On the heels of back-to-back blowouts, Kings fans are searching for answers. How could a team that played so well just days earlier look like a complete disaster now? Unfortunately there are no easy answers, but instead a variety of factors at play.
There are obvious factors, such as Buddy Hieldâs early struggles. 10 games into the season Buddy is shooting 33.7% from 3 and 34.8% overall. Those are both the worst shooting numbers of Buddyâs career by a significant margin.
DeâAaron Fox has also started slow. Even removing the 3-point outing against the Bulls (in which he played just 5 minutes), Fox is averaging less than 20 points per game. Fox has been a key element in some big runs for the Kings in this early season, so this isnât to suggest Fox has been bad, but he has yet to make a major leap forward like many had hoped.
Marvin Bagley has been handed the starting role for the first 10 games, and has shown flashes of promise, but has just as often showed how unready his is to contribute in a meaningful way. His defensive awareness is that of a rookie, not of a player with a year of on-court experience and another year of attending NBA film sessions.
This isnât to suggest the season has been all doom and gloom. Fox, despite the lack of a major leap, has still been the teamâs best player. Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes have played very well, and Tyrese Haliburton has been a delight. Weâve also seen nice contributions of the bench from guys like Glenn Robinson III and Chimezie Metu (Metu has scored 13 points in 11 minutes of playing time, please play him more).
But the whole has remained less than the sum of the parts. The team defense in particular has been harshly exposed in the last few games.
Now that weâve hit the 10-game mark, I wonât be surprised to see Luke Walton make some lineup changes, but that still wonât fix Waltonâs inability or unwillingness to adjust his game plan during games. Walton decides which nine players will get rotation minutes, and then sticks with that regardless of which players get into foul trouble, which players are playing poorly, or how opponents have schemed against the Kings. He only deviates when he clears the bench at the end of blowouts.
Some fans will surely point to firing Walton as the easiest way to address many of these issues. I donât think that will happen yet. I think Walton will truly need to have completely lost the team to be fired midseason, but I also donât know that firing Walton would be the cure-all for the Kings issues. Walton isnât why Buddy Hield and Nemanja Bjelica forgot how to shoot threes this season. Luke Walton certainly has major flaws as a coach, but the players bear some responsibility as well.
I donât know where the Kings go from here. I donât see a magic bullet to fix the Kings this season. And perhaps this is just how itâs going to be. The Kings will muddle through this season showing some moments of promise and then moments of ineptitude. We all know that McNair inherited a flawed roster and he couldnât be expected to fix it all in a one-month offseason.
Just 62 games left, Kings fans. It could be a bumpy ride.