Sunday Musings: Fixing Kings won't be easy

Kings must be aggressive with another season slipping away

James Ham
January 09, 2022

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Just fix it. 

Three words that fail to capture all of the nuances of what has gone wrong once again with the Sacramento Kings. There is no quick fix. Not at this point.

Forget the standings. Forget that the Kings are clinging to the hope that they can still get a participation trophy for making it to the play in games. The Kings need solutions that last beyond the next 41 games, because the fanbase is evaporating at an alarming rate.

It’s not just about tinkering with the roster. That has been the modus operandi of the current regime and it’s not working. Something more has to be done before the already minimal crowds dwindle even more and the playoff drought reaches 16 seasons. 

One of the advantages to being a writer and not a general manager is that I can demand action without having tangible solutions. I know the core I would build around and what I would be willing to give up to make drastic changes, but I’m not on the phone with general managers around the league hearing their reactions to what Monte McNair and his team are pitching.

What I do know is that the current core isn’t good enough. The talent on the roster isn’t good enough. The personality of the team is not strong enough. 

The Kings need to either go all in on a game changing deal or take a huge step back, trade away multiple veterans and collect assets for yet another rebuild.

If they go all in and make at least some of their young players available, in addition to their stack of draft picks, players like Domantas Sabonis, Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner and Christian Wood, who have all been rumored to be available, might be obtainable.

It’s very possible that none of these players are options or that the Kings just don’t have the assets to make a competitive offer, but each possesses at least one or two and sometimes even three of the qualities McNair should be searching for if he hopes to improve the roster.

McNair needs a splash to change the fortunes of his team and to invigorate the fanbase. Here is a look at the team’s biggest needs and how some of these players might impact the team’s immediate future.

Shooting

Every team in the league needs shooters, but the Kings’ issues are compounded by the presence of De’Aaron Fox and the style of play the team wants to focus on. 

Despite his five-year, $163 million extension, Fox might not be part of the long term solution in Sacramento, but if he is the team’s No. 1 or No. 2 option moving forward, the Kings need better shooters at both the small forward and power forward, and perhaps even the center position.

As of now, the Kings rank 17th in the NBA in 3-point percentage and 21st in 3-point attempts. With the pace and speed the Kings should play at, they need more shooters at diverse positions. 

Harrison Barnes is currently shooting 41.9 percent from deep on nearly five attempts per game. The rest of the forwards and centers on the team are a combined 64-for-236 (27.1 percent) from long range.

Compounding all of this is that the one player the Kings have put on the block (or left on the block as it may be), Buddy Hield, is shooting 37.8 percent from three, on 9.5 attempts per game. The Kings have additional guards that could take on more of the 3-point shooting load, like Tyrese Haliburton, Davion Mitchell and Terence Davis, but replacing Hield won’t be easy if he finds a new home.

If obtainable, Wood, Turner and Sabonis all provide the type of shooting the Kings need from the four/five position. There are others that fit the bill as well. Barnes’ versatility allows the Kings to chase a player at either forward position.

Playmakers

After Fox and Haliburton, the Kings have very little playmaking ability, whether it’s shot creation or making plays for others. Mitchell and Davis fit into this category, but Mitchell is still trying to get his feet wet in the NBA and Davis is out of the rotation with the team’s current glut at guard.

Regular rotational players like Hield, Barnes, Richaun Holmes, Marvin Bagley, Chimezie Metu, Damian Jones, Moe Harkless and Alex Len struggle to create for either themselves or for others. After posting career-highs in assists per game last season, both Hield and Barnes have regressed in this area.

The Kings currently rank 23rd in the league in assists per game at 22.7 per game and 26th in assist percentage. 

When Fox and Haliburton are off the court, the Kings’ offense grinds to a halt. Alvin Gentry could use a big that he can run the offense through for stretches like Sabonis or Siakam. Simmons is the best passer out of all of the potentially available names and his ability to play four positions is a plus. 

Defenders

Sacramento posted a historically bad defense last season and this year isn’t much better. They added players like Harkless, Mitchell, Len and Tristan Thompson, but none of these players fill the other voids that the team has and Mitchell is the only one who plays consistent rotational minutes.

The core of the team -- Fox, Haliburton, Barnes and Holmes, all have defensive ability, but they aren’t consistent enough. This group needs supporting players to not only cover their deficiencies, but do more to help in other areas. 

The Kings don’t have a 3-and-D wing. They also don’t have a true rim protector that can play major minutes or a mauler that acts as a defensive catalyst. 

Simmons is an all-league defender. Turner leads the NBA in blocks. Sabonis is a strong, physical position defender. Siakam is versatile and Wood has potential. Every single one of these players would improve the Kings’ defense overall, although Simmons is a game changer. 

There are plenty of other players outside of the small grouping of potentially available players who could help the Kings on the defensive end. The key to this group is that they all have the potential to help in one or more additional ways. 

Conclusion

Sacramento needs all kinds of help. They have to search out more talent, and finding a few players who don't mind getting physical is a must. They also aren’t just one piece away from putting it all together, but you have to start somewhere and then keep adding when you can.

Whether the Kings can put together a package to acquire any of these players is a huge question mark, but McNair can’t just stand pat. His roster isn’t good enough for this season or the next. 

Trading draft picks or one or more of the younger players on the roster comes with a risk, but this franchise is circling the drain. It’s time to be aggressive and not just in a “mentioned in every rumor” kind of way. 

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