with an 8-man rotation, 9-man or 10-man?

TheGrantNapear
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April 11, 2024 10:22 pm
Reply to  eddie41

nine or ten even. Our top 3 bench guys aren’t good enough to justify an 8 man rotation with KH and MM out.

eddie41
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April 11, 2024 10:36 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

hmm, well Colby did not exactly look “ready” in that sequence of plays there.

Duarte? eh, he’s not bad, but I think a 3-guard rotation of Fox, Davion, Ellis would do fine. Duarte isn’t really a guard anyway. Neither is Kessler.

that’s 8 or 9.

Jman1949
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April 12, 2024 9:47 am
Reply to  eddie41

MB did Colby and the team a disservice by inserting Colby into a critical game against a team that exerts a lot of pressure against even the best ball handlers.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 6:54 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

I’m sorry but other than Mitchell we don’t have a bench. This is one of our major downfalls this year. Needs to be corrected. We can’t stay pat next year or we probably don’t make even the playin.

eddie41
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April 12, 2024 8:45 am
Reply to  Jack

Lyles and Len are also good off the bench. pre-injury, that’s ten solid players which is not bad at all. then there are a number of guys in the 3rd five (Kessler, Vezenkov, Colby, Duarte, McGee) who can step up on any given night.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:13 am
Reply to  eddie41

But they haven’t. Look at last night. Most of those above players you mention played last night. The only one close to helping was Mitchell. This has happened more times than naught. We definitely need help here as well as 2 more impactful starters.

eddie41
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April 12, 2024 11:19 am
Reply to  Jack

Lyles was 2 for 4 from three and was a plus 6. Len has been solid all year in a limited role.

regarding the other players mentioned, who are #11 – 15 on the depth chart, there’s some debate.

ForKingsandCountry
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April 11, 2024 9:54 pm

If they played 100 times they’d lose 100 times. They have NO shot against that team. They’ll lose tomorrow, be in 10th and that will be the end of that. 12th pick incoming and we’ll see you next season! Better hope they can snag someone decent or trade that pick for someone who can help because there aren’t many other options for improvement.

rockbottom
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April 11, 2024 9:55 pm

Best team won . Pels more talented and deeper . Record proves it . On to Suns game .

TheGrantNapear
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April 11, 2024 10:24 pm

We clearly don’t match up well with the pels. Ideally we’ll get the lakers in the play-in. We can at least count on Domas against AD lol.

DutchKingsFanInUK
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April 11, 2024 10:26 pm

The Pelicans shot 40 three-pointers and made 55% of them. That’s not great, is it?

RikSmits
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April 11, 2024 10:34 pm

I am also interested in understanding why we only shot 38.
Did the players not follow the gameplan or did coach Brown realize that the spray 3’s are no recipe for success, 3 games before the end of the season?

Amonk81
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April 11, 2024 11:26 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

I am very unsure of Brown and wondering what exactly McNair is thinking/doing…..got a cusch who won’t alter system but doesn’t get him player for said system.

The foundation of this team – organization feels shaky. Something is amiss

I have to believe McNair sees that changes have to be made? Not sure why he thought standing pat and seeing how they do was a good idea?

Jack
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April 12, 2024 6:59 am
Reply to  Amonk81

Maybe he didn’t have any options or was waiting until this year I don’t know but we can’t stay pat. I really like what the Pels have done. IMO watch out for them in the playoffs.

Tankathon
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April 11, 2024 10:57 pm

It just really feel like every single one of these teams in the top 8 will whoop this Kings team in a 7 game series with or without monk….i will say that Davion doesn’t shy away from the moment. He and monk just don’t seem scared when it matters

Last edited 3 months ago by Tankathon
ForKingsandCountry
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April 11, 2024 11:06 pm
Reply to  Tankathon

Agreed. Even with Monk this team isn’t talented enough. They got lucky last year because the conference had so many injuries but this is truly where the Kings are of all things equal. They’re a borderline play-in team.

There are two paths forward from that spot: trade future picks and try to upgrade the talent level or trade your better players and tank. Also depends on the goal. Do the Kings want compete for a championship? If so, they need another player as good or better than Sabonis and Fox. If not they can probably make the 7/8 seed a few times and they’ll be a first round exit. My guess is that’s the path ownership would prefer. This summer should tell us a lot.

Last edited 3 months ago by ForKingsandCountry
RikSmits
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April 12, 2024 3:19 am

One other issue is that the Kings were uncharacteristically healthy last season compared to the rest of the league.

Even this season, we are still very healthy, despite the loss of two core players late in the season.

NBA 2023 Injured List Tracker | Spotrac

That won’t happen every season.

ForKingsandCountry
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April 12, 2024 8:42 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Yep last year was a perfect storm and this year has been pretty good on the injury front as well. Imagine where we’d be if Sabonis or Fox was out for a month or two? The Monk injury was enough to completely submarine this team.

RikSmits
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April 12, 2024 9:59 am

By the way some people here react, it seems that a month without Domas would have improved the team.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 10:01 am
Reply to  RikSmits

It would have improved our lottery chances, that’s for sure.

ForKingsandCountry
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April 12, 2024 10:05 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I’m not that crazy. I do think if Sabonis is the team’s best player that this team has a serious ceiling that will be very hard to break through without significant roster upgrades. Or put another way, if Sabonis is your best player, you aren’t going very far.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 7:03 am

Remember what McNair and Brown said 2 years ago. We are building to win championships. Are they staying on track or changing their minds. We will see this summer.

ForKingsandCountry
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April 12, 2024 8:45 am
Reply to  Jack

Everyone says that’s the goal but actions speak louder than words. McNair certainly hasn’t done anything yet that would make us believe him. I still think it’s most likely a Vivek problem but we’ll see. Big offseason!

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:17 am

I really really really hope so.

Maximus
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April 12, 2024 3:00 pm

There are two paths forward from that spot: trade future picks and try to upgrade the talent level or trade your better players and tank

There is another lesser known path, which is the cap space route in 2025 offseason. It is the year before Fox’s and Keegan’s new extension kick in. On the cap sheet would be Fox, Domas, Keegan, Keon and Colby (maybe a couple more cheap rotation players) and then everyone else should be cleared. That would be somewhere between 50M to 60M cap space.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 3:08 pm
Reply to  Maximus

The ’25 off season currently shows in excess of $140m in payroll: Fox, Sabonis, Barnes, Huerter are all under contract, with team options on Murray, Jones and Ellis (and Vezenkov). It drops to $50m the following season, but that’s with everyone but Sabonis off the books.

