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Early Sacramento Kings Preseason Impressions

The Kings have now played two preseason games and Akis, Tony and Tim got together to give their early thoughts on the Beam Team so far.

Oct 11, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Chris Duarte (3) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The Beam Team has two preseason games under their belt now so we got a few of our writers together to give their early thoughts since wins and losses don’t matter just yet.

What have you been most interested in seeing from the Kings this preseason?

Akis:  My big interest has mostly been in the new guys, namely Chris Duarte, Sasha Vezenkov and Colby Jones. I’m not too worried about any of the returning players but am interested to see how Keegan Murray and Davion Mitchell have improved coming in.

Duarte looked pretty bad in the first preseason game against the Raptors, and didn’t get off to a great start in the game against the Lakers either, but he warmed up as the game went along. He definitely did better playing with the starters than he did as part of the bench unit so maybe he just plays better in a supporting rather than primary role?

Sasha has been just as advertised, an excellent shooter and cutter but someone who is going to be a work in progress on defense. The Kings are going to have an interesting conundrum with where to slot him in the rotation, because he and Trey Lyles seem to fit a similar role and Lyles is much better on defense. Against the Lakers, Vezenkov took the Keegan Murray role but looked a bit hesitant and was not able to guard L.A.’s quicker perimeter defenders.  

Colby Jones hasn’t played much yet but I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him in his limited minutes. He plays hard on both ends of the floor, but does need to be a more consistent shooter (but then again, everyone has struggled from outside through the first two games).

Keegan missed the second game, but in the first one it was nice to see him have several confident drives to the basket. His evolution will come from being more than just a catch and shoot player and he’s clearly been working on that side of his game. Davion however, needs to be a more efficient shooter and he hasn’t shown that yet.

Tony: The Kings remained shockingly healthy last season and had incredible starting lineup / rotation consistency because of it. With most of the roster returning in 2023-24, I’m far more interested in seeing what guys like Sasha Vezenkov, Chris Duarte, JaVale McGee, Kessler Edwards, Jordan Ford, and Colby Jones can bring to the table. Through two games, none of the new players have really made an outsized impact, but it’s very early. 

Outside of individual new player performances, I would love to see an uptick in defensive awareness and intensity. Through two games, I’ve seen almost none of that. The preseason isn’t known for its defensive intensity, so I don’t how concerned we should be just yet. All I can say is that what we’ve seen so far has been disappointing. 

Tim: The new fellas are certainly the draw for me in preseason. We know what De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis can do, and we’re pretty sure what Keegan Murray will eventually be able to do, but Sasha Vezenkov and Chris Duarte are much more mysterious figures. Thus far, they’ve both shown some strengths in their game, but they’ve also both shown some pretty glaring weaknesses. Suffice it to say that I don’t believe any Kings starter feels their minutes being threatened by either of those guys at the moment.

What’s something that’s stood out over the first two games?

Akis:  It really seems that JaVale McGee is going to be Sacramento’s primary backup big man, and he’s developing a decent two man game already with Malik Monk.  McGee also is definitely acting as more than just a roll man, initiating some high and mid post offense at times, which he noted at media day was one of the reasons he chose to come to Sacramento.  Sabonis’ backup was one of the more inconsistent part of Sacramento’s rotation last season and right now it seems like McGee is the favorite to land the role.

Tony: Not much. The mini-drama around Sasha Vezenkov’s role is the closest thing to a compelling training camp storyline, but his on court performance through two games hasn’t given Mike Brown a significant reason to play him over anybody else. It was nice to see Chris Duarte bounce back after a rough outing vs. Toronto to 10 points on perfect 4-4 shooting vs. the Lakers on Wednesday. I thought his defensive effort was pretty good, too. 

I suppose I’ll name drop two more players who have barely played, but I’m intrigued enough that I’d like to see more: Kessler Edwards and Colby Jones. Edwards wasn’t aggressive enough last season, but he came out firing against the Lakers and hit a couple of difficult shots with confidence. Jones hasn’t been efficient offensively, but I thought his energy has stood out on a team that has looked pretty lethargic defensively. 

