Whenever a coach comes to a new team, there is always a feeling-out period where they have to go through trial and error and learn which players can execute their system and who fits best in what role.
In the first few games of this Sacramento Kings season, new head coach Mike Brown was constantly tinkering with the starting lineup and the bench in the first four games of the season, all of which the Kings lost.
In that fourth loss, a 125-10 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, 14 of 15 Kings suited up that night and got into the game. Since then, Brown started to tighten things up, and success has followed. Brown has settled and committed to a 10ish-man rotation, and its working.
The Kings have won six out of eight and three in a row, in large part because Brown has found a playing time formula that’s worked.
The first part of that formula has been Sacramento’s starting five of De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray and Domantas Sabonis, which has been one of the NBA’s most effective lineups this season. This is all despite Barnes being unable to throw it in the ocean for the majority of the season.
That lineup has a +13.5 net rating and has been one of the best in the NBA since the start of the season. This lineup is extremely lethal offensively, with the top of the key orchestration from Sabonis and the ability to have four guys that can space the floor, especially with Fox’s improvement in that regard.
So fun Kings fact: their most used lineup — Fox, Huerter, Barnes, Murray, Sabonis — has a +13.5 Net Rating in 111 minutes. It’s been one of the three best high usage lineups in the NBA thus far this season. https://t.co/WqTZXD2QTZ— (@FlyByKnite) November 14, 2022
With the starting lineup being so successful and entrenched, Brown has been able to focus on finding the right formula of guys off the bench who can be successful and buy into their roles.
Malik Monk has had some great games and some not-so-great games this season, but when he’s been on, there has been a clear energy shift for Sacramento’s second unit. Next in the number of minutes played is Davion Mitchell, who despite being hit or miss offensively, always brings it on defense and is a nice compliment next to Monk.
From there, the bench big man combo of Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu has been solid enough to continue going to it. Metu, specifically, has really shined in recent games, bringing great energy off the bench as the team’s back-up center.
Chimezie Metu is a SERIOUS above-the-rim finisher. He has 11 dunks in 93 minutes this season—just an absurd rate—including several of the spectacular variety. #SacramentoProud pic.twitter.com/u0oF2vnFcY— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) November 14, 2022
In the past, Metu has been over-ambitious with his jump shot and offensive game, shooting threes that the defense wants him to take Recently though, it seems like Brown and the coaching staff have drilled it in his head that to stay in the rotation, he needs to bring energy, set screens and finish around the rim. and he’s been doing just that.
Metu’s recent play at the center spot has made it to where Richaun Holmes has caught four consecutive DNPs for the first time in his Kings career. It’s unfortunate, but kudos to Brown for making the decision to bench the highly-paid big man for a guy who is fitting in better.
To start the season, it was clear Brown was still searching for the best combinations. For example, he started KZ Okpala at power forward in the first three games of the season. Since then Okapala was MIA.
Players understanding and committing to their role is an underrated aspect of successful teams, and so far, it looks like Brown is getting that buy-in from this team.
Here’s hoping Brown continues to push all the right buttons and the great vibes continue to percolate throughout the halls of Golden 1 Center.