Maximus
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April 12, 2024 3:26 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Yeah I did say “everyone else should be cleared”. You would have to clear Barnes and Huerter which will be on their last year. I think one of them or both will be traded this offseason. I think it is not too hard to clear them off the books by 2025 offseason if we actually want to go that route.

Last edited 3 months ago by Maximus
Maximus
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April 12, 2024 3:45 pm
Reply to  Maximus

Sorry l meant they would have to be cleard

TheBaker
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April 12, 2024 4:16 am
Reply to  Tankathon

I give them a shot against the Thunder – their team is quite young, and the playoffs are a different atmosphere. Shai won’t care; I expect him to step up in the playoffs, and his game is suited for it. He can easily carry a team if needed. The Kings do have the experience of last year. It will be interesting to see whether the staff and players make any adjustments with that knowledge.

Tankathon
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April 12, 2024 5:48 am
Reply to  TheBaker

Their length and athleticism will translate and basically eliminate Sabonis imo. Shai and Fox generally play pretty even but shai is so damn consistent that Fox would have to put up 40 the whole series. I would actually give the Kings a punchers chance against the wolves. I could see more variability in Ant’s performance in a playoff series with the same expectation that Sabonis is limited by Rudy and naz

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:18 am
Reply to  TheBaker

Maybe but they have to get there first. Going to be extremely hard. All starters need to be their best or it won’t happen.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 7:00 am
Reply to  Tankathon

And even a team like the Rockets or Spurs. Watch out next year.

SelecaoKOJ
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April 12, 2024 8:24 am
Reply to  Jack

I think both pass the kings next year. Regardless the the kings doing the offseason. Both teams have cap room. Tons more assets than the Kings and a lot more draft picks to trade. They will both end up with new major stars on their teams

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:20 am
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

I hope you’re right. Need major shakeup.

SelecaoKOJ
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April 12, 2024 8:21 am
Reply to  Tankathon

I am not in the Davion camp. He’s looked good for a few games. Offensively not a whole season. He’s also a midget. So he is really a liability defensively. Don’t be fooled that he’s really a viable 6th man.
Davion won’t make any difference in the playoffs/playin

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:23 am
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

What Davion has done in the latest weeks improving his offense IMO will help as a better trade chip for the coming year. He is already one of the best defensive players in the league iIMO.

Tankathon
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April 12, 2024 1:41 pm
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

I don’t think he will be here long term. Going back to the playoffs last year, it just seemed like he’s up for big games while others like KH, HB and to a lesser extent Sabonis, faded. I think these past few games will hopefully recoup some of his trade value. IMO, this is the second time MM has fumbled an asset. Would’ve been beneficial to get off HB and Davion sooner

9sac8
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April 12, 2024 2:12 pm
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

I’ll have to respectfully disagree. Davion has been hooping lately. He has some momentum and his confidence is growing. He was absent most of the season, but he’s cooking now.

We need that. We don’t have anyone else really doing anything off the bench since Monk went down. At least he is stepping his game up.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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April 11, 2024 11:37 pm

A hot Pels team is a tough out for anyone. Bring in Brandon Ingram and they become a Champ challenger, IMO. They scored 135 tonight! 55% 3FG% is hard to beat.

I’ll take 3FG of 42% for the Kings tomorrow night.

On the plus side- Davion’s offense is getting better and better. His comp, to some extent, IMO, is Jose Alvarado (who was 14/6/6 in 22 min) and they looked pretty even. Barnes had himself a game, and Fox drove the ball and scored well (11/18, 3/7 from 3, and got to the line for 8/10). Domas seems off a bit to me these two games.

Next.

RikSmits
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April 11, 2024 11:42 pm

It seems as if the grind of the season is catching up with Domas.
It feels to me like he’s on his last legs.

Tankathon
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April 12, 2024 5:35 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Definitely the 5 games in 7 nights and the past two games were playoff style basketball. I hope it’s just fatigue and not a preview of whats to come in the play in games

Jack
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April 12, 2024 7:10 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Val took him to the cleaners down low last night. We all know Sabonis has trouble with bigger centers. He has played better on defense as of late with some blocks but he is not a good rim protector and it shows. We do not have a player that can play defense on Zion. Most teams don’t either. What a beast. If he wanted to he could score 30 or more just on drives.

NowLoveThemOnceAgain
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April 12, 2024 11:38 am
Reply to  Jack

Barnes looked helpless on defense against Zion. No lateral quickness in his step.

Hobby916
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April 12, 2024 7:19 am
Reply to  RikSmits

He probably is this season. He plays hard, every game, and usually shoulders the load of offensive hub, gritty rebounder, and running up and down the court. He needs another big man that can share the responsibilities on the court with him.

Another big that can replicate what Domas does (to am extent), while being able to play along side Domas in a functional way.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:28 am
Reply to  Hobby916

I have some ideas but will wait until season ends.

rockbottom
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April 12, 2024 7:50 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Definitely seems worn down . Not running as freely . Has played big minutes in every game and taken a lot of punishment . Probably would not ask for rest or excuse but deserves both !

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 8:25 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I agree with RikSmits and the replies. I posted this about Sabonis after one of the Mavs losses a couple weeks ago, applies to this game as well:

“Games like these are why I have said the Kings don’t have a true ‘one’ to be a contender/champion. When the pressure and physicality is turned up they fold. Two Robins, No Batman….

I love Sabonis for his incredible effort game in, game out but this is why he does not get a lot of love from the talking heads.

I am thinking more and more his main advantage throughout the season is his motor and effort. When meaningful games and the playoffs come everyone cranks up the effort, he already has the pedal to the floor so he has no room to up his game and he gets exposed.”

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:33 am
Reply to  OLDBHOY

You are probably right. We need a PF to help and a backup center who is physical and strong for a backup. I have no problem with Len he has done his job well but am looking at a young center that will be around for awhile that will help Sabonis and give him more rest. Also a young center that can handle the bigger centers of the league.

