Written by Max Karr
The Sacramento Kings are off to an uncharacteristically solid start to the 2018-2019 season. Thought to be one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Kings have started off 6-4.
The truth is, half of their wins so far have come against non-playoff teams. Those teams consist of the Magic, Hawks, and the Grizzlies. The Magic and Hawks are among the worst teams in the N.B.A. The Grizzlies are a solid team, but still nothing special. The other 3 wins have come against the Thunder, Wizards, and the Heat. The Thunder and Wizards have shown to be a wreck so far this season. The Thunder started off the year slow, and have only just figured out their woes. The Wizards remain a toxic mess and are off to a 2-7 start. Against the Heat, they genuinely beat them and it was their only quality win.
The biggest propellant of the Kings success this season has been their 3rd ranked offense. Last year, they had the 30th ranked offense. Part of their offensive success has been their changing of play style and 3 point shooting. Last year, they played with the slowest pace in the N.B.A. This year, they’ve picked up the pace to 3rd in the N.B.A. The main cause of the quickening of pace has been benching Zach Randolph and removing Vince Carter, allowing the young guys to run. Although they are among the lowest teams in 3-point shots attempted, they are 2nd in 3-point percentage. The Kings don’t shoot a lot of threes but they have been converting them at the 3rd best rate in the league. Part of that high conversion rate is the shooting of three players: Iman Shumpert (43%), Nemanja Bjelica (55%) and Buddy Hield (49%) from three. On the defensive end, they have regressed from 14th last year to 22nd this year. That is a misleading stat; the quickening pace has made the opponents get more possessions. Their defense is not bad and has shown improvement. Willie Cauley-Stein is a great rim protector, De’Aaron Fox is a pest, and their whole team has showed a greater focus on that end.
With one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Kings are allowing their young guns to play and develop. De’Aaron Fox, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Buddy Hield have shown serious growth. Frank Mason and Justin Jackson have been solid, and rookie Marvin Bagley has been a spark off the bench. Veterans Iman Shumpert and Nemanja Bjelica have been big contributors both on and off the court. Bjelica has provided floor spacing at the 4 position, which has opened up the court for his teammates drives.
The changes to their style of play and growth of their young players has shown promise in Sacramento. As much as I want to believe the Kings hot start, I believe that it is fools gold. The young guys have improved, but their early success is in part to hot shooting and a weak schedule. Their shooting is unsustainable and their youth won’t know how to handle success. Hield, Bjelica, and Shumpert are all good shooters, but their percentages should all lower with added volume. I like their young nucleus and it should get a boost with Bogdan Bogdanovic returns from injury. The trouble with having one of the youngest teams in the N.B.A. is handling success. The 2017 Lakers, who were one of the youngest teams in the league, started off 10-10. That good start was just a mirage. After that, they had an 8 game losing streak and lost their way. They finished an awful 26-56. I believe the Kings will follow the path of that team. With the Kings, a heartbreaking loss could capsize their whole year. It’s a slippery slope with young teams, as those losses can pile up in a hurry. The Kings are on the right path, but they are just a year or two away from greater things.
Record Prediction: 30-52
How do you think the Kings will do this season?
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