Welcome back once more to our week in review. I took a bit of a hiatus last week so we’ll combine the last two weeks, which saw the Kings lose, lose, lose, and then lose some more. It’s been a frustrating ride for some, but not unexpected after the major overhaul the team made last summer. This is what this team signed up for by hitting the hard reset button.
The High Post
It’s hard to find a whole lot of positives in an eight game losing streak that has seen the Kings lose by double digits almost every night. While the Kings haven’t been good the last few years, it’s been a while since they’ve been this bad. There’s a very high chance that the Kings will end up with one of the worst records in the league, if not the worst. They might even struggle to win the 17 games that was a franchise worst in 2008-09.
Right, I’m supposed to be looking for positives here.
The positive is that the Kings are finally executing a plan. For so long it felt like they were treading water, able to stay competitive most nights but ultimately still losing in the long run. DeMarcus Cousins was a legitimate star, but the team failed time after time to build around him and the one time it looked like things were going to pan out, the team hilariously decided to self destruct out of sheer hubris by firing their coach and not re-signing their second best player.
The Kings knew they were going to be bad this year and they planned for it. They acquired as many picks as they could and they focused on the future for the first time since perhaps 2009. De’Aaron Fox already is perhaps the team’s best player and is just 19 years old. Bogdan Bogdanovic looks like the real deal as well. We still don’t know about a lot of the other guys, but at least the Kings are investing in their development and seeing what they have.
The Low Post
Where do I begin.
This team started off the season with some flashes of brilliance, and while they were still losing, they were at least competing and keeping games close. That has gone away recently and now it’s just losing in an ugly fashion. The game against the Wizards at home was one of the worst performances I’ve ever witnessed in person, and I’ve seen a lot of Kings basketball. It’s not fun to watch when your team struggles to score 30 in a half and the other team makes 70 look easy.
The Kings are one of the worst teams in the league in almost every single category. They’re 29th in offensive rating, 26th in defensive rating, and last in pace, free throw attempt rate, three point attempt rate, and defensive rebounding rate. It can’t all be blamed on how young this team is either. George Hill is playing like the most overpaid player in the NBA right now. Zach Randolph isn’t far behind. Vince Carter looks every bit of his 40 years.
Still, it’s too early to panic. This isn’t far off from where we should have expected the Kings to be. As the season progresses, we’ll likely see more and more from the young guys. This team is in development and evaluation mode, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. We’ve still got 90% of the season left after all.
The View From Section 214
10% of the season can be a funny thing.
In major league baseball, it’s 16 games, basically three times through the starting pitching rotation. Not enough to draw conclusions, and not enough to overwhelmingly convince you that a hot start can be sustained. But it can be enough to raise concerns, or at least bring back that facial tick that you thought you had under control.
In professional football, it’s approximately three minutes into the 3rd quarter of the 2nd game. For most teams, it is not nearly enough time to draw a conclusion. For the Browns and the Niners, it has already been six quarters too many.
And for the NBA, it means nine games. And that’s enough games for the Rockets to wonder whether they will actually be better when Chris Paul comes back (my guess – they will be worse, followed by much, much better). It’s enough games for Celtics fans to wonder if they needed to give Gordon Hayward all of that money after watching Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum flourish (my guess – it was the right choice, and here’s hoping for a full recovery for Hayward).
Which brings us (sort of) to the Kings. To clarify, the only thing that the Kings have in common with the Cavs and Thunder are those cool tear-away Nike jerseys. The Cavs and Thunder are destined for the playoffs, while the Kings will stink the stink of Chicago, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix and the Lakers (yeah, not sold yet).
So where did I have this Kings team, and where are they?
Record: I would have had the Kings at 2-7 right now, and they are 1-8. I had them winning one on the Dallas/Denver/Phoenix road trip (they beat Dallas), and I figured they would get steal a home win against New Orleans or Washington. In that respect, the record is not that much of a surprise or disappointment.
Ranking: My guess would have been 3rd worst at this point with that 2-7 record. Instead, the Kings are the 2nd worst team by record. They do have the worst point differential in the league. 27 point losses in Denver and at home against Washington. An 18 point loss at Indy, followed by a 17 point loss the next day in Boston. That’s 62 points over a three game, four day period. Ouch. But honestly, the Washington game was the only one that really concerned me even a little, as you hate to throw up all over yourself on your home court. Bad road losses for a young team that still does not know itself that well? As a long-time Kings fan, I sort of have that expectation, or expectoration, as the case may be.