Maximus
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April 12, 2024 10:39 am
Reply to  Jack

Let me guess. Goga Bitadze.

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 8:31 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I have thought for quite a while what the Kings really need is to pair Sabonis with a player who can be a stretch 4 on offense but a 5 on defense. Like Brook Lopez for Milwaukee.

Sabonis guards better away from the basket, rim protection is one of the weakest parts of his game.

ForKingsandCountry
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April 12, 2024 8:47 am
Reply to  OLDBHOY

Agreed. He actually moves feet well on drives but has no shot once people get in the paint.

cwebb2bibby
April 12, 2024 8:59 am
Reply to  OLDBHOY

You mean like Myles Turner?

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 9:18 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

If he replaces Barnes, sure. I think they could do a lot worse.

Sabonis just doesn’t have the length or athleticism to rim protect well and its a consistent issue especially against the longer, more athletic teams.

cwebb2bibby
April 12, 2024 9:54 am
Reply to  OLDBHOY

That was a joke. Domas and Myles Turner has been tried and it didn’t work.

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 9:57 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

I know you were being sarcastic.

But I think if you swap Barnes for Turner the Kings are better. I think that combo could work with the guards on the Kings. At least better that what we are seeing now.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:49 am
Reply to  OLDBHOY

Again I have some ideas but don’t want to upset the apple cart just yet. I will hint on 2 who might be a good fit as a 4 next to Sabonis. Jalen Smith who will be a free agent because the Pacers can’t offer him what he wants and deserves. Monty could use his MLE for this coming year and would have a good chance to get him especially if you offer him a starting role. At 6’10” he can rebound, protect the wealside rim, run with pace and shoots the 3 at 40%. Young with a motor and high IQ. IMO a really good fit alongside Sabonis. The other would be Tari Eason. He would be harder to get from the Rocket but maybe Monty can do it. Same set of strenghts as Smith.

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 1:26 pm
Reply to  Jack

Smith or Eason sounds great. I mostly watch the Kings and don’t have the time to really track the up and comers around the league.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:39 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

Maybe Turner but remember Sabonis and Turner played togerher and things didn’t work out so well.

Adamsite
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April 12, 2024 9:27 am
Reply to  OLDBHOY

Go get Jalen Smith this summer.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:06 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Good choice Adamsite. We are both on the same page. If others want to know why read my comment above. I really like the guy and so does Jerry but just not because he does. Jerry in my opinion knows what he’s talking about. So does Adamsite. Monty go get him. I think you can.

TheGrantNapear
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April 12, 2024 9:30 am
Reply to  OLDBHOY

I have thought for quite a while what the Kings really need is to pair Sabonis with a player who can be a stretch 4 on offense but a 5 on defense.

I have been saying this since we traded for him. MM hasn’t made any stabs at trying obtain the ideal 4 next to Sabonis.

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 9:54 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

I have been frustrated with this as well. And the general direction of choosing players who lack length and athleticism.

The Pelicans are the anti-thesis of this. There are times during NO-SAC games where they are outsized at every position. Looks like JV vs varsity.

Maximus
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April 12, 2024 10:24 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Yes Monte has, remember the rejected Pascal Siakam trade.

Last edited 3 months ago by Maximus
Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:08 am
Reply to  Maximus

You ever think maybe he didn’t want him. If it’s worth anything neither did I. Monty might have been looking ahead.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:06 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Smith can do both.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:37 am
Reply to  OLDBHOY

I agree. I would want a center younger than Lopez who will be around for more than like 1 year. He might not be polished right away but has the tools to be a really good backup to Sabonis. Let’s wait until the season is over and then start discussing things.

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 1:23 pm
Reply to  Jack

Oh yeah, not Lopez specifically due to age. I was just using him as an example of a player who fits the skills/measurables/style of play that I think would help the Kings the most.

9sac8
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April 12, 2024 2:19 pm
Reply to  OLDBHOY

It more than likely won’t happen, but I would like to see Lauri Markkanen beside Domas.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 3:03 pm
Reply to  9sac8

Boy would I also but I think the Jazz wouldn’t trade him. If they did I would go out and have a couple of beers.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 10:26 am
Reply to  RikSmits

You might be right. He has put so much energy over 80 games he probably is tired but I’ll bet he still will give all out the next games. That’s who he is.

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 1:21 pm
Reply to  Jack

I never question Domas’ effort and desire, I question how much gas is in the tank at this point. Dead legs are a reality.

cwebb2bibby
April 12, 2024 4:38 am

Another critical game, another subpar performance from Domas

HongKongKingsFan
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April 12, 2024 7:41 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

Yes, I would rather see mor Alex Len, and use Lyles as small ball 5…..

He is useless right now, other than setting screen, and crushing the broad, he does nothing to help the team.

Once he drive into the paint, his ball was way too easily being stolen.

rockbottom
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April 12, 2024 7:53 am

WOW. , great plan . Should turn a 45-46 win team into a 35 win team .

HongKongKingsFan
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April 12, 2024 8:22 am
Reply to  rockbottom

I mean in current situation…..(i.e. no Huerter & Monk)

Sabonis just forget how to play without them….

Not the whole regular season

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 8:24 am

So you lose two of your better players, and the answer is to bench one of your best players?

And Sabonis has still been about a million miles better than either Len or Lyles since Huerter and Monk have been out. He just has not been as good as he was when they were healthy. Neither has Fox. Maybe we should bench him for Mitchell or Mason?

SelecaoKOJ
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April 12, 2024 8:38 am
Reply to  RobHessing

I wouldn’t say Huerter. He’s been terrible since the beginning of the season.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:13 am
Reply to  RobHessing

You tell them RON.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 8:22 am
Reply to  rockbottom

Yeah, when your team is scuffling, take out your best player and replace him with NBA bench fodder.

cwebb2bibby
April 12, 2024 8:41 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Your best player shouldn’t consistently have one of the worst +/- numbers in critical games

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 9:16 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

And he hasn’t when looking at the entire schedule. You can cherry pick any player’s set of games to make the numbers look however you want, but the macro is that Sabonis is the team’s MVP.

cwebb2bibby
April 12, 2024 9:57 am
Reply to  RobHessing

The macro is that your max level player can’t be a guy that consistently disappears in crucial games. Someone who can only play well in the first 65 games of the season can’t be making a max contract, otherwise the team is screwed from a cap structure perspective.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 9:59 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

So we discount 79% of the regular season schedule when determining a player’s value. Got it.

cwebb2bibby
April 12, 2024 10:46 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Max players make their money in games that matter, sorry but that’s how it is.