Tim: The Kings still don’t have a reliable backup wing on the roster. Kessler Edwards doesn’t seem ready, Chris Duarte is slightly on the small side and hasn’t shown enough, and Sasha Vezenkov and Trey Lyles, bless their hearts, are much, much too slow to see any real minutes at the backup three spot. The bench small forward position has been a source of frustration among Kings fans for many years, and it seems as though that frustration will continue in the short term.

What has been the biggest disappointment through two games?

Akis:  Aside from the fact that the Kings haven’t been able to hit the broadside of a barn yet (the Kings are an abominable 25/95 from three in two preseason games, or just 26.3%), I’m most disappointed that the defense still doesn’t look all that great, especially among the starting group.  Against the Lakers especially, Sacramento’s starters were getting outworked by the Lakers B-Team, allowing easy access to the paint with minimal resistance.

Tony: Besides more of the same old defensive complaints, Kevin Huerter. Red Velvet shot 20% from three in the playoffs last season, and he’s opened preseason 1-6 from three through two games. He has 5 total points in 33 minutes. Like Akis mentioned, shooting has been a problem for most of the roster, but Huerter’s struggles have stood out more to this amateur scout. 

Tim: I’ll roll with Akis here and agree about the defense. Preseason isn’t necessarily the time to bust out all of the amazing new defensive schemes developed in the preseason, but akin to the backup wing problem, the Kings also didn’t add any defensive presences over the summer. There’s both a lack of commitment and a lack of skill on that end of the floor that will likely haunt this roster in the coming months. Does this mean the Kings should go all out for Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby? Of course!

What would you like to see in the final three preseason games?

Akis:  I’d like to see the Kings attack the paint a bit more.  95 three point attempts over two games is an insane amount, especially when they haven’t even been hitting a third of them.  Part of that is due to Fox and Sabonis only playing limited minutes as those are our biggest paint threats, but the team as a whole has been a bit trigger happy. I’d like to see more forays into the paint to create better looks instead of just settling for a three.  There were several possessions against the Lakers where the ball never even crossed the three point line before a shot was up.

I’d also like to see a lot more Keegan Murray. He missed the game against the Lakers, but hopefully should be able to play in the final few games.  Keegan’s growth could determine the ceiling of this Kings team.

Tony: Despite my negative slant through two games, I just don’t put a lot of stock into preseason results (unless they are positive and support my positions, then they mean the world to me). With that being said, I’m just watching to see where Mike Brown lands on some of these end-of-rotation position battles. It appears like Sasha is the 11th man and Duarte is the primary backup wing right now. How much of that will change before opening night? I don’t know, and that’s why I’ll be watching. 

Tim: A trade for a backup wing.

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BobbyFresh
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October 12, 2023 12:39 pm

A trade for a backup wing.

Or even better, a trade for a starting wing that HB can back up.

eddie41
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October 12, 2023 1:05 pm

Brown said Lyles can play the 3 or the 5, making me think he’ll play Lyles and Sasha together. If they’re hitting shots, it’s fine.

I like what Sasha brings offensively, but has anyone noticed he’s not finishing at the rim? didn’t read that on the scouting report, so maybe it’s nothing.

regarding who is the 9th man, 10th man, 11th man, etc., that could change all year depending on matchups and who’s playing well. One could make a case for Vezenkov, McGee, Duarte, Colby Jones, Kessler, Len. that’s 15 guys. not bad for depth.

ArcoThunder
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October 13, 2023 6:15 am
Reply to  eddie41

I remember reading or seeing something somewhere that Sasha was insanely efficient finishing in the paint last season. So let’s hope it’s just a 2 game getting used to things situation.

Last edited 8 months ago by ArcoThunder
Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
October 12, 2023 1:45 pm

I’m honestly just not expecting much of a change from last season. The core rotation is set with Fox, Huerter, Keegan, Barnes, Sabonis, Mitchell, Monk, and Lyles. Those 8 will get the lion’s share of the minutes. Last season the 9th and 10th men respectfully were TD and Metu, and neither were needle movers in wins and losses.

TD and Metu have been replaced by Duarte/Jones, Sasha, and McGee. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying none of those guys are going to average more than 10 minutes per game, as the roster currently stands. That means none of them area really going to have a major impact on the win/loss column unless injuries to the core rotation occur. TD is now Duarte, Metu is now Sasha, and Len is now McGee, so I’m not sure those differences will be that impactful. The only caveat to this is if Sasha can come in and shoot like Kyle Korver to make his inadequacies on defense negligible.

