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Better late than never

A bunch of things I think about the season thus far

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Kimani Okearah

Apologies in advance for what you’re about to read. I don’t have an overall theme for this post, but I have a lot of partially developed thoughts about the Kings and I figure it would be good to just put them all down on paper. Or screen, I guess. The Kings are, somewhat miraculously, sitting 10th in the West, tied with the 9th place Pelicans at 3 games back of the 8 seed. I have thoughts.

De’Aaron Fox is a stud

If you watch game to game, you know this. De’Aaron Fox is incredible. He’s so much fun to watch, and makes a handful of “holy shit” plays every game. Sometimes it’s a timely steal, sometimes it’s threading the needle for a gorgeous pass, sometimes it’s a dagger or a dunk at just the right moment. The kid is good.

Since January 1st, about 2 weeks after Fox returned from his ankle injury, Fox has averaged 22.0 points, 6.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game. That’s a huge leap in production from last season when he finished 3rd in MIP voting. He’s doing this despite his 3 point shot regressing significantly. He’s shooting just 31.4% from deep this year, down from 37.1% last year, and yet defenses still can’t stop him.

Harry Giles is everything we hoped he would be

I’m not going to relitigate the front office’s stupid decision to decline Harry’s option. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again, but for now I just want to talk about how awesome it has been to see Giles putting it all together. Over his last 5 games Harry has averaged 14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 teals, 0.6 blocks, and just 3.8 fouls per game. Beyond just the stat line, Harry has been the spark the Kings desperately needed. He put the team on his back and refused to give up when the Kings were staring at an 18-1 deficit against the Pistons. The Athletic’s Jason Jones wrote about Giles, and has some great quotes from teammates like this one from Buddy Hield:

“I think Harry is probably the reason why we win,” Hield said. “Because of his energy, the way he moves without the ball, he screens, he competes. He makes some silly fouls, but shit, that’s Harry, he’s going to compete his ass off. And that’s one thing we like about Harry, he’s going to compete each and every possession. He’s not going to quit.”

Harry has taken a step backwards on defense lately, showing less aggression in the post. It’s clearly related to staying out of foul trouble, which I appreciate. Harry just needs to find that balance where he still contests, but doesn’t foul.

Let’s talk about Luke Walton

Walton deserves praise for some of the adjustments he’s made this season. The turnaround for the Kings really started when Walton moved Buddy Hield to the bench. Bogdan Bogdanovic hasn’t lit the world on fire as a starter, but the team as a whole is playing better. Walton also quickly recognized that Kent Bazemore and Alex Len were valuable players, whereas Jabari Parker and the now-waived Anthony Tolliver weren’t worth the minutes.

But I still struggle to praise Walton for this season. It took Walton way too long to get this team firing on all cylinders. The past few weeks have confirmed what we knew all along; this team has talent. I can’t praise Walton for finally figuring out how to get that talent to translate to wins. Walton gave Harry Giles 14 straight DNP-CDs from the end of November through the month of December.

Let’s also talk about Vlade Divac

The Kings 100% would not be where they are today without Kent Bazemore and Alex Len. The trades with Portland and Atlanta, respectively, may have saved the season. Vlade deserves credit for those moves. Bazemore is the veteran wing and locker room presence that the Kings had been missing since trading Iman Shumpert. I’m slightly less inclined to praise the Len acquisition since the talking points after that trade were all about the Kings getting to look at Jabari Parker. Nonetheless, whether it’s by skill or by luck, the Kings added two talented role players at the deadline while also shedding long-term salary obligations.

Let’s talk playoffs

As I said, the Kings sit just three games out of the playoffs. There’s plenty of season left. The Kings still have time to pull off the improbable. The last decade plus has taught me that I shouldn’t get my hopes up. These things don’t happen for the Kings. Nonetheless, I’m going to enjoy this chase as long as I can. I think it would be great for Fox to make the playoffs with the Kings this early in his career. I think it would be a big step towards helping long-suffering fans believe in this team. I think it would be great to have a rooting interest in a playoff game. It would be so much fun to launch The Kings Herald by covering the playoffs.

Go Kings.