The most valuable position in the NBA today is the wing, but it’s the one where the Kings have the biggest hole on their current roster.
Sacramento’s backcourt has three foundational players in De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Kings have a glut in their frontcourt with Richaun Holmes, Nemanja Bjelica, and Alex Len in addition to second-year bigs Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles. But they’re a little thin on the wing, where Harrison Barnes is the only natural small forward, and even he might be best suited to play the four both now and in the future. Kent Bazemore has helped alleviate this problem since coming over from Portland at the trade deadline, but having more wings can only help.
That’s why the team’s free agency acquisition of Corey Brewer to fill the 15th roster spot is so critical. Brewer fills a need and his style of play is perfectly suited for the modern game. His history with both the Kings and head coach Luke Walton make him an ideal fit for the final stretch of the season. It would usually be unreasonable to expect a player signed this late in the year to have an impact, but Brewer could be the exception.
“I really loved it when I was here last year,” Brewer told the media on a Zoom call last week. “I like the team, the organization, they were really good to me. And I just felt like it was a good situation for me to come back here .... You know, I wanted to come back after last year, if it was my choice.”
Brewer was a net positive for Sacramento in 2019 despite the team struggling to close out the season. He does a good job of playing to his strengths, like cutting to the basket so that he takes the majority of his shots at the rim. As a low-usage player, Brewer helps his team win the possession battle, because he creates a lot more turnovers than he commits. He’s also constantly flying into the lane for offensive rebounds. All of his strengths line up conveniently with the Kings’ overall weaknesses.
The positional fit may be where Brewer has his greatest effect. Barnes is the starting small forward, but the Kings are outscored by 4.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s at the three. However, Sacramento is +2.3 when Barnes plays the four; it’s a position Barnes has excelled at ever since he was in Golden State in the famous Warriors death lineup. Hield and Bogdanovic aren’t good enough defensively to move up to the three, but Brewer is a natural small forward. He can fill a similar role to Bazemore, and is at least an average defender if not quite on Bazemore’s level.
The Kings haven’t run as much this year as they did last season under Dave Joerger, and their offense has consequently taken a bit of a dip (110.1 to 109.4 points per 100 possessions). If the team makes a commitment to pushing the pace in Orlando, bringing in another capable rotation player like Brewer helps just so the team has fresh legs. He also runs the floor well and is constantly looking for the hit-ahead pass.
Although Walton has had clashes with some players this season in terms of their optimal roles, Brewer is confident that his former head coach will help him succeed on the court.
“He’s a player’s coach, so for Luke he’s gonna try to put you in position for what you do,” Brewer said. “For me I’m a slasher, so when I was in LA, he used to put me in positions to get to the basket. So I feel like he coaches to your strengths.”
Brewer is a pro. He’s been in the league since 2007 and has been a part of every type of team construct: lottery-bound teams, ones on the cusp of the playoffs, solid postseason contenders, and an actual champion in 2011 with Dallas. The Kings know what he does best, but the best part about the 13-year NBA veteran is that he’s happy just being along for the ride.
“I’m always open for anything, you know, for me, just to have a chance to play basketball,” Brewer said. “I’m always trying to win. So, whatever they want me to go out there and do, I’m gonna do it. They want to get them water, they want me to play, whatever, let’s go.”