For me, the major differences, and hopefully improvement, from last year to this one will be the growth of Keegan and Mitchell, and adjustments made by his Brown and his staff.

Sacto_J
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October 13, 2023 8:26 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

I wouldn’t discount Kessler Edwards. He had a solid run to end the season and had some meaningful impact when on the floor during the playoffs. I would consider him the 9th man at the moment until Duarte beats him out. I think his defense gets him more minutes than this team really has to spare considering the top 7 but he could definitely earn his way into more minutes, especially if Huerter isn’t up to it. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Coach Brown tinker with some lineups that keep our core a little fresher through the regular season this year.

andy_sims
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October 12, 2023 2:15 pm

I haven’t seen either game, so I’m mainly working with recaps and box scores.

The shooting doesn’t concern me, particularly as it pertains to Huerter and Vezenkov. Kevin has always talked about the last shot being meaningless, and the only thing that matters is the next one. He’s not broken over poor play in a series six months ago, especially since he’s had great playoff success from his days in Atlanta. Huerter will do what he always does, which is make defenses pay. He didn’t spend the summer moping, it just isn’t in him.

Vezenkov is a lights-out shooter, and those guys don’t just forget how to shoot. He’s going to spread the floor to the benefit of those working in the paint, and for his other shooters. All of these guys are great passers, and very generous in that regard. When that ball moves, Sacramento is going to get clean looks during possessions more often than not.

Sacto_J
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October 13, 2023 8:31 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

I honestly see Sasha going the route of KZ; an experiment that won’t have time to be fleshed out, who will be so defensively insufficient as to be near unplayable for at least the first half of the year. And when he starts picking up on how to guard in the NBA he might be slowly integrated back into the rotation, if he can find some consistency. I’d be shocked if he becomes some 6th man level guy. I really would. Thanks to almost 20 years of trauma I’ve developed chronic…
Lowered Expectations…

SBKangz
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October 12, 2023 2:49 pm

Kings fans have been disappointed in the SF position for many years. But really it was the starting small forwards that frustrated! I’m much happier now just thinking we have no backup SF 😅

eddie41
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October 12, 2023 3:17 pm
Reply to  SBKangz

If Lyles enters the game for Keegan or HB, the forward remaining on the court slides to the SF spot. That’s a backup SF, right?

ArcoThunder
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October 13, 2023 6:19 am
Reply to  eddie41

I think it could and probably should work out that way most of the time.

Sacto_J
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October 13, 2023 8:31 pm
Reply to  SBKangz

John Salmons?

Kosta
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October 14, 2023 10:12 am
Reply to  Sacto_J

Can he play SF?

NorCalKingsFan
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October 12, 2023 2:51 pm

My obviously too-early observations

BIGS – I believe the combo of McGee and Lin is worse than last year’s combo of Metu & Queta (I know Lin was here the past few years, but he didn’t play at all until the last few games of the year & playoffs). We’ve exchanged a lot of speed and athleticism from our previous younger bigs for experience, not an exchange that I think will be benefit the defense as our main problem isn’t really rim protection but perimeter defense & dribble penetration, and that got worse with McGee as the backup big. Also, McGee’s hands are no better than Queta’s/Metu’s and he lacks the lateral movement they had. Since McGee’s role is quite important, I think this will end up being a small blunder on MM’s part, but at least McGee won’t be expensive to move on from at the end of the year. I think this means that our defense will continue to be a major issue and we’ll likely need win with Lyles and Vezenkov playing as the backup bigs.

WINGS – Was never fan of the Duarte trade mostly because I don’t believe Duarte is better than TD in any area, even consistency (not that the trade was a failure or anything, it was a decent swing and an acceptable use of 2nd rounders, I just don’t have any faith that Duarte is a good basketball player). In my mind, Jones and Ellis should be getting minutes over Duarte and I expect that throughout the season they will. Maybe Duarte will regain his rookie form, but I even if he does I don’t think he’s all that useful.