There’s a reason why Jimmy Butler gets league wide respect, but Domas doesn’t, despite his gaudy numbers.

Last edited 3 months ago by cwebb2bibby
RikSmits
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April 12, 2024 10:51 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

In my best Napear voice: “All games matter!”

If we would have won all the games agains the Washingtons of the league, this game would have likely mattered much less. Funny how that works.

BeTheBall
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April 12, 2024 10:56 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

If you think that’s bad, just wait until Fox passes him in the salary standings.

AnybodyButBagley
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April 12, 2024 11:46 am
Reply to  BeTheBall

Sabonis vs. Fox

Only those that don’t understand basic basketball are lost here.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 11:00 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

Sabonis is the 44th highest paid player in the NBA this year. He’s 21st next season, not including contracts for next season that have yet to be signed (Siakam, Harden). But sure, the problem with this team is Domantas Sabonis. /Shakes head and moves on

AnybodyButBagley
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April 12, 2024 11:46 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Some think 18% is all that matters.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:20 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

He is on an island by himself. He doesn’t get help from any player that needs to. We have no weakside defender. We have no good rebounder other than Murray but Murray should be playing the 3 not the 4. That in itself is one of the major problems IMO. What we need is a really good 4 to help Sabonis out with defense and rebounding and it would also help if that 4 could shoot the 3 and stretch the defense.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:12 am
Reply to  rockbottom

Yeah great plan. Sabonis has done his job this year and more. What he needs is a player or two who will help him out not leave him on an island by himself.

cwebb2bibby
April 12, 2024 8:57 am

The Lyles small ball 5 lineups are terrible. But Len should be utilized way more, when it’s clear that Domas is a drag on the team. At least Len is capable of catching lobs and providing rim protection. If the DHO isn’t working, Len should play more.

Jman1949
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April 12, 2024 9:42 am
Reply to  cwebb2bibby

At least Len is capable of catching lobs…

Len can catch lobs when they’re thrown directly to him and he somehow has a lot of space. He cannot go get a slightly errant lob and struggles to catch them if he’s under any defensive pressure.

TheGrantNapear
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April 12, 2024 9:02 am

I’ve been critical of Domas but man this is next level criticism lol.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 8:19 am

When McNair dealt Hali for Sabonis, he did what he had to do to have a chance at getting his next contract. Blowing it up would have meant a couple more non-playoff years, and the next GM would be coming in (if he wasn’t here already) to pick up the pieces. And as we discussed at the time of the trade, it was a much narrower needle to thread than taking a tank route.

The Kings appeared to have struck gold in Keegan Murray, and year three will tell us whether we have a third musketeer or Harrison Barnes 2.0 (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, as Barnes is a solid pro, but not exactly the 3rd option on a top team).

Beyond that, how do you get from here to there? Can Sabonis possibly be better than he was this year? Perhaps incrementally? And Fox? Is there another level to his game? Is there more to this roster than wishes and prayers, even before you take Monk’s possible exodus into consideration?

I don’t see a team above the Kings that is going away next year. The Lakers and the Dubs will still be in the mix in some way. Houston may be coming. You can’t completely dismiss Utah. And San Antonio has the next great player and cap space. Memphis will be back. Is there a team other than Portland that can be completely dismissed to finishing lower than the Kings next year?

Conversely, are there teams that the Kings are unable of catching in the West? Things can change fast in the NBA. Nutshell, the Kings have proven themselves as having the ability to be simultaneously better/worse than almost any/every NBA team. Quixotic, and more than a bit frustrating.

A regular season that has been both entertaining and aggravating. An opportunity lost to forge an easier path in the playoffs. And the inability to dominate the home court borders on the ludicrous.

So we’re down to play-in slotting, and then onto the play-in itself. And maybe peeking at late lottery prospects on the off days.

This team will still finish with the 7th best record in Sacramento history. Unfortunately, I think that speaks more to the history of this team than it does this team itself. They stepped over a limbo bar this year. Yes, there are fans in Detroit and Washington that would (justifiably) laugh at us for whining about this team. But the NBA windows can open and close in an instant, and this team really wasted an opportunity this year, from ownership down.

To the play-in!

TheGrantNapear
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April 12, 2024 9:08 am
Reply to  RobHessing

I didn’t like the Hali-Sabonis trade at the time and still don’t. As you stated, perhaps it was MM simply trying to save his job. Sabonis is what he is at this point and Hali looks primed to be a top 8 player within a year or two.

This core has a defined ceiling which does not include ever sniffing the WCF, let alone winning a championship. Many reasons for this, but prime in my opinion is Sabonis’ limitations and the how much of the CAP his contract is eating. You’re just going nowhere fast with that much money tied up in a player who doesn’t translate to the post season, who is a negative on defense, gets destroyed by athletic players and can’t create his own shot. He is in year 8, he is what he is at this point which is a top 25 player with severe limitations and a bloated contract.

I don’t think MM or Coach Brown should be terminated this offseason. But we have to remember Vivek is still Vivek and old Vivek may reintroduce himself and make sweeping changes.

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 9:23 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

I didn’t like it at the time either but I will admit I had no idea how good Sabonis is. I still don’t like the trade but more because of losing Hali than adding Sabonis.

TheGrantNapear
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April 12, 2024 9:33 am
Reply to  OLDBHOY

Ideally the trade would have been Fox for Domas in a perfect world, but Fox’ value at that time was at an all time low. Since then Fox has proved his worth. Kind of weird to think we had both Fox and Hali and how that didn’t work. Every team is clamoring for two elite perimeter playmakers yet it wasn’t working for us.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 9:46 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

comment image

TheGrantNapear
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April 12, 2024 9:48 am
Reply to  RobHessing

That gif never gets old 🙂

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:44 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

And IMO it would have never worked out. 2 dominating players trying to be top dog. Just doesn’t work. Now you have to players working together to change the culture.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 9:31 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

I will say this as it pertains to Sabonis and Hali. Sabonis is currently 2nd in total NBA minutes this season. Hali is 68th. There is a 700 minute difference between the two of them. Prorated, this means that Hali has been on the floor 27 minutes per 80 games, Sabonis 36. Sabonis has played 25% more than Hali. So when I hear that Haliburton has been the better player year, I wonder who has been the more impactful. My guess is that the answer is Sabonis, and it’s not really all that close when you stop to consider that games are won by the players that are actually on the floor.

