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Royal Roundtable: 10 Thoughts After 10 Games

The crew shares some feelings after the tumultuous start to the season. 

Kimani Okearah

The 2019-2020 season has certainly jumped off to an interesting start for Kings fans. There have been multiple major injuries, an 0-5 start, a 4-1 run, multiple starting lineups, and arguments over everything from coaching style to Harry Giles’ fourth-year option. We thought it would be fun to give 10 different writers the space to share their thoughts regarding one subject apiece, without knowing what the others were addressing. Let’s jump right in!

Tim: I would like to take this time to talk about Luka Doncic. I’M KIDDING! I’M KIDDING! PLEASE DON’T CLOSE YOUR BROWSER.

As the lone acolyte remaining in the abandoned Church of Dedmon, I’m here to share the good news that his shooting stroke will return. I am absolutely confident in that fact. Yes, Dedmon’s vaunted outside three-point threat has completely deserted him early in the year, and his interior scoring hasn’t been much better, but let’s put things into a multi-season perspective. Over his final two seasons in Atlanta, Dedmon nailed 133 of his 358 long-balls, or 37.2% of his shots. That’s a much, much larger sample size than his current abysmal numbers from deep in Sacramento, 5 of 24 (20.8%). Similarly, he’s struggled to convert bunnies at the rim, but evidence suggests a turnaround in the paint as well. Using the same timeframe as above, the veteran center knocked down 72.6% of his shots at the rim, but he’s sitting at just 46.7% with the Kings. Those horrible shooting numbers aren’t going to stick around for an entire season. He’s going to come around.

From a non-shooting perspective, he’s still performing at a high-level in other areas. He leads the team in rebounding percentage (14.7%), overall defensive field goal percentage differential (-4.6%) and defensive field goal percentage at the rim (-4.9%). Dewayne may not have the flashy shot-blocking ability of Richaun Holmes, but he’s actually done a better job of protecting the paint than his starting counterpart. Once his shot comes around, and it will, Dedmon will be looked at as a key piece of this team’s success moving forward. ALL HALE DEWAYNE DEDMON.

Greg: I want to talk for a moment about Nemanja Bjelica. Coming into this season he was widely considered the most likely of the big men to be traded by this year’s deadline. We assumed he’d lost his starting spot to Marvin Bagley III, and that Harry Giles would see the bulk of the remaining big man minutes, with Bjelly and Richaun Holmes fighting for the scraps.

What a difference 10 games makes.

Bjelly has arguably been one of the Kings’ best players this season. Certainly he’s been one of the most reliable. Called upon to return to the starting lineup following Bagley’s injury and Dedmon’s struggles, Bjelly picked up where he left off last season. He provides critical spacing for the offense, and has been a solid all around contributor, averaging 10.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game.

It’ll be curious to see how vital Bjelica is to the offense now that the offense won’t be centered around Fox penetrating opposing defenses to initiate. We also don’t know what the big man rotation will look like when Bagley returns in a few weeks.

Despite the uncertainty around his role going forward, Bjelica deserves recognition for what he’s done in this young season.

Omer: Can Kings fans stop hating on my man Trevor Ariza now? Coming into the season it seemed like the fanbase was ready to scapegoat him for all things that go wrong for reasons unbeknownst to me. Now that the season has started, the early returns are looking solid. He’s shooting 38% from three and hasn’t hogged the ball unreasonably. He’s guarded everyone from Donovan Mitchell to Pascal Siakam. The Kings rock a defensive rating of 107 with him on the court and 116 with him off the court, so the Kings are 9 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Ariza in the lineup. Has he been perfect? Well, no; he’s definitely lost a step on defense, getting beat off the dribble due to his declining lateral quickness. That being said, he’s been more than fine as a 15 minutes per game roleplayer off the bench who can make threes and is a smart, versatile, and switchable defender. Not to mention his locker room presence; Ariza’s been around the league for over 10 years, serving as an important roleplayer on the 2009 champion Lakers and a longtime 3&D wing with the championship contending Houston Rockets. He’s been vocal in practice since training camp, unafraid to let teammates know to keep a high intensity and focus at all times:

End the hate! The time has come to board the Ariza bandwagon.