IMO, Edwards is the best backup SF and should get more run as he’s one of the few players on the team (besides Mitchell and Ellis) who bring defensive tenacity every time they hit the court. He and Jones both have decent all-around games and with the offensive firepower the rest of the roster has, they are much better fits than Duarte as they play hard on defense, both rebound well for their size, and are capable of providing some offense when needed. Edwards and Jones have holes in their game, but only playing them will determine whether or not they warrant more mins. Duarte has not done anything to jump ahead of them, IMHO.

HUERTER – Lastly, I hope Huerter regains his shooting form early on in the year to build up his trade value for a potential mid-season trade because without his shots going down, his lack of defense and concentration lapses are a major concern and while I think he’s a great fit on offense next to Domas, I don’t think he’s the best piece next to Fox or what this team needs from the position. He’s still a threat on the perimeter even when he’s not hitting shots but he truly needs to do more to earn his minutes. Ellis is a 40% 3pt shooter with good defensive chops and better playmaking than Huerter. When Huerter (or Monk & Mitchell’s shots) just aren’t falling, I’m hoping Ellis gets a bit more PT to see if he’s improved his game. It is my hope that Jones and Ellis are ready to take on some of his minutes.

PRE-SEASON PREDICTION – I think this team will be better than last years (but likely to have a worse record simply due to a better Western Conf lineup where everyone beats up on each other), but that belief is based on Fox making another small jump, Domas’s having two thumbs again, and Murray growing into the 3rd best player. I expect Monk, Lyles, and Mitchell to continue playing hard and as effectively as they did last year, it’s Huerter and the new players who I doubt the most (although I think Vezenkov will eventually find his rhythm on offense I just worry about his D).

ArcoThunder
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October 13, 2023 6:40 am

not gonna lie, I’m a little worried about things. The ENTIRE TEAM shooting slump right now is killing me and is flaring up my PTSD from the playoffs last year.

I’m worried about McGee. I’m worried about Mike Browns loyalty to him and his veteran status and the fact that McGee signed with the Kings because of Mike Brown. I worry that this might result in more minutes than he’s worthy of instead of Lyles being the backup 5. All of that smashed into the hope that he could actually be a needle mover.

I’m worried about Headband Huerter being in a lifelong shooting slump more than anyone else.

Im worried about the Ox being more aggressive with his midrange shot but not worried that he will still be anything less than what he was last season which was exceptional.

Im not worried about Fox, Spock, Barnes and Mitchell.

I’m most excited about Mitchell. To me, he has looked like a different player with a much improved game in the pre season. Not necessarily in his stats but just the way he’s moving, his mechanics and most importantly his confidence. I get the feeling that he may have a HUGELY MASSIVE, GIGANTIC jump in his game.

I’m confused as hell about Sasha. No need to rush him into things. Technically speaking he is a rookie. I have a reasonable amount of patience with him but so far disappointed that he isn’t a bigger Luca. Yeah I know that’s irrational but I get excited about new things.

I hope Duarte works out but it’s not a big deal if he doesn’t. I like Ellis and think he deserves more playing time.

I’m pleasantly surprised and impressed with Colby Jones so far. No need for him to be in the rotation early in but if he earns it then that’s obviously excellent. I definitely see how he can be a very good player for the cost over the next several seasons. I think Monte McNair might have nailed that pick.

I think Spock is going to be incredible this year.

Last edited 8 months ago by ArcoThunder
9sac8
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October 14, 2023 6:49 am
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Pardon me for being late to the party, but who is Spock?

Jman1949
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October 14, 2023 9:38 am
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This guy…

comment image&ct=g

Kosta
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October 14, 2023 10:13 am
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Shoot long balls and prosper.

NorCalKingsFan
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October 14, 2023 3:12 pm
Reply to  Kosta

emotions are illogical

9sac8
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October 15, 2023 9:04 am
Reply to  NorCalKingsFan

I had to 1 up all you guys. I love it 😂

GK4L

Sacto_J
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October 13, 2023 8:21 pm

What have you been most interested in seeing from the Kings this preseason?J: the games
What’s something that’s stood out over the first two games?J: They haven’t televised the games locally.
What has been the biggest disappointment through two games?J: They haven’t televised the games locally.
What would you like to see in the final three preseason games?J: the games

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