This is not a knock on Hali, but I think that the social media / YouTube highlights aspect of all of this has overtaken common sense.

Sabonis was a top 15 player last year, with one hand. He has been even better this year, and will garner consideration for a top 15 spot. So I respectfully disagree with the description of a “top 25 player with severe limitations and a bloated contract.” He is a top NBA talent, and being paid in line with that talent. I posit that the issue with this roster is that your 3rd best player is either a 6th man of the year candidate, or an inconsistent 2nd year man with upside. Either way, those guys pail in comparison to the 3rd best players on most elite teams.

RikSmits
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April 12, 2024 9:51 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Totally agree.
People are complaining about the games played-minimum for most awards now, but I think it makes perfect sense, actually.

BakerBaker19
April 12, 2024 10:24 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Yep, I agree that this is the biggest issue.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:49 am
Reply to  RobHessing

I agree.Sabonis has taken the load and has done pretty good with that load. Since being a King he has played almost every game sometimes being hurt. He needs help. Fox can’t do it because he is a point guard not a 4. Monty knows what has to happen to help lighten Sabonis’s load. I hope this summer is the time.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:41 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

IMO if he does we are doomed.

AnybodyButBagley
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April 12, 2024 11:47 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Hali was traded because he couldn’t move Fox.

Something had to happen.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:39 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Hali and Fox could not play together and be effective. Monty saw that and made the trade. Hali went to the Pacers and has had great years. Sabonis came to the Kings and changed a bottom team to a contender. IMO the trade was good for both teams but better for the Kings. The proff is in the pudding. No Sabonis is not going to be your guiding angel and will never be. He has his weaknessess but so does every player in the NBA. All are human not robots to be programed as you wish. Sabonis coming to the Kings was IMO the right move. He has with awesome support from Fox and maybe by next year Murray but still needs help from above comments. Monty knows this and I am firmly confident he is doing everything possible to help Sabonis and the team’ If we are Kings fans all then we can make comments both good or bad but the best thing overall is to support this team and the coaching staff and the FO the best we can. IMO they know what needs to happen far better than we do. GO KINGS FOREVER!

Tankathon
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April 12, 2024 1:50 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Sometimes I get a good chuckle knowing that both gms we’ve had have staked their necks for Fox: 1. Vlade passing on Luka 2. MM choosing Fox over Hali 3. Picking Davion instead of Sengun to compliment Fox because he was allergic to playing defense for the first 5 years of his career

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 2:01 pm
Reply to  Tankathon

Vlade was definitely all-in on Fox, at a time where he was far from proven (Divac passed on Doncic after Fox couldn’t land even 2nd team all-rookie). And I think that Fox’s market value was not much more than expirings and a middling pick or two at the time that Hali was dealt, so in that case it was more a case of Fox and Sabonis vs. Hali and meh picks.

There were a half dozen guys selected in between Mitchell and Sengun. I thought they’d pull the trigger on Moody. That said, this FO has had a proclivity for drafting older players that appear more NBA ready, and Mitchell was almost 23 to Sengun’s (and Moody’s) 19.

aplumley
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April 12, 2024 8:20 am

This team is so tough for the Kings because Jonas is one of the very few centers that is stronger than Domas. Domas can’t impose his will.
Beyond that, not having Huerter or Monk is really devastating. I get that Mitchell played well and Ellis has been playing well, but they are not the same players. Monk’s ability on the PnR is unmatched by anyone on the team and brings reliable offense off the bench. Even Mitchell playing well doesn’t force the other team to adjust. Huerter’s quick release and ability to occasionally penetrate keeps defenses honest. Without those two guys, Domas is getting beat up and Fox cant score from inside. Mitchell, Keegan, and Ellis can hit from outside but their release is so much slower and have less range (except Keegan), allowing teams to sag and still be able to recover. Sasha might be the answer as his release is lightening fast, but he’s had very limited opportunities. Barnes is another one, and we saw it last night, that could benefit from the strategy teams are employing to sag on Domas/Fox.
This team isn’t the same without their two best shooting guards, and unfortunately reality is setting in for me, and I’m usually the most optimistic of fans.

HongKongKingsFan
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April 12, 2024 8:26 am
Reply to  aplumley

The DHO by Huerter and Sabonis just a perfect execution….
Like Kayte always said, Huerter generated tons of open space for open shots, after Saboins set him the screen…

Meanwhile, no other can do the exact same thing….

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:52 am

The only problem this year is Huerter can’t make his shots. He did not have a good year. Aside from that is his defense. Not to good either.

HongKongKingsFan
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April 12, 2024 8:51 am

I also wonder why Christian Braun can posters Gobert….
Meanwhile, Keegan even cannot made his shot or create his shot or even tried to dunk the ball when he is on a fast break one-on-one against T. Murphy….

It’s just embarrassing.

TheGrantNapear
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April 12, 2024 9:11 am

Braun is uber athletic and KM is unathletic.
MM has specifically targeted unathletic players for some mysterious reason. Just look at the athleticism and length of the Pel’s players and how it affects the Kings on offense and defense.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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April 12, 2024 9:33 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

To be fair, the Kings haven’t done so well in drafting athletic players. See: TRob, McLemore, Bagley.

I’d take skilled players over athletic players everyday of the week, and Keegan is skilled.

RikSmits
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April 12, 2024 9:52 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Agreed, but I’d rather take someone who has both.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:55 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Keegan will have both just wait and see.

