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These Kings under Mike Brown are still a work in progress

The Sacramento Kings may take a while to fully round into form.

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The mindset for the Sacramento Kings seems to have always been focused on breaking the 16-year playoff drought that hangs over the collective heads of the city. After making the trade of the year at the trade deadline last season, dealing Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana for Domantas Sabonis, it was apparent the Kings were looking to win now. But does “win now” mean needing to win immediately? I would say so, but it seems that new head coach Mike Brown may not.

After obtaining an NBA Championship with the Golden State Warriors last season as the lead assistant on Steve Kerr’s coaching staff, Coach Brown turned his focus to Sacramento — a franchise in desperate search of a leader and a strong voice that can carry weight in the locker and in the media.

I don’t doubt that the team obtained their guy. However, I don’t believe they took into account the development that comes with a coach like Mike Brown.

Brown is a player's coach known for his defensive prowess and his ability to mold talent into high-IQ players. The system he looks to run offensively is always based on the roster that he was given, but still carried the Princeton offense into each job he was at.

The former Warriors’ coach is also known for wanting his team to build through his three offense staples which he believes then will translate into winning. Four years ago, in an open coaching training session for Basketball Fundamentals, coach Brown discussed his “staples” in detail:


“Getting into your offense with 21 or 20 seconds left on the shot clock. You need to get your offense (going) by then so you can get to your third and fourth options.” Already four games in we’ve seen Brown countless times yell to his team to push the ball, move the ball, get up the floor. With a speedster like De’Aaron Fox, playing with pace shouldn’t be an issue.


“I like to break my floor up into quadrants. I want every player to know what quadrant they need to be in and there shouldn’t be two players in any one quadrant.”

Space and pace is in today’s modern NBA so there’s no real big surprise here. However, with Fox and Sabonis being the one-two punch of this team, it’s hard to image not have at least two players in one “quadrant” of the halfcourt. Regardless that’s the Kings best form of attack in the halfcourt is when those two are working hand in hand in that pick and roll offense, and now with their shooting the pace and space strategy should be doable.

Point 5 (0.5)

“I want my guys to make quick intelligent decisions. So 0.5 means I have 0.5 seconds to make a decision.”

This preaches back to coach Brown really wanting to be involved with his players and build the trust of his guys to make instinctual decisions quickly. The IQ of this team has risen not just by their offseason acquisitions but building within the Princeton offense, and building chemistry while learning through these three staples could be a project.

Mike Brown even said it himself when discussing the ability to run the game through these three staples, “It takes time to learn, but I want my players to make those quick decisions. I don’t want to always have to be the coach that has to call the plays.”

The big line to me was that it takes time to learn. Away from the core three of Harrison Barnes, Sabonis and Fox, the Kings’ starting unit has once again completely changed and so is their entire rotation.

Davion Mitchell is not getting the minutes many anticipated he would following a solid rookie season. Coach Brown continues to tinker with the forward position, giving minutes to Lyles, Metu and Moneke, while also giving Richaun Holmes limited run as well.

It was known that the forward position would be something the team would need to figure out throughout the season, but it is interesting to see the lack of minutes for Mitchell. He brings the one thing that coach Brown is most known for and the thing the Kings are drastically lacking: defense.

It seems everyone is adjusting to this new team and with that there comes struggle. The Kings are currently ranked 24th in defensive efficiency and 17th in offensive efficiency. Last season, the team was ranked 25th and 27th in those same respective categories; so I guess that means progress?

Regardless, the numbers represent what we’ve been seeing on the floor and that’s confusion with a lack of execution. It’s a great idea to rely on your players to make instinctual decisions and to play within an early offensive flow, but that is something that (like Coach Brown said in that seminar) takes time, but having offensive sets and a system in place seems like that should be the obvious next step in the development of these players and this type of system.

Perhaps taking a step back helps the team take a step forward.

Fundamental basketball starts with running the pick-and-roll, something these players have been a part of countless times through their basketball careers. But when that goes away and teams learn how to stop the Kings from running that pick-and-roll, there’s no foundation to run a different offensive set to give the defense multiple looks. It may be time for Brown to bring back that Princeton offense we are accustomed to seeing his previous teams run.

Build good habits. Build basketball IQ. The option to run space and pace will always be there with De’Aaron Fox as your lead guard, but it would be nice to see the Kings revert back to what proved to be successful last season; the pick-and-roll game between the Ox and the Fox.

To end the season, the duo was ranked in the top five when it came to execution in the pick and roll. During their recent loss to the Grizzlies, we did see them return back to this a bit more than the previous three games. While the shots did not drop on each of their possessions, the execution proved much better and the ball movement was much better.

Harrison Barnes was able to have his best game of the season because of this and was involved early. The rookie Keegan Murray showed he’s willing to slash to the basket while also knowing to shadow the driver to be in the open spot for the three-ball.

We can’t take away that Sacramento has had to face playoff-caliber teams in each of their four losses; and hey, they got their first win against the fifth. But when the schedule was released we all knew this type of start was a possibility. This won’t be the final product once we get to game 82. There may even be a chance that the Kings are still contending for a playoff spot once it’s all said and done.

There’s a balance to what coach Brown wants to run with this Kings team, but it’s finding that balance that may take longer than what the fans and the organization may like to hear.

For more Kings talk, subscribe to Sactown Royalty’s “The Kings Court” podcast on YouTube. You can follow this author on Twitter at @VMCENTER.