The Front Office: I’m still far from convinced that the front office has gelled or done anything to overcome the harm that it has caused itself during the Ranadivé era. It all rides on these current prospects, and as I have said before, I will be surprised if even two off the current roster are core rotation players on the next Kings playoff team. That’s not disdain for the youngsters – it’s just the way that the NBA seems to be. The Dubs are the exception, not the rule when it comes to hitting the reset button. They got so much right, and had to rely on teams drafting ahead of them doing wrong. Could that happen here? Absolutely. Do the odds favor it? Absolutely not.
The Coaching Staff: I know that there has been a lot of hand-wringing over playing time and offensive sets, and when you’re 1-8 and losing games by amounts that resemble zip codes, it is certainly justified grist for the mill. But I’m just not seeing the coaching staff as the problem here. They are certainly not the solution at this point, but I’m not sure that there are more than a couple of coaches on this planet that could have squeezed another win out of this bunch.
De’Aaron Fox leads the team in minutes. No complaints there, right? Willie Cauley-Stein is next. Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Bogdan Bogdanovic are all in the core rotation, while Vince Carter is not. Cauley-Stein and Labissiere have logged more minutes than Zach Randolph or Kosta Koufos.
Aside from sliding Skal’s minutes up a couple at the expense of Randolph, I really don’t have a lot of complaints about who the minutes have been doled out to this point. For guys like Fox, Jackson and even Bogdanovic, controlling their minutes a bit early in the season should help them get through the grind of their first NBA season. Labissiere is on his way to perhaps tripling his rookie minutes, while Cauley-Stein is on pace to increase his minutes by 50%. Meanwhile, Koufos is in line with his minutes of the past half dozen years, and Randolph is heading towards a (healthy seasons) career low. If the argument is that Randolph should not be here at all, I’m listening, and I’m listening with my front office earbuds. But he’s here, and no one on the Kings front line has done anything to this point to render Randolph obsolete.
The Players: There is some disappointment here, but most of it is rendered moot when I step back and consider the youth of this team and the short time that the roster has been together. Cauley-Stein has had flashes, but it will take a solid month of play for me to get excited, and back-to-back solid months for me to begin to believe. Same for Skal, though at three years younger than WCS, he has a lot more time to grow and prove himself. I’ve seen enough in this very short term to believe that Bogdanovic is better off as a starter, and Hield is much better off as a reserve. Hield almost looks like a guy that is trying to fit in with the other starters, while as a reserve he is more focused on scoring the basketball, which seems to be his forte. Koufos has been Koufos, which is to say he is one of the few players on the roster playing to his full potential at the moment. Rock-bottom usage, best rebound and block rate of the core rotation players. Goodness, if Cauley-Stein rebounded and blocked shots at Koufos’ rate, we’d be going bat-sh*t crazy around here.
The veterans have universally been a disappointment over these first nine games, Koufos notwithstanding. Maybe Garrett Temple is trying to do too much. Maybe George Hill is not trying to do enough. Maybe one or both of them are a little banged up. Whatever the reason(s), Temple has been meh at best, Randolph needs to ascend to meh, Hill needs to ascend to Randolph, and Vince Carter…well, he’s older than Fox and Georgios Papagiannis combined, so I’m going to respect the elder here.
The Fans: Right where they should be. There are patience preachers and bad play screechers. Coach supporters and coach aborters. Trust the process and bust the process. And everything in between. For me, it’s heaven, as though someone threw open the windows at the trade deadline last year and let the stale air out. I’m not sure if that is fresh air that is pouring back in or the Springfield tire fire, but it’s different, and after Groundhog Daying it for the past several years, different is good.
Almost 90% of the season remains. Here’s hoping that the blowout losses become less and less, and the quality of play of all of the players, both young and old, improves. Should be a helluva ride.
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
The past and the present meet.
Highlight of the Week
Player of the Week
10.4 PTS, .595 FG%, .364 3P%, 2.0 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.0 STL in 24.6 MPG
Even though the team hasn’t been too good, Bogdan has taken to the NBA quite well. While he hasn’t been a prolific scorer, he’s been very efficient and the team should probably be running more plays for him as he’s perhaps the team’s best natural scorer, even as a rookie. Of course, Bogdan has more experience than most rookies given his professional career in Europe but even still, the learning curve doesn’t seem to have been too much for him. It didn’t take him long to win a starting role for this team, and his chemistry with De’Aaron Fox is already palpable. Not a bad start for his NBA career and the best is yet to come.
Tuesday, Nov. 7th vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Thursday, Nov. 9th vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Saturday, Nov. 11th at New York Knicks