9sac8
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April 12, 2024 2:40 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Keegan IS athletic. What he isn’t is aggressive. He shys away from contact, when he should be initiating contact. I’m hoping he learns how to use his frame in a more physical manner.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:54 am

You are looking at one play. I have warched Murray improve over the year in every aspect of his game. Even dunks,

ajonez81
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April 12, 2024 9:05 am

Pretty weak effort by Kings and coaching staff, I was there it was bad. Domas getting pushed around, Fox losing his composure, a weak supporting cast, and got thoroughly outcoached for the 5th straight game. Yeah it’s a bad matchup but Brown has had no answers or adjustments. I’m not surprised the Kings have stayed the same, the ownership is far too cautious with changes and rebuilds, and also Sac is still in the bottom 5 of places players want to go. I also think refs don’t give the Kings as many calls as other teams and players.
Having said all that it’s been a pretty fun year for me, I’ll take being pretty good over pretty bad and yeah we might be average at this point without Monk, so not much improvement over mediocre. They lacked fire last night and that was disappointing but this team is still in better shape than before. We’ll see what happens, Monte Brown Fox and Sabonis still have a lot of work to do. Having success with this franchise is very difficult, being a small-market and having a small fan base makes it unappealing for the NBA to promote and help this team. I’m SacTown til I die though and I refuse to be a whiny depressed Kings fan, the NBA is awesome and the fact our city has a team will always be dope.

discocricket
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April 12, 2024 9:18 am

I need to become more comfortable with win totals in the mid/high 40s and erratic play, because we’re not going to exceed that without a true #1. I think a great coach could have gotten 2 more wins out of this team. Perfect, historically good health, maybe another 2 wins. Probably the path to a chance at getting a true #1 lies in trading De’Aaron before he becomes a bad contract on his next deal. If we don’t take a big swing this offseason, I think what we are seeing is about as good as it gets. A huge improvement over the 16 years of futility! But not in any way “building for a championship” no matter what the team says in public.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 9:45 am
Reply to  discocricket

I watch and I honestly don’t think that it’s about the true #1. It’s about a true #3. I mean, who are the true #1s in today’s NBA?
Luka, Giannis, KD, Jokic, Curry, Edwards, LeBron, Embiid, Tatum.

Now, let’s add in the guys that are probably above Fox or Sabonis, but not out of sight: SGA, Brunson, Leonard, Zion.

And of course, Wemby will eventually be the death of us all.

There are probably a few other guys that we can add, but you get the idea. True #1 is subjective. Curry wasn’t until he was. Edwards and SGA will have their membership pulled if they underperform in the 1st or 2nd round of these playoffs.

Remember when B-Jax was 6th man of the year? He was the 6th best player on that team, behind C-Webb, Divac, Peja, Bibby and Christie. Monk is the 3rd best player on this team. That’s a wonky roster. Yes, Manu was the Spurs’ 3rd best man when he won it in 07-08. He also started 28% of the games.

The issue for this team is not at the top of the roster. It is the bottom of the starting lineup. The Kings need five consistent performers in that lineup, and they currently have two. Maybe Murray will give them three. Maybe Ellis will give them four. But neither one of those guys have been that guy for even an entire month this season, and therein lies the issue with the 2023-24 Kings, in my opinion.

discocricket
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April 12, 2024 10:40 am
Reply to  RobHessing

You know, I think you’re right, I think we can get to a 55 win season with Fox as the top guy if we had better players down the lineup, and if things broke right for us. I maintain that we are not then a championship contender, because historically you do need one of these #1 guys. We would be a small notch below the glory years teams, but definitely in contention to make the West finals until Fox slows down.

I remain skeptical that Monte can actually fill out a roster that gets us there, because he hasn’t, and we seem to have an aversion to acquiring length, defensive acumen, and athleticism. Given that skepticism, it’s also hard to trust Monte nailing a higher risk move to give us a chance to be a championship contender. So I guess it comes back to the summer. What do we do?

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 10:49 am
Reply to  discocricket

Yep. I also have concerns about how the front office goes about its valuations. We have heard that we have almost made deals (Kuzma, Siakam), only to fall short. Jerami Grant would be a great fit to the starting lineup, but how do you pull that off? If a Naz Reid becomes available, what do you have in the asset cabinet to outgun the number of other teams that would also surely be interested in his services? How do you get your own Bobby Portis if you’re dead set on not overpaying?

The West is not going to stop getting better. Yes, Curry and LeBron will eventually hang it up. But Wemby and Ant and SGA have all arrived. How do you combat and offset that? Your skepticism is well-founded.

RikSmits
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April 12, 2024 10:57 am
Reply to  RobHessing

That is what makes this season bittersweet, for me. Yes, we haven’t really regressed and are still hanging in there, but other teams have overtaken us and still others seem poised to do sop soon, whereas our road to further inmprovement is shrouded in mist.

That, and I am disappointed in the coaching staff and lack of development of an identity (bot offensively and defensively) whgen we kept our core and preached continuity. I haven’t really seen the returns on that.

Last edited 3 months ago by RikSmits
RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 11:06 am
Reply to  RikSmits

The 3-jacking seems to be beyond reasonable to me, but maybe those are my old school, non-analytic eyes. But even the other night, when Fox and Ellis were hitting, 32 three attempts from them seems way beyond the pale. I think that it has been one of the reasons that we have squandered so many huge leads – there is just no pace management when you are up by 20+ points, and I just don’t get that. That would be the time that I would think that you would take the air out of the ball at least a little. Fast breaks are still fine, but not if you’re throwing it out of bounds, initiating offensive fouls or chucking it from 25′.

This is where another guy that can create his own shot (Siakam, Kuzma, Grant) would come in handy. It allows you the confidence to back it out and reset. And that is a portion of the game that seems to become even more prevalent and relevant in the post-season.

Maximus
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April 12, 2024 1:54 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

whereas our road to further improvement is shrouded in mist

I think it should be fine. The most important part is not to let the salary hit the 1st apron next year. Re-sign Monk and then use the full MLE would take us above the 1st apron. Thus we might have to clear our salary by dumping Duarte or Mitchell.

Not re-signing Monk is also ok. They can go the cap space route in 2025 offseason. They could possible clear enough cap space for a max FA.

That, and I am disappointed in the coaching staff and lack of development of an identity (bot offensively and defensively) whgen we kept our core and preached continuity. I haven’t really seen the returns on that.

15th in DRTG and 1st in defensive rebounding. That’s really good considering the personnel. I mean this is a small and lanky team. We maxed out the offense last year and we max out the defense this year. We know which players can adapt well to the system change.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 12:05 pm
Reply to  discocricket

I will wait until this summer. If that doesn’t happen I will truly be disappointed.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 12:03 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

First Ellis hasn’t been a started that long. I don’t know if he is a starter next year but he has sure surprised me so far. Murray in 2 years, yes 2 years has surprised me the most. The difference between his first year and this year has been amazing. He will IMO be the King’s third player maybe as soon as next year.