Sean: This season was the first season in many where a lot of Kings fans felt something they hadn’t felt in a long time: hope. Yet, there is often an under discussed side-effect of hope: disappointment. The highs of our collective hope seemed to come crashing down to earth in a mind-numbing 2 minute stretch towards the end of the first game, a loss vs the Suns, when a hulked out DeAndre Ayton broke the hand, twisted the ankle and cracked the knee of 3 of the Kings most important players. While only one of those would lead to a player missing some games, it was a brutal reminder of just how quickly things can unravel. That opening night loss quickly snowballed into four more and the panic quickly began to set in. But a mere 5 games after that, just 10 into the season, and despite even more unwelcome injury news (my ankles are Fox’s if he want’s them) we are now seeing some signs of what Kings fans had thought this team was capable of. Some stability starting to take hold after what many would have assumed was just going to be another entire season of turbulence. It shouldn’t be as surprising as it feels, this is still the most talented roster they have had in over a decade and the team has yet to play a game with at full strength. Yet to see drastic difference between the first 5 games & the second 5 is a pleasant reminder not to overreact to any individual game. The higher the expectations the more room there is for disappointment and I for one am happy to root for a team approaching anything close to high expectations. (Besides.... what if the slow start WAS all just because of the jet lag from the India trip? just saying)

Bryant: We hyped up Sacramento’s depth in the offseason, and it’s been paying off for Luke Walton in the last few weeks. After that disastrous start, Walton has done a great job of taking advantage of his depth and has actually been able to do something unheard of in Sacramento... throw out match-up dependent lineups! Against the Blazers on Tuesday, the Kings held 10-ish point lead through most of the 4th quarter, and everyone in Golden One Center could tell that the only shot that Portland had of winning was for Damian Lillard to get hot. Cory Joseph was playing real tough defense on Lillard, but normally a Joseph-led lineup would have meant sacrificing shooting... not so for this roster! Walton was able to close out the game with a lineup of Joseph, Bogdanovic, Hield, Barnes, and Nemanja Bjelica — a lineup with plenty of spacing around Joseph, multiple creators, and a very clear weakness (Bjelly at the 5) that the Blazers were unable to capitalize on (because Hassan Whiteside is Hassan Whiteside). In the Kings win in Atlanta last Friday, Walton was able to close out with a vet-heavy lineup of Bogdanovic, Joseph, Barnes, Ariza, and Richaun Holmes when he correctly decided that (1) his young guns (Fox and Hield) were having off nights, and (2) that the veterans could take advantage of a young, inexperienced Hawks lineup.

Any Kings roster in the last decade would have utterly collapsed under month-long injuries to two of their top three players — this year, things might be a little different. I don’t expect Sacramento will suddenly surge without Fox, but hanging just below .500 through November would absolutely be a win for this ballclub, especially with an easier schedule coming up in December.

Kimani Okearah

Kimani: If you don’t think Bogdan is looking at this Fox-less stretch as an opportunity, then I don’t know what to tell ya. He’s going to light the league up over the next month or two (probably with some struggle games - it’s the NBA). He’s absolute gunmetal on the court. Steely Dan? Who is that? Introducing Steely Bogdan of the Sacramento Kings. Bogi. Coldstone. The Leader of Horde. The Kings won’t blast opponents off the floor without Fox, but they are still going to win games leaning into Bogdanovic and playing around his skill-set. If Luka Doncic is rum, then Bogdanovic is whiskey. Stay tuned for a huge stretch from Bogdan Bogdanovic!

