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Kings 87, Clippers 104: Growing Pains

The Kings are still figuring out their identity.

NBA: Preseason-Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night’s game against the Clippers saw the Kings likely give us the best preview of what we should expect in the regular season. Sacramento played a mix of vets and youth, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Clippers’ experience and firepower.

Perhaps the biggest problem right now with the Kings is that there doesn’t seem to be any reliable go-to weapons. With DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings had a guy who they could give the ball to and reliably expect something to happen. That was even the case with Rudy Gay to a lesser extent.

Now, the Kings have no go-to guy, and it shows. Zach Randolph might be the closest thing to it right now, and he’s definitely the guy most willing to take a shot if he has it. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic have the makings of potential go-to guys, but are both focused on being unselfish and playing within the system. Skal Labissiere has the potential, but not necessarily the mindset. Frank Mason definitely has the mindset, but will get the time? It’s an interesting conundrum, and will be interesting to see how the Kings deal with it as the season goes on.

On to some individual observations and notes:

  • Not a good night for the Kings on the injury front. George Hill tweaked his groin after slipping on a wet spot on the floor and had to leave the game in the first quarter. With De’Aaron Fox also out, that left Frank Mason and Garrett Temple to run the point. Temple was solid if unspectacular but playing him at the point should only be an emergency provision.
  • Frank Mason is too good to not be in the Kings rotation, but the Kings have such a glut of guards that need play I’m not sure where Coach Joerger will find minutes for him unless it comes at the expense of Fox or if George Hill starts playing some shooting guard. He’s led the Kings in scoring this preseason, and he’s been efficient to boot. He put in 13 points on 5-7 shooting last night to go with 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
  • Z-Bo is definitely taking to the stretch four role. He dropped in another two threes last night. If he can keep hitting them at a consistent rate, that will open Sacramento’s offense up.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic had his best showing yet last night, scoring 13 points on 5-9 shooting including 3-4 from downtown, but unfortunately suffered a sprained ankle when he stepped on Kosta Koufos’ foot. The injury initially looked really bad with him being unable to put any weight on his foot but eventually he did. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him miss some time to start the season.
  • Skal got to the line a ton which was good but I’d also like to see him be a bit more decisive when he gets the ball. He still doesn’t have the super aggressive mindset that I’d like to see.
  • Willie had a better night on paper (11 points, 7 rebounds) than it seemed on the court. He also deflected a few lobs to DeAndre that would have been sure buckets had he caught them.
  • The Kings threw a ton of terrible cross-court passes that the Clippers easily picked off. The Kings are definitely trying to share the ball more but they need to be smarter about it.
  • Justin Jackson got the start, but had another off shooting night. So far it seems he’s either off or on and we haven’t gotten any consistency from him. That’s ok as a rookie, and hopefully he’ll grow out of it once he adapts to the NBA game and gets more experience.
  • Milos Teodosic might end up leading the NBA in assists per game this year even as a rookie. He chose the perfect team to go to. He lost a few assists solely because his teammates weren’t completely ready.

The Kings return to action tonight (another preseason back-to-back?) against the Warriors to end preseason action.