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 1:48 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

I agree with most of this.

I would only add that having a true #1 is almost a requirement for rings. Without one you can be very good and maybe contend but most champions over history have a true #1.

The Kings can maybe get to serious playoff team based on their current core with some realistic additions. Rings… I think are above Fox and Sabonis ceiling as the best players on a team.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 2:04 pm
Reply to  OLDBHOY

I don’t disagree, though there was definitely a time where Curry wasn’t thought of as a ring getter. Same for Jokic. And Kawhi Leonard. And Dirk. So that is to say, you’re not that guy, right up to the moment that you are.

All of that said, it’s not as though the Kings have a lot of alternatives if you make your list of who you see as true current #1s and then look at their availability.

OLDBHOY
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April 12, 2024 3:36 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

All true.

I just have my doubts if Fox or Sabonis will ever be one of those guys.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 3:41 pm
Reply to  OLDBHOY

Your doubts are not unfounded.

Tankathon
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April 12, 2024 2:27 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

i would argue that this #3 guy almost has to be better than domas and maybe on par or above Fox for this team to be a true contender. I just don’t see the way to get that guy.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 2:44 pm
Reply to  Tankathon

I don’t know – Jerami Grant, Mikal Bridges, Kyle Kuzma, Franz Wagner, Jalen Williams, Chet Holmgren, John Collins, Bobby Portis, Naz Reid. Those are a few guys that I think, plugged into Barnes’ spot, makes this squad a top 6-7 team in the league. And I don’t think that any of those guys would vault Sabonis or Fox in the player rankings in the here and now.

Now, if you’re using Boston as your bar, the Kings with one of these guys added might not be a “true contender.” But I’d put them up as at least competitive with anyone else.

Last edited 3 months ago by RobHessing
Jack
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April 12, 2024 3:14 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Of all those players mentioned above my 3 would be Bridges first Reid second and Jason Williams third.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 11:58 am
Reply to  discocricket

I don’t know about the coach but the players sure should have won at least 2 more games.

9sac8
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April 12, 2024 2:47 pm
Reply to  discocricket

A great coach would have guided this team to more than 2 more wins. We have 45 wins now with Brown and is oddly erractic decisions this year. We lost to crappy teams and blew a shit ton of games. A great coach has us at maybe 10 more wins.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 2:55 pm
Reply to  9sac8

It’s funny how the players win games but the coaches lose them.

Spoelstra coaxes a few more wins out of this team. Not 10, but a few. Beyond that, this roster is pretty much where it deserves to be.

I’m not saying that Brown has been great, but he hasn’t been any worse than the roster that was handed to him. It’s a decent compilation of talent with some obvious and glaring holes. And Brown is among that group of 20 or more current NBA coaches that don’t really move the needle much one way or the other. He’s not Spoelstra, and he’s not Luke Walton.

Other WC teams added to their rosters this year. The Kings didn’t. And that, as they say, is that.

9sac8
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April 12, 2024 3:08 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Counterpoint. Are you not taking horrible losses to horrible teams and countless lost leads into consideration? Brown is a good coach. Brown doesn’t know when to stop the bleeding or make the correct adjustments.

Yes, the players have accountability. But man you mean to tell me a better coach wouldn’t have composed the team to withstand runs? Better rotations? No let up off the gas. Understand match ups. A time out when the lead goes from 20 down to 15 instead of single digits? It’s up to the coach to settle the team and scheme when the team can’t.

RobHessing
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April 12, 2024 3:12 pm
Reply to  9sac8

Again, who loses those games, the coaches or the players? And if it’s the coaches, check the rest of the league and see how many teams (and it is the vast majority) have similar records against the worst teams. Once you do that, what is your remaining list of better coaches?

I’m not giving Brown a pass here. What I am saying is that his overall performance has been right in line with this roster and the performance of the overwhelming majority of other coaches in this league. However many games he has cost them is probably close to (if not on) the number of games that his coaching has won.

9sac8
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April 12, 2024 3:23 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

I got your point. I think I’m more stuck on the blown opportunities. The exhaustion of believing the team is about to run off 4 or 5 games straight, or more, then we lose to Detroit.

There should be accountability on both ends. I have watched all 80 games, and time after time I have walked away like what just happened? Like I said earlier, I its the blown opportunities and something should have been done. You see a train coming, you move. You see the other team gaining momentum, regain composure.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 3:26 pm
Reply to  9sac8

You see Zjon coming you move or die.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 3:23 pm
Reply to  9sac8

Again Brown had only the hand that was dealt him. I’d like you to tell me the 5 players out there from this team that can do what you are asking Brown to do. Give me just one. A team that matches up lets say the Pelicans starting five? Give me those five.

9sac8
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April 12, 2024 3:29 pm
Reply to  Jack

He had a decent hand Jack. I’m a huge Coach Brown fan. Anything Kngs, I’m all in. Like I was saying with Rob, it’s the missed opportunities. It’s more of a vent than blame.

I just know we could have done better. These boys can hoop and I believe in them. The inconsistency drives me crazy.

Jack
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April 12, 2024 3:15 pm
Reply to  9sac8

I would put the blame more on the players than the coach. It’s all he had to work with.

discocricket
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April 12, 2024 3:24 pm
Reply to  9sac8

Maybe 4 more? This is clearly not a 55 win roster. I would put us around 9th in the West, top to bottom.

kings4ever
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April 12, 2024 9:47 am

The worse the team plays, the more stoic our coach gets on the sidelines. Hand crossed. Befuddled. Pondering his post game rationalizations.  

Even the bad calls don’t draw much of an ire out of him. His mind is on his money, that is, avoiding the cost of a technical,  than his mind is on protesting an injustice.

Only a partial or full blown bonehead would insert Colby into the game after his tragic performance vs OKC (8 minutes, 0-2 FGs, 3 fouls). Has Duarte or Kessler been that awful?  Kessler is exactly who we needed against the wings of NOP (Murphy, Zion).

But inexplicable rotation decisions are no surpise when it took Huerters arm getting removed from its socket for him to promote Keon, a budding two way star with All-NBA defensive potential.