Tony: I don’t know what to make of the 2019-20 Sacramento Kings yet. That’s my thought. They looked like the worst team in the NBA during the first 5 games of the season. It really felt like everything was crumbling down — the coach was failing, the organization was failing, the system was failing, Marvin Bagley got injured, all while our young competitors in the bottom half of the Western Conference (Timberwolves, Mavericks, Suns) were thriving. It didn’t (and doesn’t) help that Luka Doncic highlights are beamed into my eyeballs every night, either.

I was as down as I’ve ever been on this organization during those first 5 games. A lot of that disappointment comes with having realistic playoff hopes for the first time in over a decade. I didn’t expect the Kings to make the playoffs this season, but I expected a fun year with a playoff chase, and to see all that disappear so quickly was hard to stomach.

The Kings have gone 4-1 since, and now I don’t know how to feel. It’s hard to imagine the Kings staying in the playoff hunt without De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley, but the emergence of FIBA Bogdan Bogdanovic has me intrigued. So, I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m going to keep watching this Sacramento Kings season unfold, but I don’t know. Ask me again in 10 games.

Sanjesh: It hasn’t been the ideal record after 10 games than I would’ve hoped, but the context of it has drastically improved. The Kings began the season in the worst form imaginable, going 0-5 with no style of defense and losing their speedy identity that gave them an edge last season. Five games gone by again, and they have topped out at 4-1 losing only to the defending champions. The pace of the offense is still one of the slowest in the league, but they are producing at a high level nonetheless which is a good sign as they will be without Marvin Bagley III and De’Aaron Fox, their hopeful future stars. If this long stretch without Fox has any benefits, it’ll be how big of an impact Bogdan Bogdanovic can bring to the team.

TJ: Cool, do I get to be the villain in this scenario? I can live with that. Perhaps it steams from years of being a fan of a team that the rest of the NBA considered a giant pit stain when they even thought about us at all, I dunno. 10 games are just fragments of extreme pessimism lined with titillating hope, but the hope is delivered in broken shards of glass that can cut to the bone if you’re not careful when handling. We witnessed five games of Luke Walton defecating out lineups, losing to teams like Phoenix and Utah by double digits. We lost Bagley. The pace slowed down even more and the momentum seemed to pick up. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Harrison Barnes found their footing from beyond the arc. Trevor Ariza learned that sharing is caring. We lost Fox. Bogi turned into the hero during the Portland win.

And yet…I’m still skeptical about the man in charge.

The starting unit of Joseph, Hield, Barnes, Bjelica, and Holmes left something to be desired since they really couldn’t find their footing, and as Tony put it during Tuesday’s article about Bogdanovic: “The Kings got off to a bad start vs. Portland and were able to recover from it, but how many bad starts can the Kings withstand without Fox and Bagley?”

In three years with the Lakers, Walton didn’t show accountability when it came to making lineup adjustments when something wasn’t working. For. Three. Fucking. Years. Magic Johnson said that he “wasn’t ready” to take on the task of head coach. We saw what he meant in the first five games.

Have we seen an improvement in four of the last five games? Duh. Walton’s altercations have shifted enough to allow Tim Maxwell to write about him without the aid of a Viagra pill. But winning four games isn’t going to throw me at his feet just yet.

Brad: There once was a King who was not very good. His royal subjects wanted nothing more than for him to be good. They begged him to be good, but he would not listen. They angrily ranted at him to be good, but he would not listen. They even cried at him, but he would not listen.

One day, by chance or skill, the King found a fox in the woods on his morning hunt. The fox wanted to be with the King, and the King wanted to be with the Fox. It was a match made in heaven. He raised the fox to great and powerful. He held the fox up as though it were his only child. Everyone knew that with the fox, the King would be a better ruler. He gave the fox friends, and although he bypassed a Serbian fox for a promising, bigger fox, things were looking up for the King and his fox. Everyone was hopeful for the future of the kingdom with the fox by the King’s side.

Then the fox hurt his ankle and everyone died a terrible and painful death.

The End

What are your thoughts after 10 games?