It would not be the worst thing in the world to lose in the play-in, fire this coach, and promote Jordi Hernandez.  I am not saying this should happen. Because it would exonerate the players to a degree.  And the players deserve blame.  

Let me start with Domas. I love Domas.  He’s a great player.  But here’s his problem.  As indestructible as he is, I think he’s mentally and physically exhausted. The Play-In sucks, especially if it requires two wins, because Domas needs one week of downtime as much as anyone to get back to his dominant self. He needs healing in mind and body away from the punishment to return with renewed life force.  

Domas misses Malik, of course, as a pick and roll partner, but there’s something more fundamental. I do not recall if it was the start of last season or season prior, but it was certainly last years playoffs. Domas intermittent struggles coincide with an refusal to shoot the ball outside of two feet.  When the opponent gives him a bunny, he says “nah” let me get something better. Only Giannis, maybe Embiid, add Joker, can consistently thrive with this approach. 

Embiid is actually a good case study. He is bigger and stronger than Domas. But his dominance, scoring more than a point per minute, never done in the NBA but once (Wilt) is predicated on his sweet touch, and a willingness to settle for the relatively high percentage look that defenses concede. Jab step, splash. Or back down your defender, bang into him to render him impotent, than shoot the soft turn around.

Domas refuses to resort to this for whatever reason, obstinate to a fault. His touch is not bad, but he does not trust it, the same shooting confidence that rendered Huerter unplayable. When the intensity ratchets up, when possessions means more, when refs swallow their whistle, when the convergence of defenders is coming, you need a counter, a push shot or half flip, finesse to go with the force.

Running through and over the defender is a MO that may have a 50% success rate against Top 15 defenses and playoff caliber teams, especially with the rules change,

Domas limited hops and left hand dominance, synonmous with predictability. compounds the challenge.

In anticipation of the playoffs, the team added a play with Domas in the low post a month ago. Opponents already knew what to do. Stay home on shooters. When Domas refuses to take the mid range and tries to overpower, send help.  Delay the help until he attacks the rim, a dribble in direction of the cup. Bait him into No Mans Land. Plan for Domas to get tunnel vision, obsessed with a shot at the rim, fail to see the backside help coming to poke the ball loose. 

Domas can read defenses, of course, slice and dice for the spray three or interior dime. He can “ox” his way to the hoop. It is the next page in the Playbook that is conspicuously missing in the most intense compettive moments, the counter to the counter, that would elevate him to the halo ground.  The flip shot as an unstoppable weapon.  The 10 foot gimme that teams give him. Domas doesn’t have it or want it or resorts as a last resort. It is killing us at the worst time.  

Doomers are having their moment. Doomers are basking in the darkness of consecutive defeat. Doomers are self righteous in the proclamations if only this GM was not such a moron, if he acted at the deadline. Doomers may have a valid opinion with a disclaimer: admit you were wrong.  

Almost every proposed trade at the deadline included Davion, who was playing at the nadir of his value. Trading Davion for next to nothing, as a flyer and salary filler, would have been a terrible mistake, as he has since rose from the ashes, from “better learn Chinese, buddy” to transform himself into a shockingly competent and capable player.

The Silver Lining if this season ends with a play-in exit is that we have two potential budding stars (Keon and Keegan) instead of one, and Davion is NOT a certifiable bust.

Neither assertion was true prior to the trade deadline.

I ADMIT I WAS WRONG. Who’s next? I am willing to admit I was wrong about Davion, because I am right so often. Being wrong on ocassion is part of the game of analytics, unless you are wrong so often, you get insecure in your perpetual wrongness and defend your pathetic takes to their virtual death and unintended comedic value. Critcizing Fox, for example, is baseless and pathetic, he of the Michael Jordan – like scoring prowess.

The uptick by Davion has gone on too long to be a blip. He’s getting to the rim too consistently without getting snuffed to be dismissed. The mid range is money, The moon ball is money.

It took three years, just like Jalen Suggs and Jalen Green, to figure it out. 

Davion, the stone cold champion from Baylor, has arrived. 

I cannot quite put my finger on it, from hopeless to hell yeah. Ultimately it is about picking your spots, when to get yours versus getting off the ball, and not being rushed or forced into bad spot. There was a time (November through February) Davion refused to look at the rim when he was inside the arc.  If this persisted, and there was NO reason to think it would not, his career was done, a conclusion based on the fact if you cannot be a legitimate scoring threat, you are unlikely to be a legitimate passing threat.

Furthermore, an inability to be a versatile defender or closeout on three point shooters meant he could not survive as a defensive specialist. He had to be a capable offensive player. I hope the Spurs recognize the latent potential in Davion, untapped behind Fox, we squeak our way into the playoffs, then trade Davion Huerter and a 2025 pick to the Spurs for Devin Vassell, but that’s talk for another day. 

The Kings are DONE in the Play-In or 0-4 in the Playoffs if Domas cannot score an effecient 20 PPG less TOVs and Keegan over 20 PPG in the absence of Malik. I believe we would be BETTER without Malik, and primed to make a playoff run, if Domas and Keegan could combine to replace Maliks scoring, since we are so much better without Maliks awful defense and 30 percent from 3s for half of the season.

We miss Maliks playmaking, energy and confidence, so Fox can play off the ball, Domas has pick and and roll partner, but I would contend there is more correlation that causation with respect to the loss of Malik and the late season fade. With Malik and the way he was playing, we probably still suffer these bad losses but in a different way.

Keegan was 9-27 against OKC and the second DAL game. If he converted more inside or wide open from deep, shots he makes next year, we would not be in this precarious spot, eyeing 6th instead of 8th.

We already knew HB was not to be trusted, bench players except for Len and Lyles were a potpourri of “meh”. The collapse is not final but the team is teetering, staring into the abyss, playing on tired legs tonight.

Unless Domas and Keegan exceed their recent performance, and add the coach in there too, grasping at straws, dumbfounded and dense and calling on Colby, the dye is cast. If Fox ever needed to go get us 50, tonight is the night.

BeTheBall
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April 12, 2024 11:06 am

It’s crazy to think that we’re back in an era of team imbalance in the NBA. Next season we could very well see a team right up against 50 wins not even make the play-in in the west.

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